How Getting Sick Helped My Marriage
Food and flowers formed a slag heap along the windows.
I was afraid to sleep alone in the room.
My stomach, bruised from daily multiple injections, turned the deep, mottled maroon of a tortoise cowry.
My friend Elizabeth baked an enormous pink buttercream cake.
I snapped at Will in front of his mother, and the next day when she called—a nurse propped the phone on a pillow next to my ear—the whole room could hear her anxiously wailing, "You must be nicer to Willie! You must be nicer to Willie!"
Sheesh, someone in the room said. Pick your priorities.
My son went to a carnival, and I worried that he might horse around during a ride and lean too far one way and his body would be crushed between the metal cars.
Jacquie brought me a Porthault bathrobe and I wept because I bled on it.
I asked Will repeatedly if the dog missed me.
Pick your priorities.
I wish I could fly.
Time stacked atop time. I was moved out of the ICU, first into the neurological ward and then upstairs to a grimly cheerful physical rehab unit called Baker 17 that had a shiny Pergo wood laminate floor, peevish nurses, and orderlies who flatly refused to change sheets.
Two weeks later, Will and I came home with a wheelchair and walker.
Three months later, I could walk on my own but had no sensation down the left side of my body.
Nine months later, Will drove me to the office of Dr. Daniel Baker, a plastic surgeon, who painstakingly began to give me back my self, reconstructing my face in a series of surgeries, each four months apart. After the first surgery, in which my collapsed face was fattened with cartilage grafts, my nose foreshortened and upturned, I looked like a pig. After the second surgery, I looked like exactly half a pig. This was all according to plan.
Next month I will schedule a third surgery, after which I will, with luck, resemble not a barnyard animal at all.
At the one-year mark, the function in my hands had improved, but I had no use of my thumbs or my right index finger.
I still can't tie a shoe or write legibly or play the piano.
End at the beginning.
"How?" I asked Will as he bathed and dressed and fed me for weeks upon weeks, matter-of-factly and without complaint, as if this had always been the arrangement.
I was paralyzed when I met you.
"How can you bear to see me this way?" I asked him as he laid ice packs across the stitches around my nose; cleaned the brittle, bloody lacquer pooled behind my ears, which had been pillaged for cartilage; tried—oh, how he tried in his clumsy, ignorant, manlike way!—to help me brush my hair or fasten jewelry or even put on makeup in a grotesquely comic attempt to simulate a regular human facade.
You made me whole.