50/50: Life is a marathon“Hi honey. Mom’s in the hospital again. Could you come up?” My bags are permanently packed, and Dad knows I’ll be there 3 hours and 1 minute after I hang up. It’s the end of April 2007, and Mom’s heart has been giving her more and more trouble. Her meds aren’t working very well anymore and the doctors fear she’s developed v-tach.
By: Susie Ekberg Risher, INFORUM
“Hi honey. Mom’s in the hospital again. Could you come up?”
My bags are permanently packed, and Dad knows I’ll be there 3 hours and 1 minute after I hang up. It’s the end of April 2007, and Mom’s heart has been giving her more and more trouble. Her meds aren’t working very well anymore and the doctors fear she’s developed v-tach.
I walk into the hospital room, hug Dad and shoo him home so he can rest. I’ll sit up with Mom, hold her hand, bring her ice chips, brush the hair from her forehead.
“How are you feeling, Marietta?” Angela, the nurse, calls over the loudspeaker.
“Fine,” Mom answers.
“How are you feeling now, Marietta?” Angela asks 5 minutes later.
“Why do you keep asking?” I ask.
Mom’s heart monitor keeps detecting ventricular tachycardia, which is deadly. She can’t stabilize. Her situation deteriorates until by 3 a.m., I look up to see the room filled with doctors and nurses, with one nurse in the corner thumbing through a book of medicines.
I’m holding Mom’s hand, talking to her soothingly and taking deep breaths, hoping that will keep her calm. I call Dad, and with a shaky voice I tell him he had better come back to the hospital. It’s not looking good.
We spend the rest of the night at her side, holding Mom’s hands, talking about life and saying our goodbyes. By 5 a.m., Mom has responded well to an antiquated medicine and we know that we have been given more precious time with her.
I’d been training to walk the half marathon for the past year, but then, three weeks later, my back has totally frozen up with the recent stress and I can’t even stand without being wracked with painful spasms that take my breath away. I decide to cancel my walk. But then I think that everything in my life this past year has been about taking care of others, and this is the one thing I have chosen to do for myself, so I make a plan.
Kim and I have signed up together, so we both put on our “Wild Women Walking” T-shirts I’ve had printed, and start the race. We stay together for the first five miles, but then my back freezes so that it feels like I’ve stuck a plank in my pants and wrapped duct tape around my middle. I take 5 steps then stop and breathe until the spasm stops, then walk 5 more steps.
I urge Kim to leave me and continue on. I pass the 8-mile marker and see a sign that tells me to not ever lose sight of my goal and to keep going, and miraculously, it inspires me to push on. I turn the last corner and pull out my phone.
“Where are you?”
“I’m at the marathon and I wanted to share it with you as I walk across the finish line. Can you hear all the screaming? Can you hear the clapping? I’m doing it, Mom! I did it! I wanted to take you with me.”
“Oh honey – this is so much fun! How exciting!”
We had one more year with Mom.
I think that life is a marathon. No matter how hard we train, sometimes life jumps out at us and bites us in the butt and freezes our backs so that we can hardly move.
And we can make a choice at those times – we can drop all of our plans and lie on the couch with our ice packs, hoping that time will heal our situation and life will be gentler next time. Or we can decide to walk on anyway, even if it means taking just a few steps at a time and then standing as we wait for the pain to pass so we can take a few more steps.
Susie Ekberg Risher is a writer living in Fargo. Follow her on a yearlong journey to lose 50 pounds – half through emotional work and half through physical effort.