Dear Interviewer

Dear Interviewer,

I don’t know your name or even very much about your business. I take my heating and air-conditioning for granted, though my husband has spent a couple of nights a week studying these systems so he could learn a trade, any trade, to make him employable. You’ll meet him tomorrow. You are one of the first to even give him a second glance, and that is my fault. He is a good man, a smart man. He has abilities and skills that are very different from mine. 

You see, years ago, he recognized that I had some talents and abilities that were going to waste. He was in school at the time, and he went to talk to his dean about getting me into classes despite the fact that I was in default on a federal student loan after having dropped out of college when my mom died. And that I was being held back simply because I didn’t have enough money to resolve the issue. And that dean called me in and we came up with a plan to get me out of default, and I learned that I can still shine. I didn’t look back. And my generous, kind, loyal husband put his goals on the back burner so I could continue to shine. 

And then we moved when I found a good job far away, causing him to abandon those goals he had set for himself. And I made a decent living. But when expensive childcare became an issue, he listened to me when I said, “It would be so much easier on us, financially and physically, if you would just stay home with the kid.” And he did. He put away his old-fashioned ideals of the manly-man supporting his family, and he became about the car-riders’ line at the local elementary school, Cub Scouts, karate lessons, and any other thing that comes with having a young child. When people would have the knee-jerk action of turning to the dad first to ask what he did, he would say he was a stay-at-home dad. But even I could notice that his shoulders always slumped just a little when he said this.

And then we moved again, where I had an even better job and higher education opportunities. And he enrolled in a school for this or that, taking a class at a time. I think he just needed something for himself. Anything. But still he kept that role of homemaker so I could do well, better, best. First, it was so I could pursue my dream of going to medical school, then there was another baby. His days were no longer only filled with carpools and extracurriculars, but again with diapers, keeping me in clean breast pump parts, teething. Still, he kept on.

Then it was, “John, I think I want to go to business school instead.” And his reply, that he would support me in whatever I wanted to do. And there was a BBA. When I decided I wanted an MBA, he was there cheering me on. He told me I could do it, that I was awesome. He stayed with the kids, washing my scrubs in preparation for my weekend shifts at the hospital while I sat in accounting/ finance/ marketing/ whatever classes. And he picked me up. On test days, he’d always have a motivational song on cue for when I would get into the car.

And all of this time, it was one class at a time for him. Scheduled around my work and class schedule, of course, because he always put me first. And then he was finished, but somehow even that was dwarfed by my completion of grad school one week later. And he never complained.

So tomorrow, you will meet him. He really wants this job, and I want him to have it. You are going to see his resume and application and ask about the 7-year gap in employment. Like most others, you will probably ask why a man didn’t work to support his family. It seems that, despite how progressive we think we have become as a society, we are still very much old-fashioned. And John, well, he just isn’t good at singing his own praises. This is what I would want him to tell you:

He worked. He worked harder than he ever has in his life. He honed time-management skills. He learned cleaning. He learned to keep others happy, multitasking. He perfected the art of motivational speaking, of problem-solving, of making sacrifices for the improvement of the team. And he was successful in all of those roles. After all, with him backing me, I did everything I set out to do.

So, Interviewer, tomorrow, I hope for a couple of things. I ask that you look at him as the man he is: the man who was brave enough to serve his country, put in his 40 at a job he hated in order to pay the bills, and the man selfless enough to give up what he wanted for his wife and kid(s). I ask that you not be like all of the others and you give this loyal, hard-working, awesome man a chance instead of simply seeing a long period of unemployment.

If you could see him like I do, you would know that you would not be sorry.

Sincerely,

John’s Wife

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Lucky 13

The rest of the world was preparing for Christmas. I woke on the sofa in our living room after a night spent binge-watching Netflix the night before. On one side of the sofa was the twinkling of the lights of our Christmas tree, and on the other side was John, also asleep on the loveseat for the same reason as I was.

John.

Our thirteenth anniversary.

And I just stared at him for a while without his knowledge. I never took note of how his hair has started to thin at his hairline just a bit. I could see that the way his eyes have started to crinkle in the periphery when he smiles completely go away when he sleeps. He has Evan’s and Zach’s dark lashes, that curling, dark fringe women buy high-end mascara to achieve.

