What Breaks Us Also Weaves Us Together
There have been some complications, the nurse said.
When you’re sitting quietly, waiting for your husband’s medical procedure to be done, this is not the sentence you want to hear. I know this intellectually, because I had read about the risks of the procedure currently being done on Paul, and I know this empirically, because once, years before, when I had woken up in a recovery room, in pain, a nurse had told me the same thing.
There were some complications.
Complications. It’s the “collateral damage” euphemism of the medical world. It can mean anything. It can mean nothing. It can mean somebody did something wrong. It can mean somebody just had some bad luck. It can mean a little bit of both, or a lot. Mainly you don’t want to hear the word, and you don’t want to hear anything that comes after it, but you almost always kind of have to.
“Complications,” I said.
Just a bit over twenty-four hours earlier I’d been sitting in our house, trying to finish some work before I got my sons from their elementary school. I knew that after I did that, the rest of my day would be spent forcing the boys to practice their piano and then pulling them off one another as they played and eyeballs were poked and heads were landed on. It had been a productive day; I’d finally finished a particularly loathsome and underpaid writing project. And then my husband, Paul, walked in the door.
Paul is a quiet man who takes his work seriously and never misses a day of it, so seeing him in the middle of a weekday alarmed me. He had just been to his primary care doctor, because, he told me, he’d been having some pains in his chest and in his arm when working out, but this morning it had happened while he was just walking to work, so he’d thought he should have it checked out. This was the first I was hearing about it, which I’ll admit I found a bit exasperating. When the man is getting a cold, I have to hear about the status of his throat on an hourly basis. But this? Pains in his chest? Yeah, that you keep on the down low, apparently.