Continued from Peace Out, Part 1:
We left off with me dragging Eric to the oral surgeon…
And that is how it came to pass that my husband – who finally accepted that he should worry and obey – ended up with a swollen face and jaw packed with bovine bone three hours later. Thank God for the hyper-responsive Dr. Cooper-Newland. The culprit for months of undisclosed pain and illness? A hairline crack in his tooth that was too tight to appear on x-rays, but formed a perfect super highway for bacteria into his jaw tissue.
“Well?” I asked, as I bustled him back out to the car.
Through a mouthful of gauze, Eric conveyed in the strongest possible terms that he never wanted to hear his jaw bone scraped again. (Why he chose to remain awake is a mystery to me.) The doctor told him she felt optimistic that she had removed all the infected tissue, and that her topical antibiotic was strong enough to deal with what was left behind, although she also kept Eric on oral antibiotics. He was by turns jubilant and chastened, relieved and grateful.
“I ahmrave ahrmto ahrmgo ahrmback,” he said. Or tried to.
Translation: besides a normal follow-up about the infection and wound site, he has to get another round of bone grafts in January, a metal plate in April, and a new tooth installed next summer. Worse things have happened to nice people, I know, but he was bummed. Lots of distracting, work-draining, stressful doctors visits to come. Plus the follow-up with his cardiologist, asap.
Eric’s stress had risen to its peak levels in the last two months. His youngest daughter’s departure for college hit him harder than he’d expected. The impact of the mystery illness – resulting in the day’s surgery – on his workouts had depressed him, especially on the heels of his stomach procedure and the ongoing pain management treatments/epidurals for his broken back (a story for another day). His inability to ever fit all his desired activities into a day weighed on him more than usual. And frankly, he felt like crap, and hadn’t dared to admit it.
Yet in the midst of all this noise was love. Me. His kids. His parents. Me.
When we married, Eric had said his greatest goal for our new life was peace. Mind you, he had an overflowing extra large Samsonite rolling case full of additional goals that weighed against the possibility of him ever finding it, but what he longed for, now that he had love, was a strife-free zone. A center. A stillness. A safe place to curl up by the fire, legs stretched out, head back, hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream on top in hand. I had promised to give him that. Yeah, me. The one who is a bit, well, mercurial.
But life doesn’t allow for perfect peace. You have to find your peace amidst the unceasing chaos of bills, illnesses, injuries, work, heartbreaks, and crises.
Eric had lost his peace. He had just flat out lost it. I had failed to “give” it to him, too.
Today was yet another in the latest long list of examples of peace escaping him.
And I understood. I didn’t know how to fix it, just like I didn’t know for sure how to fix his tooth, or even how to make him stop running, but I was trying. I wanted to figure it out, and I wanted to help him find that chimera, that life without turmoil. Or at least find peace within it.
We got in the Suburban. I had run out while he was in surgery and gathered up a few gifts on this theme, hoping they would be the electric paddles to shock his heart into accepting peace in the here and now.
Eric opened the gifts, and, maybe it was the drugs, maybe it was his jacked-up emotions, but tears rolled. I helped him put the very manly leather necklace on, to nestle the tiny E, Peace, and P into his 13 chest hairs against his gigantic heart. It hung out of sight under his shirt, warmed by his skin. I’d waited six years to do this – to replace the gold chain he’d worn since childhood, but that I had hated because it was a reminder of the pasts we had agreed to leave behind. He held the heavy distressed wooden block with the word “Peace,” on it, a visual reminder. And he read aloud the words in the accompanying card, the one that anchored the two gifts:
Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
I <3 this card more than I can express. Eric, it seemed, did, too.
Now felt like the safest time to confess my subterfuge from the previous night, when I had stopped his run. I did, and he groaned.
“I promise to use my powers only for good, never for evil,” I said. “But I love you, and hear me loud and clear on this: I won’t let you harm yourself.”
His nod was barely perceptible, but he did nod.
So, Eric has a long way to go to make it past this latest hiccup: an infection to clear, more bovine insertions to endure, a new tooth installation to weather. An endless round of cow jokes from friends and family. Bovine references in his wife’s writing, forevermore. “Moo” is still funny, but may not be soon.
But no matter the crisis, here’s hoping that this creature who knows no pain, this self-sacrificing giver, this sensitive and creative soul, can remember to find his peace, to stop – JUST STOP – and listen to his body and inner voice from a place of sanctuary. I can’t give him the peace he craves. I can’t quiet all the noise. I wanted to, but I can’t.
I can help him find it for himself, though.
And, God-willing, he can.
p.s. Within 4 days of the surgery, Eric’s blood pressure had dropped to a healthy level. Phew!
p.p.s. Now we can go back to worrying about Petey