I found myself doing what I always do at any milestone: reflecting back. What our thirteenth year of marriage has brought us. It was just a few short months ago that I stood there with all of my medical knowledge flooding my brain while the cardiologist told us what he had found. When he said those words to me: “He really should have open-heart surgery, but my colleagues and I just do not think he would have survived long enough to get the blood thinners out of his system first.” He used my husband’s name and “survive” in the same sentence. And more than anything, I was afraid of that combination. For the first time in our marriage, John became a mere mortal like the rest of us and the idea that there will come a time when one of us will die entered my mind. That’s been hard to deal with from that day and beyond.

And the day they told us that some weird symptoms Evan was having were signs of a brain tumor. We each dealt with it in our own way—he with blind optimism and me with incessant tears— but we did it together. We seamlessly kicked into action as a team to get Evan the imaging studies, the appointments with specialists, and anything else we needed. And when Evan wasn’t looking, we held onto each other and we got through it to the news that Evan was fine.

He finished school this year. He belittles that in the face of what I accomplished this year. But it is what he wanted and he did it on his terms. He has spent years taking a class here or there, in the background while I was in the foreground doing something of my own. And he has started and stopped his classes with no complaints and no questions asked, based on what I was doing or had planned. Whenever it just wasn’t in the cards for both of us to be in school at the same time, he was always the one to drop out or put his on hold. He never would let me make that sacrifice.

And my MBA. Oh, John, my MBA. His MBA. The man has tirelessly chauffeured me around from this class and that class, this meeting and that meeting. he has rubbed my back when I studied and my shoulders were holding just too much tension. He has awakened from a dead sleep to run to the nearest 24-hour store when the printer ran out of ink for that big paper that was due in the morning. My favorite was, while I was pulling an all-nighter in preparation for my huge finance final at the end and my financial calculator died, he returned with both the replacement and a box of my favorite chocolates. And wasn’t it him, all of those years ago, who made that now-famous (in this family, anyway) statement to his dean? “My wife is too smart. What can I do to help her get back into school?” He saw in me what my mom once saw, what I had stopped seeing in myself. What I had given up on.

Those were some of the big things. In between, there were a million little things. And our marriage isn’t perfect. He pisses me off at times, breaks my heart at others. And at the end of each year, in the mashup of Christmas, our anniversary, New Years, and my birthday, I always wish for us to have an easier year next year. This year was no different. But the fact remains that we have been together long enough that our lives have become this intricately-woven tapestry, and you simply can no longer tell where his thread ends and mine begins. He understands me, and I understand him. We belong together. We will get through the bad, the trying, and will celebrate the good together. I cannot live without him.

Here’s to another year. And all it brings us.

His Heart

I have been wanting to write this one, but yet find myself procrastinating. It’s sort of a difficult story to tell, one that has changed our lives.

John’s heart.

John’s heart holds within it memories of his grandparents, now all gone. Memories of his younger years, of Marine Corps boot camp and Camp Lejeune. The day we met, the day we said “I do”.The day Evan was born, his first steps, first words and everything since. Zachary. Me. Our hearts, our lives, are completely intertwined. I live in that heart as much as he lives within mine. Of course, we’re speaking of the metaphysical heart, not the one made of muscle and sinew. And after all of my years working in all things cardiopulmonary, one would think I could separate the two. I’ve had years of cardiopulmonary anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology. I hold certifications that say I know what to do if your heart were to stop beating. My coworkers and I function in this capacity daily.

But on June 7th, all of that experience, all of that education halfway went away while at the same time breaking my heart.

It started a couple of weeks before that. I noticed John breathing a certain way after carrying a small load of clean laundry into the living room to be folded. I asked him what was wrong, and at first he told me nothing was, completely forgetting that I am a respiratory therapist who makes a living recognizing and treating disordered breathing. He finally told me he was just out of shape. This exchange happened a couple more times throughout the course of the next couple of days. Then I caught him rubbing is chest along with the breathing. Again, I asked what was wrong. “Oh, nothing, Andrea. I’m just out of shape. My chest hurts just a little after climbing those stairs.”

Chest pain and dyspnea on exertion. Classic. I tried to get him to go to the ER. He wouldn’t citing the recent medical bills we had for Evan’s testing, which was astronomically expensive. But nothing I would say to him would convince him to go. I had to concede and just settle for an appointment with our family doctor. We went the next day. A stress test was scheduled for 2 days later, as well as some labs. The day after the test, the Saturday before Memorial Day, the third-year resident called me back to tell me his labs looked much improved. His A1C was done, is triglycerides were down. The stress test showed some minor changes that could just be anginal, so John was placed on nitrates. All seemed to be okay.

