Tag: husband

Not an Insignificant Exchange

DahliaStruts

The short version for those who don’t have much time:

  • Where I live, there are 3 Great Voices of Authority: God, Doctors, Football.
  • Single words, short phrases, or simple sentences, have The Power to change lives.
  • When something stupid, thoughtless, inconsiderate, moronic, or potentially harmful falls out of a mouth – even the mouth of one of the 3 Great Authorities – you have not only the Right but a Duty to speak up.
  • Speaking up at times like #3 can change lives, too.

The longer version:

Two years ago, at our first visit, the cardiologist looked at my husband (who was then a recent recipient of a stent in his heart) and said, “You’re lucky. You know how you’re going to die.” I sat there and said nothing, in part because I was struck speechless with such a stupid thing being said by one of The Great Authorities, and in part because this was a conversation between my husband and this doctor to which I was a mere observer who didn’t want to risk the doctor “taking it out on my husband.”

Today, this same cardiologist walks into the room, and instead of saying “Wow, you look great. I can tell you’ve been seriously exercising” or anything comparable, he immediately starts hammering away at Andy about nutrition and eventually says (and I quote), “If you want to live to be 88, you need to watch what you eat and to cut down on the fried foods.”

Having heard enough, I take Andy’s face in my two hands, look into his retinas, and say, “Baby, we’re shooting for at least 98, okay?” When he nods, I turn my attention to the cardiologist . . .

“You deal with hearts,” I say, “I deal with psychology and emotions, the driving forces in life.” And before I can finish that train of thought, he says, “I deal with more psychology than you might think.” I am both relieved and borderline thrilled to know he realizes that.

“Then you understand about the power of suggestion,” I tell him. “When you put a finite number on how long my husband or anybody else, for that matter, will live, you plant a seed that might grow into a self-fulfilling prophecy. So what say we leave out the finite numbers and ages and stick to concepts, information, and most important of all: encouragement and support.” I guess it comes as no surprise to hear that my contribution quickly brings the visit to a close.

To his credit, though, when the cardiologist shakes my husband’s hand as we exit the office, he says, “Okay, we’ll shoot for 108. Or 109. Yes, 109. Let’s make it an odd number.”

And me? I just smile and say, “I like odd.”

[ :: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers has long owned and seldom apologized for her authority issues.

lines of engagement

MeltinHeartInDenver.JPG

 

” . . . and so,” the cardiologist said in wrap-up mode after reviewing the results of the nuclear stress test, “i say you go straight to the hospital and let’s do a catherization tomorrow to see what’s going on.” armed with a direction, i launched into native jeannemode, directing my brother-in-law to go to the airport to fetch our son who was flying in from colorado; calling our daughter, alerting her to the change in plans; and plugging my phone in to recharge the battery for a few minutes. that done, i exhaled and said, “i feel better now.” to which hubs said, “this isn’t about you. this is about me.”

a simple statement of truth delivered from a man who seldom redirects the spotlight on himself. and let me tell you: those 8 truthful words unleashed a cacophony of voices past, hissing and spitting and chiming in to remind me of things they’ve told me repeatedly in years gone by: who do you think you are, missy? nice girls don’t talk about themselves. good mothers sacrifice. you’re bossy. you’re manipulative. good girls don’t say bad things. good girls let people talk about themselves. you’re too sensitive. you need to think more than feel. why are you focusing on that – it’s not important. this is not about you. you’re too self-absorbed. lighten up.

and a whole lot more.

that nasty, piercing chorus has chipped, chirped, and harped at me ever since. i second-guess every sentence that contains a personal pronoun. i replay various happenings in my life and find the aha’s – you were, too [insert horrendously selfish behavior of choice]. but mostly, i ponder where we separate and where we come together. where is the line drawn between andy and me? where is the us? we’ve always had spaces in our togetherness, and true: it’s his body, it’s his life, but this sure seems to be about me, too.

drawing boundaries, they call it – something i’ve never excelled at, honestly. i’m good at empathy. lean towards the inclusive more than exclusive. i shop for cards and gifts, but they’re always from “us”. i can’t watch shows like america’s funniest home videos. i compare other people’s experiences to my own. i learn from other people’s stories. when my kids were in high school, i read the books on their required reading lists so we could talk about them (and yes, i was accused of living vicariously).

for the past week-and-a-half, i’ve wrested with the lines separating wife from mother; caring from smothering; support from dictating; allowing from detaching. i’ve pondered where and after much (and i do mean much) consideration, a lightbulb: i see lines as suggestions. i tweeted it, given the few times my realizations fit comfortably into the 140-character space. “for crossing or guiding?” asked my twitter friend mrs. mediocrity. “both,” i told her.

lines in a coloring book? suggestions.

lines on the blank page? suggestions.

lines in the sand? suggestions . . . tinged with warnings.

line outside the ladies room? suggestion to station a friend to guard the door and use the men’t room..

and that circular, insulating, would-be impenetrable line around hubs and his heart issues? a suggestion for separation that after much consideration i’ve decided i’m not buying into. his heart may be the one that now houses a stent and his heart may be the one that endured the catherization and angioplasty, but over the past 36 years, 10 months, and 8 days, the line between our hearts has faded.

and i am not interested in drawing it back. period.

