50 and counting
Monday December 03rd 2007, 12:27 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Last night, our neighbors were celebrating the many accumulated, small, moment-by-moment good decisions and unselfishness that had led up to their marking fifty years of marriage. And we were invited to come share in their joy with their loved ones.

We ran into Penny and her husband there–or rather, Penny grabbed my arm as I walked by through the crowd, oblivious: I found myself suddenly exclaiming, “PENNY!”

The first time I ever attempted Barbara Walker’s Checkerboard Mesh Lace as a newbie–the pattern I used in the body of my Blue Jay shawl–I used it with cobweb 2/48 yarn and size 0 needles for a wisp of a scarf for her. We still had children in elementary school together back then.

When things were winding down, Richard headed towards the foyer and turned back to see if I was following; I was finishing up one last conversation first. And then when I came out:

“Are you all right?” he was asking a woman about the age of our moms, who was sitting on a chair near the front door. I found out later he had already asked her several times. There were other people around, but nobody else seemed to have quite taken notice of her state.

She was not seeing us. She was keeling over to the side in very slow motion, one arm splayed out, her hand tightening up. I hunched down so that I was looking up at her face, and repeated Richard’s question.

She began to come to herself again, and said something I couldn’t quite hear. There are times I rue my deafness more intensely than others, but she said again, faintly, “I feel ill.” Gradually, though, she regained herself as we quietly talked. It was just a touch of indigestion. Maybe it was a hot flash. Yes, she told me while Richard was sent off looking for a friend of hers, there had been pain down her left arm, but only for a moment. I told her, trying to gently counter her denial, that I had had that shortness of breath and classic pain radiating down the left arm–at 31. She was surprised. I was hoping to convey, being clearly no longer 31, that acknowledging what was going on and treating it was important.

She did not have any memory of Richard’s asking her if she was all right.

While he was gone, I mentioned my having lupus and Crohn’s–not to complain, just enough to let her know that he and I both understood and were there for her. When he came back, we asked her if we could call 911. She glanced out the front door, and I knew what she was thinking: the sirens, the paramedics, the loud and disruptive exclamation point to the lovely party and everybody going home with that as what they remembered of it, when maybe it was nothing, nothing at all, no reason for all that–and she shook her head no, while wondering out loud, though, whether she should be turning us down. I told her, “Better to call them and not need it than not call them and need it.” I almost had her talked into it. But no.

The wife of the bridal couple came out and saw us concerned over her and was concerned, too. She came over and spoke with her a moment, to convey, along with us, that it’s okay to be ill if you’re ill.

In the end, the woman allowed Richard to drive her home in her car while I followed behind in ours to get him afterwards. I thought we should sit with her awhile. Women know to come, to sit, to be there with others going through the transitions and upheavals in life. But he was the one who had gone with her, he being able to hear her subdued voice in a moving car when I knew I could not, and she was less open to him than I think she would have been to me. Nothing personal; more a gender thing. But she did at least let us take her home.

And I emailed our neighbors when we got back to our own home, to fill them in and because I knew they knew how to contact her, and that they would want to.

I came away from the whole thing feeling, the signs were subtle. Not sitting up straight, the not seeing, the shaking, and then her not remembering–which we wouldn’t have known had we not asked her questions. We probably should have called 911 on her anyway, but we gave her the autonomy and respect to let her make her own decision. I am hoping that once she was home alone, without a crowd of people around her who might be able to step in, she called for that medical help after all, or at least is getting checked out today.

But still. I woke up this morning with a profound sense of our having been in the right place at the right time. And that she was willing to listen to me, whether she immediately did what we hoped for or not, because I had cleared the path ahead by having already walked down part of it.

Women have always been there in the transitions of life. We all go sometime, but it’s the not knowing, it’s the fear of what lies between and ahead that leaves people feeling alone and afraid. Rachel Remen writes, “Fear is the friction in all changes.” By simply being with her, that woman, whoever she was, gained strength, emotional and perhaps physical. She had not been alone.

And she had given the gift to our mutual friends of keeping the evening a celebration of their lives together.

11 Comments so far
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I hope to be so selfless. Yet I also hope that she sought help. I hope that she does not suffer in silence on any kind of regular basis. And, even thought I do not know her, I am glad that you and Richard were there to give her voice. It is times such as these that human connection is so vital – physically, emotionally, spiritually. I hope to someday be so selfless.

Comment by Pam Sykes 12.03.07 @ 12:36 pm

Thank you for helping! Many wouldn’t. I hope she is ok.

Comment by Vicki 12.03.07 @ 2:17 pm

All of those signs are very serious. I hope she didn’t just go to bed, thinking she’d be okay. Women have heart attacks differently, but it could be several other things.

That’s why I drag Hubby into things–people listen to him for some reason. Maybe it’s that MD thing. 😉 Still, I’d be so worried about her. Scary!

Comment by Carina 12.03.07 @ 3:56 pm

I really hope that she called after you left. People are stubborn when it comes to the heart attach symptoms, and women are more persistent at dismissing them than men. *worlds of slightly-more-specific well-wishing*

Comment by Amy 12.03.07 @ 5:21 pm

Wow. I hear you. Gil wouldn’t acknowledge the “indigestion” after mowing the lawn as being serious – and the Drs even said his stress test was normal, and he had a heart attack on the way home from the test! It can be tough to decifer the signs. Gil had stents put in a few days later after a trip by ambulance to the hospital. Geez, wonder why I’m going gray!

Comment by Bev 12.03.07 @ 5:33 pm

I’m wishing now that we had driven her to the hospital rather than home, but she really did seem pretty much recovered at the time. It was hard to be sure of ourselves and we didn’t want to be too pushy.

I type this after having just talked to my dad, who had an apparent TIA once at church, and a friend of his offered to drive him home–and the friend was a doctor! (Makes me feel better.) Um, except that the friend then veered off on the way, changing his mind, and said, No, I’m taking you to the hospital.

Comment by AlisonH 12.03.07 @ 5:46 pm

Thank you for helping her, and I’m hope she’s okay.

I dreamt last night that I was in labor, and my aunt was there, holding my hand. And I know she will be.

I thought you’d get it. 🙂

Comment by kristine 12.03.07 @ 8:29 pm

Holy cow, I hope she called the doctor. Almost sounds like a mini-stroke or a walking heart attack. Hope she ends up okay.

Comment by Amanda 12.04.07 @ 5:45 pm

Wearing my ER nurse hat, it sounds like a little stroke, or TIA. And it is true that a person should get to the ER quick when having symptoms of stroke, so if it is caused by a clot it can be reversed. However, it sounds like hers was either caused by a constriction of a blood vessel, or else a clot that went away by itself. If the symptoms resolved, there wouldn’t be any treatment that could be done in the ER to make the outcome any different. Which is a long way around to say, she probably saved herself a lot of poking, prodding and testing.

Comment by anne in Wy 12.04.07 @ 6:02 pm

My neighbors got back to me today after having checked up on her, and said she had an appointment today to see the doctor. Which was a relief to all of us.

Comment by AlisonH 12.04.07 @ 7:04 pm

I hope she is fine after seeing her Dr. I am with the ER nurse as my hunny and I are (or have been ) nurses. We have both seen this several times and it does sound like a TIA and by not goin to the hospital she did save herself a bunch of expensive tests. Hopefully this is the first one and not one of many cuz if it is shes on her way to a major Stroke.Keep us posted

Comment by Danielle from SW Missouri 12.05.07 @ 1:00 pm

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