Four hours later, evening by this point, the same resident called back. She told me that something was just nagging her about the situation, that John has a personal history of diabetes and hypertension, and a strong family history of cardiac disease, that she would just feel better if a cardiologist saw John, just to be extra safe. It was a holiday weekend, so I had to wait until Tuesday to make the appointment, but when I called, the caller right before me had cancelled an appointment on the following day. John got in to see the cardiologist the next day, Wednesday. The cardiologist, for the same reasons, decided to do an angiogram, and asked permission right then to do stents if he found anything while he was in there. We were told it would be scheduled and they would call us that it would be the following week, since it was non-emergent.

They called later that day to ask if we could have John there on Friday morning, just 2 days from the appointment. Someone had rescheduled, leaving a hole in the schedule for John to take.

He had his heart catheterization on June 7th. His mom and sister had come into town to help me with Zach because John was going to be given some sedation and, if they found anything else while in there, they would need me to give consent as his next-of-kin.

I was so terrified. Heart caths are very routine. They do them all of the time. As an RT, I have been in on them many times. But the problem is that the ones I am called to are because the patient has coded. The worst case scenarios are literally all I have witnessed. So for my 38-year-old husband to be the patient, for me to know exactly what they are going to be doing to him and how they were going to be doing it…I was scared. Not of what they would find, but of the procedure itself. And then there was the whole weirdness factor. On the trackboard they have in the waiting area for family, it lists part of the last name and the age of the patient so you can tell where your loved one is in the process. John, 38. Everyone else? 68, 80, 72, 67. And back to John: 38. People in the waiting room were asking Zach if he was there to see his grandpa. A parent young enough to have a 3-year-old should not be going through that. Coworkers, seeing me in denim capris and fleece, were asking me what the hell I was doing there.

My husband. My heart.

John was back there, asleep on that table for over two and a half hours. At some point, his nurse came out to tell me that he was getting a stent, but she didn’t know where or how many.

I was at his side as soon as he came out. The cardiologist came out to explain to me. I wasn’t trying to be dramatic, but my knees almost buckled when I heard.

John’s right coronary artery was 95% blocked. His left anterior descending artery was blocked over 80%. There were 3 more blockages of smaller arteries on the posterior side of his heart that they estimated had been there for some time and they could do nothing about. The cardiologist said he had consulted another physician while Jon was on the table. Immediately upon him saying the name of the doctor, I started to cry. John, his mom, and his sister didn’t understand, but I did. The name belonged to one of our top cardiothoracic surgeons. He and the cardiologist were in agreement that open-heart surgery would be in John’s best interest, but they has started blood thinners 2 days prior to the cath as a prophylactic measure. Open-heart surgery would mean too much blood loss, disordered clotting. Normally, in these situations, they would put the patient in the hospital to be monitored while they stop the thinner and wait a few days for it to be out of the system before doing surgery. I just had a patient go through this this past weekend. The problem was, with the location and severity of two of the 5 blockages in John’s heart, taking him off of blood thinners and sitting on him until the following Monday could have resulted in his death. He would have coded while in the hospital. They had no choice: John got 2 stents while the two doctors hoped for the best and I nervously sat in a waiting room, wondering what was taking so long and completely oblivious.

I heard the doctor talking, and all I could hear was the What-If’s.

What if that third-year resident hadn’t acted on her hunch? If the cardiologist hadn’t had a cancellation? If the cath lab made him wait until the following week to schedule? Those 2 major vessels could have completely blocked at any moment, depriving his myocardium of oxygenated blood. And the location of the blockages would have basically cut off almost all of his heart. He would have died. I could have done CPR. But I don’t think I could have kept him from death. I doubt that, had he coded in the hospital with the entire team present with our equipment, he could have been kept alive. It was that bad.

John's right coronary artery was blocked 95% and his left anterior descending artery (a branch of the left coronary artery) was blocked over 80%.

John’s right coronary artery was blocked 95% and his left anterior descending artery (a branch of the left coronary artery) was blocked over 80%.

What if I wasn’t with him? If he were out driving the kids somewhere?

What if I lost my husband?

We are in our thirties. We are too young. And I realized a lot. First of all, I can do none of this without him. And I wouldn’t want to, even if I could. After all of these years, he is where I belong. The degrees, the plans I have made, the life I have tried to build–without John, there is no point. And the boys. What would become of these two little boys without their daddy?