SELECTING A NEW CARdiologist

 

SteeringWheel.JPG

 

when it’s time for a new car, i go through a grieving process because i love my cars – love them, i tell you. i drive my cars an average of 14 years, and log hundreds of thousands of miles on them. we have a relationship, my car and me. i take good care of my car, really good care. i keep her clean inside and out. i deal with only the finest mechanic – someone i was referred to by someone i love, someone who loves me back. my car gets her oil changed the first week of every quarter, regardless of what the little sticker says. i keep her in new shoes, new brakes, new batteries. i keep my car happy and she, in return, gets me and people i care about where we want to go and back. safely.

as much as i value my wheels, i find it odd that folks spend more time looking for a new car than they spend looking for a doctor . . .

when my husband’s blood pressure spiked for no apparent reason, we headed to the primary care office because the insurance company says we don’t know a thing about shopping for a cardiologist, and we might choose one that, given our particular policy, is out of our price range. we made an appointment, arrived 15 minutes before the appointed hour on the appointed day, then waited 45 minutes beyond the agreed-upon time to get some face time with the primary care doc. (not necessarily eye contact, mind you, but we do catch a glimpse of his face.)

in the precious 10 minutes allotted us, we asked for the name of a good cardiologist because obviously hubby’s heart’s gone wonky, and we didn’t study the heart in this context, in the classes we took, or in the lives we’ve led.

“give us a name,” we asked, “tell us who can help us.”

primary care filled out the paperwork and gave it to his “scheduling girl” without telling us the name or phone number of the person who will be calling us. we didn’t even talk about what criteria he used to decide that this one particular person is The One We Should See. does he beat you at tennis once a week, primary care? did she graduate at the top of her class? do you belong to the same church or investment club? or does this person you’re sending us to pay the highest referral fee?

we want the name of the person you’d send your mother or your dad or your wife or yourself to see.

a  week goes by, and we’ve heard nothing, so we call the primary care office and we’re told oh, they’ve been trying to call, but well, they’re just so busy, you know. when i point out that is the very last thing we want to hear, they are dumbfounded. (yes, i did take the time to explain.) hours later, we are informed that we have an appointment with somebody 2 weeks from now. oh – and by the way, it’s an hour away. nobody ever asked us if that would be a good day and time for us, if we’re even going to be in town, if we’re willing to drive. our time is obviously not valuable. our health and peace of mind of no concern.

primary care dude and crew, here’s the thing that’s overlooked far too often to suit me: we are your customer.

that’s right: i said CUSTOMER. i know you prefer the word “patient” because it’s familiar, and there’s something so elevated about it. “customer” is so common, and there’s not the embedded hierarchy as in the word “patient.”

well, we’ll take it from here, thank you very much. we’ll find our own cardiologist. we’ll ask family members who they would suggest we see. we’ll get a suggestion from knowledgeable people to whom we are more than a car payment.

we get permission from the insurance company, we make our own appointment, getting in more than a week earlier at a time that’s mutually convenient. yes, we’re still driving an hour, but it’s our decision. a choice we made.

we’ll see you soon, joe the cardiologist who studied the other workings of the heart. we’ll see you tomorrow, actually, and i want you to know this: i have spent more than half my life with this man. we have a mere 36 years’ worth of miles on us at this point. and we have miles to go before we sleep. miles, i tell you. chunks of miles.

consider our first meeting an interview. we’re not committing to a lifetime together – at least not yet – and you should probably know that i’m not afraid to fire doctors. i’ve done it before when my loved ones weren’t being well cared for. oh, and i should probably mention that we’re auditioning your staff tomorrow, too.

i’ve been told i have authority issues with the medical community. call it whatever you want, but i am not afraid to ask you to call me by my first name, and i’m equally unafraid to call you by your first name in return because that levels the playing field. i am not afraid to remind you that our differences right here, right now come down to the fact that we took different courses in college. i know you were taught differently, but then maybe you had an incomplete education. maybe they should have taught you the basics of customer service.

you are providing a service we are in need of. you have knowledge we can use. you weren’t born with this knowledge, you weren’t annointed with it. you simply did what the rest of us did to learn the invaluable things we know: you studied, you read, you took notes and tests, then you went out into the world and that’s when the real learning started.

some of the best business relationships are pillared by the same things that support other lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships: empathy, respect, listening, and genuine caring. those other workings of the heart that we‘ve studied, read about, took notes, and been tested on.

we may appear cool, calm, and collected tomorrow, but make no mistake: we are afraid. you’ve been around this block many times before, but it’s our first time on this particular corner. we want and need your knowledge. we want and need at least one good reason to feel confident in your abilities. we want and need a reason to trust you, to feel comfortable following your suggestions, and we don’t build that kind of relationship just by looking at the framed certificates hanging on your walls or the top of your head as you remain bent over your clipboard.

when we show up at your office tomorrow, here’s a little something to keep in mind: we’ll be kicking tires and taking you out for a test drive. i don’t care how many cup holders you have or if you have sirius radio, but i do want to give you some idea of what we’re looking for. i sure do hope you’re The One We’re Looking For, joe the cardiologist, because there’s not much i hate more than car shopping.

 

36 years . . . and counting

we met quite by accident on january 27 of that year, became engaged on april 1 of that same year, then married on july 31 – you guessed it – of that same year.

on a tuesday night so we wouldn’t mess up the weekend.

we were so young and so trusting. we knew the world would accommodate us. we were bulletproof as long as we had each other. we would never grow old or bored or infirmed. we expected the best from the world and each other, and we have not been disappointed.

we finished undergraduate school (and i, graduate school), birthed and raised 2 fantastic children, buried parents, developed individual careers and hobbies, and laughed at every opportunity. we have known fun; we have known sorrow. there have been spaces in our togetherness . . . and we have remained in love.

somehow.

(i think it has a lot to do with laughing more than complaining and having the same taste in wallpaper.)

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