For Gini’s birthday, we went out to one of the nicest restaurants in town – Pier W, an elegant restaurant that juts out over the lake. It was raining, but that gave us a beautiful view of Cleveland’s choppy waters, looking big as an ocean, admiring the slate-gray sky and the way water fell into water.
I could tell we were getting better because we began to tell stories.
The thing few people tell you is that after the heart attack, there’s trauma to be unknotted. I almost died; Gini waited for me to die. The weeks afterwards had a weird, plastic feel, as though I was living in a bubble. The pain went away, but this strange uncertainty didn’t waver, this sense that something had changed and we could not quite name it. We were afraid to trust the future.
And horrific fights resulted, because when you’ve had a heart attack, you must have lifestyle changes, and every bite becomes a matter of literal life and death. Gini and I had the most vicious battle we’ve had in almost seven years over, of all things, seven bites of a chocolate ganache. But she’s traumatized and terrified, and I’m frustrated and furious at this narrower, healthier world, and so the adjustments were inevitable.
And after we found what seemed like a new fit, we retreated. We’ve been cuddling a lot, going on dates just by ourselves, not feeling like socializing. Gini’s 55th birthday should have been cause for a raucous party, but all we wanted to do was spend time with each other – not even with our daughter Erin, just relishing this slow time in each other’s arms.
Over heart-healthy tuna and scallops, we began to tell stories of the surgery, smiling.
She told me the absurdity of waiting around for me to heal, of rushing home to try to be with me in time for the catheter, what the mood was when I was out of the operating room and everyone went out for Mexican. I told her how strange it was, waiting in the ER, feeling perfectly fine and yet being told I could pop off at any moment.
Slowly, lovingly, we began to probe those experiences for the silliest and scariest bits, transforming raw terror into anecdote.
It’s how we heal, here at La Casa McJuddMetz; we take our lowest moments and refuse to let them define us. Instead, we haul the boogeyman out from under the bed and dress him in jester’s clothing, turning this too-human fear into a way of entertaining people at parties. And why not? Our fears are, in many ways, what defines as humans, these terribly silly moments where we were mortified but might have been amusing with time or another angle. Comedy is pain, pain is comedy, spinning one effortlessly into the other.
Over wine by a very beautiful landscape, we began to laugh. To place the events that unmanned us into as something firmly in the past, an experience that was once now but is currently over, a thing that so affrighted us back then but is not all that relevant to today. To give these moments their respect, but not to allow them to drive us any more.
We drank wine, and felt the normality seeping back in, and watched the sea.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.