All of this, everything I have just said, is what went through my mind in the blink it took the cardiologist to explain. And with that, it was all over. He was being admitted. I could not allow myself to leave his side. The next day, we were sent home. We weren’t really told how to live with this information. We weren’t told how to process the concept that the only thing keeping my husband alive is two very tiny (albeit expensive and high-tech) pieces of metal mesh.

stents

 

We weren’t told how to live life, how to get the most out of life. Yeah, plenty of couples go through this, but not at this age. They don’t have this much left of their lives together to live.  So we are doing all we can. Low-fat diets, with no saturated fat, no trans-fat, and very little unsaturated fat. Whole grains, fresh veggies and fruits, low sodium. Exercise. John is going through cardiac rehabilitation 3 days per week. To minimize the risk of re-stenosis of those vessels, John will likely be on blood thinners for a long, long time. Plus a beta-blocker, a statin, and a full-size aspirin daily. I remember the cardiologist telling us that John will eventually need open-heart surgery, but I can’t remember any more. His follow-up is tomorrow, so I will get more information then.

We are doing the best we can with what we have. Instead of gradual lifestyle changes, we’ve had to make massive ones because John’s life literally depends on it.

We have to protect his heart. Within his heart is all that I hold dear in this life.

A Real Man

I knew John was a keeper, oh….about 12 years ago.

He understood what made me tick. I mean, our actions usually have some significance below the murky surface–why we get angry/ happy/ sad–and the person who really knows you will understand the roots of your reactions and actions. John was that person.

When we went to see Kenny Chesney in concert, I got so excited that I leaned over, screaming into John’s shoulder. And I’m not sure what it was. The excitement maybe? But when I leaned over, I bit John’s shoulder. John’s reaction? He laughed as he asked in disbeleif, “Did you just bite me?

All I have to do is so much as start to shiver, and he will stop what he is doing and bring me a blanket.

Though he isn’t a coffee drinker, I could say, “Hmm, I’m thinking about some coffee.” Bam. Fresh pot brewing.

He is gentle and loving with his kids. I have seen him scary angry only one time. Evan had hit me. That was when the USMC came out of John, and he was in Evan’s face about how nobody touches his wife.

Since before we were evan married, he knew the brand and absorbency level of tampons I use. And he has never been ashamed or embarrassed to use that information when I need him to.

We don’t need wild and crazy outings. We are content to rent a couple of movies, order a pizza, and chill in our living room.

He will do whatever is needed for his family. Mop a floor. Laundry. Do dishes. Work.

And this past week, after drama from my neck/ shoulder (crap, I haven’t udated on that..see next post.), he knew I needed something. I mean, work is non-existent right now and in the near future. Finances are kind of crazy, and school has been a major stressor as I finish up my undergrad and head to grad school. And though we seldom go to theaters to see any films, there was an exception.

He knew I wanted to see what virtually every Red-Blooded American Heterosexual Female or Homosexual Male wanted to see.

Magic Mike.

Though we couldn’t really afford it, John insisted. And we unloaded ourselves of the children for one afternoon this past Friday and went to see a matinee showing. And John got in line, asked for and paid for our tickets to see a movie about male strippers. More importantly, knowing I have a school girl crush on Channing Tatum, he lined up to pay for tickets for me to see and drool over Channing taking  his clothes off on a massive screen. And he sat in a theater with mostly women (there were three guys there including John, one of which was 12 years old and shouldn’t have been there at all). When we whooped and shouted out, he laughed at us. And when the theater seats got to be too uncomfortable for my neck and shoullder, he let me lean on him.

He did all of this with a smile on his face. And he tolerated it all. Of course he knows Channing Tatum is not going to knock on my door for a hook-up or anything. But still, what man wants to watch his wife drool over a mostly naked man? But he knew because he knows me. He knew I needed to get out of the house, to focus on something other than bills and my work and my career and my education. And if he had to sit through a movie that involved gorgeous men taking off their clothes, he would do that. For me.

Because he loves me.

Because he is secure with himsellf. And secure in our marriage.

And because he is, without a doubt, a real man.

Changing Tides

We have had an enormous change here in the Bitchypants household. Mr. Bitchypants, who has been unemployed for six years, went to work yesterday.

