Last month, a friend of mine, a widower who lives alone, woke at 5 a.m. with a crushing pain in the middle of his chest. He told me later that three thoughts came to mind. The first was that he was having a heart attack and needed to call 911; the second was that he should get outside, because if he were to fall inside, nobody would find him for days; and the third was that he was mad at himself for not keeping baby aspirin within reach and on his bedside table (he read an article that suggested you do this in the event of a heart attack while you sleep), because he sure could use one now.
He grabbed his phone, took his wallet and keys, and headed out his front door.
"I'm having a heart attack," he told the 911 dispatcher. "I'm on my front porch, please come quickly." While he waited, he realized what day it was: Friday the 13th.
The paramedics got there fast, and when they arrived they gave him aspirin and nitroglycerin and praised him for not lying down (turns out it's the best thing he could have done). When he arrived at the hospital, he was evaluated right away and given more aspirin and more nitroglycerin. Since his pain was not relieved, they looked to see if any heart specialists were on call. It just so happened there was one, and he was in the ER. The doctor performed an angioplasty, which showed three blocked arteries, one at 100% and the other two at 80% each. He put in three stents. By 7:30 a.m. the same morning, my friend was in recovery and his pain was gone.
Six weeks later, my friend's doing well. He's lost 20 pounds (a good thing), turned vegetarian, has gone back to work, and is, quite simply, happy to be alive. Some might even say he was lucky to be alive -- others, that luck had nothing to do with it. His quick actions, the good medical care he received, that's what turned his day around, according to them.
Whatever it was, it got me thinking. When my kids were younger, I stockpiled all kinds of lotions, potions, splints, and bandages in case of emergency -- or to keep luck on our side, depending on your perspective. I read manuals about kids' health -- what this rash meant versus that rash, this cough versus that cough. Even then, we made our share of trips to the emergency room because, as they say, sh_ _ happens.
My nest is now empty, and my husband and I are acclimating, slowly. I've tossed many of the old emergency supplies that were kid-centric as the spotlight has begun to shift away from our children to each other. This has taken some getting used to. My husband and I now keep track of each other's medical appointments. We go to the dentist for cleanings on the same day. We buy electric toothbrush replacement heads in packs of two.
Other things are different around here -- meals, for instance: I've only just started to eat breakfast sitting down. And by breakfast I don't mean the crusts I cut off the sandwiches I made for my kids' lunches and couldn't bear to toss. As for laundry, sometimes I do it, put it in the same baskets that my kids once used as drawers (they would just leave the clean clothes in them which drove me nuts), and then I don't put it away for days. Or I watch a movie in the middle of the week because I no longer have to be a role model. And I watch it while curled up on a couch of my own. I guess I'm finally exercising my prerogative.
What took me so long, you ask?
I've been busy. Really, really, busy. And changes like this, they just don't happen overnight.
Or maybe they do.
Sh_ _ happens.
Friday the 13th is coming up again in December.
Maybe it's time to start keeping baby aspirin around.
Join me next week for another installment of The Pre-Empt Chronicles, as I transition from full house to empty nest. Visit me at sisterhoodofmothers.com.