On May 17, 2010, I wrote:
“I miss the comradery and organization of an office. I need real health insurance, but I want a part-time job after July 2011. I have worked for over 40 years and I’m ready to retire – at least part of the time. I want to spend some time with my husband while we can both enjoy it. I’d like to be able to help my autistic grandson as much as I am able to help people with developmental disabilities, and the aging. I’ve devoted so much time to helping seniors & veterans. I’d like to spend some time helping my senior veteran father who will soon be 89 years old. I’d like to have time to write the book about him.”
Be careful what you ask for. Little did I know that within a few months I would be on FMLA spending every hour with my husband – afraid to leave him for one minute. In the months that followed, we learned to find enjoyment in the little things and appreciate each other in a way we might never have known. We discovered not only what we could lose, but what we still had to gain. As my husband had years ago, I realized what a privilege it was to be able to work – with or without health insurance. I also learned the true value of Facebook and Email, as it was often the easiest way to keep family abreast of the situation, and sometimes my only real connection to the outside world.
It all began with the whispered words “I can’t feel my legs.” It began with a heart catheterization that went horribly wrong. This is our story.
Life is much like a range of mountains. The peaks offer a view that is either intimidating or awe-inspiring, depending on how a person chooses to see it. The valleys can be deep and dark, harboring both known and unknown dangers. Sometimes, there are plateaus offering extended periods of level plains that offer little of interest. The going is smooth, creating a tendency to take things for granted. In the middle of complacency, huge canyons can appear without warning. Through it all, there are beasts that stalk and pounce, wreaking havoc and death. A person has no choice but to move forward and accept the risk or give up and perish.
Sometimes life opens up like the jaws of a terrifying monster and devours you. We thought that had happened the day Eddie was diagnosed with inoperable coronary heart disease. I remember feeling surreal. We were only 38 and the prognosis for him at that time was 5 years.
Eddie's life had provided many mountains to climb. Before he reached his teens, he had suffered two major setbacks. The first was the loss of his 47-year-old father, to whom he was devoted. The second was the onset of Type I diabetes brought on by a severe bout with hepatitis. After Eddie's father died, he lost focus. He quit school after the 7th grade and took a job catching chickens. He worked odd jobs until he was old enough to work in a factory. In October of 1968 he was hired at Crane Company in Rogers, Arkansas, which was where he worked when I met him. We both worked at the same company, I in the office and he in the shop, but oddly enough, that wasn't where we met.