It’s been a long time. His unemployment started out by choice when the line he worked at in a hospital-equipment company moved to Mexico. Thanks, NAFTA. Anyhow, he was having a hard time finding a position to replace his earnings. Evan was in half-day kindergarten and we were paying full price for him to go half-days, and another $50 per week for the school bus to take him to school from the daycare in the small, rural community in which we lived. Instead of him just taking any job with a paycheck and paying $1000 per month for that arrangement, it made more sense for him to just stay home. Yes, I said it.

That is when it all started. Having him home was….different. First of all, while I am a feminist of sorts, my husband is the Man’s Man. USMC veteran. Country Boy. His wife supporting him while he stays home? Ummm, it didn’t sit well. Not with him, not with his family, not with society. Regardless of how progressive we think we have become, there are some deep-seated traditionalist views we all have. I had no problem with it, but the world in which we live had big problems, and I could see it everywhere we turned. I found myself defending our lifestyle. If the roles were reversed, and a man had an infinitely larger earning potential than his wife, and it cost the wife almost as much in childcare as she was earning by working out of the home, we would not bat an eye at her choice to stay home.

Make that woman a man. That wife a husband, That mother a father. Replace the vagina with a penis. Does the arrangement make any less sense?

Regardless of the rationality of our choices, we faced mud-slinging from everywhere. To my colleagues, my husband was constantly a “bum”. To our debtors, there was disbelief that he didn’t work. They wanted to put everything in his name, and he would tell them that his wife was the breadwinner, much to their shock. His parents would lecture him to get a job, that he would have no retirement when the time came. Of course, this was coming from his mother, who was living on her husband’s pension, with none of her own because she retired too soon. And the other objection: “What if Andrea leaves you, John?” Well, “Andrea” has been here for almost 12 years. Through homelessness, hunger, illness, poverty. And when the going got tough, I am the one who pulled myself up by the bootstraps, got a higher education and pulled my family out of that situation. And what of all of those stay-at-home moms? Does anybody ask them what they would do if the husband left them? So yeah, we heard it.

A couple of years ago, with the introduction of Zachary into our family, we really could use the extra income of John’s work. He began looking for work. The arrangement no longer made sense with diapers to buy and another mouth to feed. But with my establishment as the breadwinner for so many years, he couldn’t just take any job. We needed something that would A) not conflict with my odd schedule, or B) pay enough to compensate us for putting 2 children in childcare. And if one child was expensive in rural Indiana approximately 4 years earlier, the cost of 2 kids full-time in Cincinnati was damned near prohibitive. So John had trouble just finding positions for which to apply, let alone accept a position.

Enter the tension.

With two kids, we began bickering and fighting. I would come home from working God-awful hours to a house that was trashed. I would get ready to go somewhere and have no clean clothes. You see, John never was much of a housekeeper and I’m a little obsessive-compulsive. So we would fight. I would be upset that, while I was working my ass off to make ends meet, he was showing flagrant disregard by allowing our house to get trashed. I remember a particularly awful day where I found some of the boys’ expensive designer clothes molded because hey were under a wet towel in the basement laundry room for God knows how long. I began to try anything to get him to understand my point of view.  That is where I made my near-fatal mistake. Since he is a hard worker when he is getting a paycheck, I thought it would motivate him to do better by presenting it as if he was getting paid. With food and shelter and medical benefits, all provided by me.

How awful of me. I didn’t mean to hurt his self-image. I did not mean to completely emasculate him. I just wanted clean laundry and felt that I deserved it.

And with the pressure I was dishing, John issued his own counter-pressure. He wanted a job. Desperately. But he was still limited on the types of positions he could take. Then when he would find one that could work, he had to explain a years-long period of unemployment. Society still just could not handle that from a man. “You were a what? A stay-at-home-dad? What’s that?” So even if he made it through to an interview from the piles of applications, he never got an offer. In the meantime, I wanted him to find work. If I was going to clean the house anyway, at least he could bring home some money so I could maybe stop working all of the overtime. But nobody would give John a chance. And in John’s eyes, it was all my fault. I am the one who said, all those years ago, that he should just stay home. That it made more sense. And now, he couldn’t find work.

The man who served his country. The man who is such a hard worker. The man who, despite his own desires for his own life, put everything on hold to meet the needs of his family when the time came for it.

