He kind of half-smiled. The half of his face that wasn’t drooping and looking half in the bag smiled.
“So, if you’re not having a stroke, we can make fun of you again, right? Because you look really crazy.”
On the other side of the curtain in our emergency room the girls were giggling, playing hide and seek. I’d like to pretend that they were both blissfully unaware of the tension that had been in the room but Emily is too smart.
Earlier in the day I called MQD and said “Guess what I have to do right now? Nothing. The house is clean and Lu and I are just goofing off.” We FaceTimed while we ate lunch. I climbed in bed with her at nap time and MQD called again. “Let me call you when I get her down,” and I cut him off. I assumed he was just calling to tell me how wonderful I am or how much he loves me (because he does that just all of the time!) In truth, we were having one of those perfect days, those rare married days when you text back and forth about how lucky you are to be married to one another instead of “get milk” and “do you see my wallet on the counter?”
MQD didn’t wait for me to call him back. Instead, he texted me to say that a co-worker noticed that he was only blinking with one eye and that he was experiencing numbness in his face. He was “concerned.” I tried not to react emotionally. I simply called him, “Call your doctor. You need to go in right now.”
When he called back shortly to report that his GP wasn’t in, that is when I was afraid. “Do you want me to find an Urgent Care or figure out what you should do?” MQD, this man who usually doesn’t let me get him a glass of water said simply, “Yes. Please.”
Lucy was asleep. Em was at school. I called the school secretary and asked to have Emily ready in the lobby. I filled my bag with snacks, I dressed Lucy (because she strips the moment we walk back in the door lately) and I left to get my big girl.
We walked to the car and Emily asked me “Are you scared?”
“Of course, I am. I love you guys very much.”
She thought for a moment in the backseat of the car. “But should we be worried?’
“I don’t think so, not yet. But I think we are going to get your dad and go straight to the hospital so that if we do have to worry we don’t have to go to a different waiting room and start all over.”
The kids were in the car so we didn’t really talk much on the way there. In retrospect that was a blessing. How many times and how many ways can you say “So, do you think you are having a fucking stroke?” We tried to talk ourselves into thinking it was a migraine, a terrible migraine.
It wasn’t long before the first nurse looked at him, watched him waggle his eyebrows and try to blink and said “I think it’s Bell’s Palsy. How’s that? A diagnosis and I am not even a doctor?!” She threw her arms in the air and said “You can do the Happy Dance now, I really don’t think it’s a stroke.”
Six hours, five doctors, three nurses, a pair of neurologists and the best damn french fries in Chapel Hill (garlic fries from Tyler’s aside) later and we were back in the car.
At around 10am today I sent MQD a text. I was emotional and overwhelmed with just how much I loved this man and how lucky I was.
At noon I was afraid that loving him might not be as simple as it was just two hours before.
Someday we will laugh and say “Man, remember that day we thought you were having a stroke and you just had Bell’s Palsy?” But today I will watch you sleep and write it all down. Because I feel like I want to hold onto this day so tightly, the day that I loved you so fucking much and everything turned out okay.
MQD, I love you like crazy. In our wedding vows we exchanged Tom Robbins’ words “My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.” We never said “in sickness and in health.” That goes without saying. But god damn, if this was some kind of weird test, I think I passed. You scared the shit out of me today and I just kept loving you. So, now that you aren’t going to drop dead can you please try to do something about your face? Because my 20th high school reunion is in just about a month and you look like Popeye when you smile. Yours, Kel