My mom attributes part of my frankly shockingly bad spelling to the trend, when I was young, of teaching phonetic spelling. I was given a bunch of letters, the sounds they made, and asked to spell a word. I picked the way that looked the best.
“Hook’d on fonix werkd for me.”
So when Dawnise and I were getting invitations printed for our wedding dessert reception, there was basically no way I was going to notice that what they actually said was desert – as in the hot places with no water and a bunch of sand.
By the time the error was discovered all we could do was lean into it and put some cacti on the table with the sweets.
It was not, in the grand scheme of things, a particularly big deal.
The same can’t be said for today (15-Aug) in 1999. Dawnise was recovering from some foot surgery, and that morning she didn’t feel right. Fast forward to the afternoon, and despite her objections and insistence she was fine we were in the car headed to urgent care, where they examined her and immediately sent us across the road to the emergency room.
If you’ve never seen the ER jump in to action the way it does in the movies, try coming in with a young woman in a wheel chair presenting with chest pains and shortness of breath, sent over by the urgent care across the street. I was just along for the ride – staying out of the way and, in an age before ubiquitous smart phones, trying to glean what information I could from what I was overhearing.
The answer, for those playing along from home, turned out to be a pulmonary embolism – and the no energy was because her O2 levels were through the floor due to a partial lung collapse.
She was started on oxygen, heparin and admitted to the ICU, where she would stay for the better part of a week.
I called work – a now-defunct e-commerce software company outside Boston where I worked in professional services – and told them that I’d be unreachable for “a while.”
I don’t remember many details from that week. I bounced between home and the hospital. I figured out what a “pulmonary embolism” was – and how serious, and I slept in a hospital chair a fair bit.
She slowly got to the point where she could take a breath. Then she learned to hate her lung capacity exercises. And she learned to love-and-hate it when friends visited and made her laugh (thanks, Brad!).
A week later she was discharged, still on heparin – which brought changes in diet (no leafy greens), a propensity for easy bruising, and a call for extra care when doing anything that might make her bleed.
Today the episode is mostly just a memory – save when I remind her that historically she is not to be trusted in saying she needn’t seek medical attention.
But every year, around now, that memory serves as a powerful reminder that life really is uncertain – it encourages reflection, and sometimes change.
This year, and last, it’s hard to say we’re doing “what we want to do” – and I realize that as “these uncertain times” stretch off toward the horizon, this is one of the memories that brings home for me the weight of the passage of time.
The pandemic, and the changes and restrictions it brings aren’t really in our control. They’re not our fault. But that doesn’t stop them from being our problem.
Eat desert – or dessert, if you like sweets more than sand – first. Tomorrow is a terrible time to do anything important.