Well, yesterday, the phone rang. He was backing out of the driveway to go and put in yet another application, and I had to flag him down. It was a job offer, but the employer really needed someone. They wanted him to start then and there. So he left. The pay is only a quarter of what I make, but it is enough to compensate for childcare for Zachary one day a week. The only time we will need it is on Friday so I can sleep a little before going into work. Evan is old enough to play on the computer or watch a couple of movies while I nap, and he knows to wake me if he needs something. And we found a center that will do just one day a week without charging us for full-time care. In the fall, when I start my MBA program, they also allow flexible scheduling so I can pay by the hour while I am in class three afternoons a week. John’s schedule is 8-5, Monday through Friday, no weekends. In other words, perfect.

So the tides have shifted. Because while he may not have been a great housekeeper, I never had to worry about the kids destroying the house while I take a simple shower. If I mentioned that I wanted coffee, he would brew it for me before I even thought of moving. When I had to get ready for work, he would have my clean scrubs waiting for me. When we were hungry, he would cook…

I never realized just how much he did.

So while, with my career now and my future MBA, I will always be the breadwinner, John’s new job has done something monumental in our little family. I have a newfound appreciation for the partner I have had in John. I have taken him for granted. And with the first day of work, I have seen a change in him. He smiled all night last night. He was slower to lose patience with the boys last night. He seemed….fulfilled. And I had to realize that working is so much more than a paycheck. Being as into my career as I am, as motivated and driven as I am, I should have realized this all along.

Benefits to a job include medical, dental, vision, life insurance, vacation time, 401K. They also include self-esteem, self-worth, dignity. I feel like I have robbed John of that. I said it was all about the math, but I was so wrong. It’s more than math. It’s more than a Women’s Rights Statement and a big middle finger to the “establishment”. I’m still the breadwinner. I am stil the tough woman who will take the male-dominated world by storm one day. But this way, we all get what we need. Most of all, John.

Eleven

I started to write this on the eve of Chrstmas Eve. The eve of our eleventh anniversary.

Eleven years. 11. More than a decade. Double digits.

Somehow, as I started to write, words failed me. How has my life been impacted by John’s presence in it? Could I ever sum that all up in a blog post? Really?

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by reporting on rose-tinted images of what we are all raised to believe of marriage. It hasn’t been all roses. It has been real work, real sruggles at times. There have even been times where either one of us was tempted to throw in the towel. We never have. Sometimes this is out of love for each other and sometimes this is simply because we are just too damned stubborn to give up on this life we have built together. One thing has remained constant: I love him and he loves me. He gets me. The career and education I value so much? They are fires that he started. When it becomes too much, and I am about to give up–when it would be so much easier to just give up–he is the one to tell me I cnnot do so. He is my best friend. Not in the cliched way, but truly. When I am off of work, I don’t crave time with female friends. Instead, I run home to my husband. Not because I have to, but because I want to. He is where I belong.

Over the past week, I’ve been pondering some of the memories of the past eleven years. We sure have had some good ones. And some bad. Regardless, we stick it out together. That is how it should be and just how it is. But as I think of these times, I am taken back to the day they happened, as if I am there.

January, 2001. We hadn’t even been married a month. But something was different and I sent John to the store at 8AM for a pregnancy test. And that is when we found out Evan was coming. John was so excited that he picked me up and spun me around and around in our kitchen of that tiny apartment. We were so happy. Looking back, I see how dumb this truly was. But then we had no idea of what was to come with the pregnancy. Or that we should have taken more time to be an “us” before we tried to bring children into the mix. But we were so young and so in love, and it just seemed perfect.

November, 2003. John was on academic probation because he had mismanaged his time and didn’t study. We were going to meet with the Dean of Academic Affairs at the college to speak to her about getting him back on track. And in the midst of the conversation, he told her I was “too smart to not go back to school”. With that one little statement, I quit my job as a third-shift clerk at a convenience store and strapped on a backpack for the first time in almost 9 years on January 4, 2004. After a 4.0 semester, I applied for early admission to the respiratory program and was accepted. After many semesters of petitioning that same dean for permission to take more than the maximum allowable credits, I finished. But it was like a fire was lit and I needed more.

May, 2006. I was graduating. John was supposed to graduate with me, but the night before his most difficult final, he stayed up watching dvd’s. He ended up missing the grade he needed by 3 points. It was heartbreaking for him, but that didn’t stop him. As I walked across the stage to be handed my degree, the lights were blinding. I walked down the steps and regained my sight, and there he was. Arms open. Beaming smile. He was so proud of me. It had been years since my mother and father had both died and I remember thinking that it was nice to once again have someone who was so proud of me, who was that invested in my success.

