Am I dreaming? My muscles stiffen as I listen. Fighting back the haze of sleep, I struggle to open my eyes and reach to the other side of the bed. He isn’t there. That noise must be him making breakfast.
A few deep breaths and hard blinks and I’m awake enough to swing my legs over the side of the bed. Maybe he dropped something. I listen. The noise doesn’t stop. A cacophony of clanging and thumping continues to carry down the hallway. I swear, if he wakes up the baby…
It takes a second for my eyes to adjust as I stumble into the bright light of the kitchen and another second to realize that he is on the floor. Why would he be on the floor? I can’t think around the space sleep has left in my head.
Then everything snaps into place and suddenly I am fully awake. He is seizing. The noise is him hitting his head and arms on some baking dishes that I set by the doorway because they won’t fit in my cupboards. Just yesterday I had scolded myself for not finding a better place for them yet. The coffee pot is brewing. The stove is on and his eggs are cooking. There is ham on the floor and the package is open on the counter. All of this takes a fraction of a second to take in and then I am on the floor with him, holding his head, telling him everything is okay.
I move the dishes and high chair away from him so he won’t hit them again and say his name quietly over and over, hoping he hears me and knows he isn’t alone. There is blood on the floor from where he bit his lip. He always bites his lip. Hopefully, it’s the only thing bleeding. Sweat beads up on his forehead and neck where I’m stroking his hair trying to calm him. As quickly as it came, the seizure is gone and I turn him on his side like I know I’m supposed to. Five long seconds pass of stillness pass and I’m yelling at him, demanding that he breathe, damn it. He finally gasps for air, gulps it in ragged breaths that shake his whole body.
I whisper a prayer of thanks and run to get my phone off the nightstand. After a few rings, an irritatingly unfeeling 911 operator begins to ask me questions. With one hand on my phone and one on Taylor’s head, I try to answer the questions quickly while I continue to talk to my husband, forcing my mind to be in two places at once. He is starting to come around and begins to clumsily push himself up from the floor. I explain to him that he’s had a seizure and he needs to stay still; he doesn’t understand, but he does what I ask. The sheen of amnesia glazes his eyes.
Within minutes, there are blinking red and blue lights seeping through the blinds. At some point I opened the door. The officer is someone we know, a nice guy. He knows my husband and starts talking to him, trying to keep him from standing up. But Taylor doesn’t know him. He doesn’t even know me when this happens and the confusion and fear on his face is only getting worse.
The paramedics and the firemen are two steps behind the officer. They help him walk to the couch and start taking his blood pressure and glucose levels. I start answering questions about medications he is taking. No, he isn’t diabetic. No, he’s never had a stroke or heart problems.
I tell them everything that happened exactly as I remember it, but my eyes are on him. He’s waging battles inside. He doesn’t know me. He knows that he should. He is too tired to be frustrated, but every time he looks at the people standing around him the fear and confusion return.
After the paramedic ask him his name several times, he is finally able to tell them. They point to where I am kneeling on the floor next to the couch and ask if he knows me. He nods. Can you tell me who she is? the paramedic prods. I think of our first date, our wedding day, our first house–all the memories that I see when I look at him. He searches my face earnestly, narrowing his eyes, then shakes his head in defeat. I’m holding his hand, limp and unresponsive, in mine. For a few horrible moments I think that this is what life would be if he just didn’t remember this time, if the life he has doesn’t come back to him.
He tries to stand several times, but we gently push him back into his seat. I keep telling him it’s okay. Everything will be fine. Like a mantra. I want it to be for him, but it may be more for me. I’m trembling somewhere inside. My stomach? My heart? Maybe both. Clenching my teeth, I force it to stop. Crying would only add to his confusion.
They ask him where he lives and he gives his parents’ address. It takes 30 minutes the sheen in his eyes starts to recede and I can tell he sees me now. He remembers that he loves me, even if he can’t recall my name just yet. He starts to squeeze my hand, gripping it with both of his as though it will help him feel anchored in reality or help him remember why he’s here.
He doesn’t want to go to the hospital. That’s okay. We sign something and the paramedics leave after I promise to call the doctor as soon as he’s in his office. Taylor doesn’t remember everything, but he does know that it’s almost 5:30am and he usually leaves for work about now.
I don’t want him to go to work. I want him to stay with me so I can hold his hands and touch his face and make sure that he is really okay. I’m still kneeling on the floor, he is holding my hands in his lap. With a shaky jerk, he lifts his hand to rub his head and my stomach drops. For the next few weeks every movement of his will set me on edge, waiting for it to happen again and begging God that it doesn’t. When he is feeling better, he’ll tease me, sticking his arms out stiffly and rolling his eyes back in his head. He never remembers his seizures. But I do. I remember every detail.
His dad comes by to pick him up for work. No driving. Not until we see the doctor. I want to ask him to stay, but he is worried. He doesn’t want to lose his job or waste sick time. What if something bad happens and I need it? he says. I don’t try to convince him that something bad did just happen.
I kiss him and he leaves. The door clicks closed, and I don’t know what to do so I sit at the computer staring vacantly at the screen and holding the tears at bay. I can hear our daughter’s steady breathing over the monitor in the kitchen. She slept through everything, thank God. My mother-in-law calls to make sure I’m okay.
Someone knocks on my door. It’s 6am and I don’t know anyone who should be at the door. I hope for a second that Taylor changed his mind and came home. But it’s my neighbor, a petite middle aged woman with short brown hair and a kind face. We met once almost two years ago. I’m holding my phone, my mother-in-law still on the line. My neighbor smiles, the porch light shrouding her eyes in shadows. She just wanted to make sure we were okay. She saw the lights. Do we need anything? I tell her what happened. We’re okay, we don’t need anything. Thank you. I can feel the tears at the back of my eyes burning away my resolve to keep them hostage. God is using a stranger to remind me that He is taking care of us, that there are still kind people in the world.
I thank her and she waves and says she’ll pray for us. I talk to my mother-in-law for another minute and promise to call her if I need something. Then I’m alone again with the glow of the computer. So I cry. Just a little. And I thank God. Then I take a few deep breaths and realize that I’m fairly vibrating with nervous energy. Energy that should be used to take care of him, to make sure he sleeps and drinks water, to kiss him and bring him Tylenol and watch him for signs of a concussion.
But he’s not here.
So I mop the kitchen floor.
Because somewhere in the chaos I realized how dirty it was.
Because somehow I had the presence of mind to be embarrassed that people were going to see it that way.
Because I have to do something.
Now the house smells like Pinesol and the shaking in my gut has stopped.
Please God, let this be the last time.