April, 2008. I was getting an MRI. They had found a brain tumor on the right side of the frontal lobe. I had been having blinding headaches, and had to be on a pretty strong cocktail of drugs to even get out of bed. I was sad for what could come of my family, scared we were going to lose everything, that I was going to need a surgery that, according to the neurosurgeon, would have wiped out my memories. Memories of my child’s name, my mother’s existence, my wedding day. All of it, gone. There was so much riding on that scan, which was to be the determining factor in whether I needed the surgery. But I was claustrophobic and the emotions and anxiety flooded me as they attempted to advance me into the scanner. “Get John,” I croaked. The tech tried to protest, citing radiation exposure. But I couldn’t do it. Not just the scan. The whole damned thing. I needed him. And I realized suddenly that it was the first time I really needed anyone, ever. And suddenly, he was there. Lead apron and all. And as they advanced me into the scanner, I told him to make sure he did something to let me know he was there, even when I couldn’t see him. He did. For almost an hour, while I lay in that tube, he rested his hand on my right shin. He never took it off for a second. Sometimes, he would even absentmindedly tap out the rhythm of the magnets as they spun in an orbit around my head inside the scanner, and I would giggle. I didn’t fall asleep. I didn’t concentrate on the music they piped in to me. I concentrated on the warm spot where his hand was. My John. And I realized that I could do anything with him by my side. Anything.

July, 2008. We did lose everything. I lost my job–wrongfully–after the brain tumor. And he is the one who prompted me, after medical clearance, to go and apply for a job in my hometown. And I did. And I got it. And though John and I were pros when it came to throwing our stuff into U-Hauls, this time they hired a moving company to come and pack my house for me and move it all to the new address. And John and I, since Evan was in school, drove to Cincinnati. That was the day he drove out of the way so I could see the skyline of my hometown as I made my big return. And as we did, he looked at me and said, “Welcome Home, Baby.” Because he gets me.

May 13, 2010. Zachary was in the NICU and I was in the recovery room. John kept running in, breathless and excited, to tell me something new. “Andrea! They took off his hat and he has this black hair that sticks up all over! It is so awesome!” Or to show me a photo on the camera. Or to tell me how cute Zach was as he curled up in his little isolette. And I had to keep telling him to go and sit with the baby. To go and be with him, since I couldn’t. And when they finally brought Zach to me, John led the way as the nurse brought Zach into the room. Almost like a little kid presenting you with macaroni art–that look that says, “Look what I made.”

John and I will have many more memories. Some good and some not so good. It’s life. It’s love. It’s marriage. But I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else. Without him here, dreams have no meaning. Nothing would be worth it.

I’ll close this with a video. John and I don’t really have a song. We have a couple that come close, but the cool part of our relationship is that any love song I hear still brings visions of him wherever I am. But this one, though he doesn’t like it, is one of the ones that sums John up to me.

Here’s to another year.

I Shall Call This One “Someday”

Because…..

Someday, I will have time to make a dent in this 6-inch thick GMAT prep book.

Someday, I will have a day off of work.

Someday, Evan will go back to school.

Someday, Zach will start speaking and stop doing the whining/ grunting/ pointing thing.

Someday, this house will be clean. And neat. And organized.

And I will finish the 1000-page book I started reading out of a lapse in my sanity. Because for some reason, aside from GMAT prep, working like a dog, the questionably Aspergian high maintenance oldest child and the terrible-twos toddler, and all of the other shit I have to get done, I thought I would have time to read the damned thing.

Someday, I’ll relax.

Or maybe finish the apps for grad school.

Or maybe eat a dinner that is home cooked because we had time to cook.

Someday, there will not be sheer chaos in this house.

Someday, I will finish the 50 gazillion blog posts I have started about the different things I wanted to tell you all about but have not have the time to finish. On our Christmas. Or our anniversary. Or Evan’s progress and Zach’s delay.

But not now. Because right now, the tv is blaring, Zach is screaming because he doesn’t have the words or ability to tell John he wants apple juice. I am waiting for a phone call from the developmental interventionalist because I am finally worried about Zach’s speech delay to do something about it. And once I get the call, I have to go through the gu-wrenching possibility that my treatment during the pregnancy did something to him just when I thought it was all okay. And it is finally snowing outside, mixed with a bit of rain and freezing temps that are sure to make my commute a living hell.

And right now, I have to go to work. Again.

Fuck.