The scene at my house this evening, minutes after arriving home from work:

Husband: Hey, hon, do you still have some reusable grocery bags I can leave in my car?

Me: Oh! Yeah, I have some right here. I’ll go put them in your car right now so I don’t forget.

Husband: No, no, you don’t have to do that.

Me: It’s no problem. I have to put these cds in my car anyway. I’ll be right back.

I trot out to our driveway, put things in my car, open his car door to place the bags in his passenger seat. Then I find this on the floor:

I flipped the package over to look at the date. Was this left over from before his heart attack when he was eating loads of junk? “July 9, 2021.” Last Friday.

I slowly walk back into the house with this fried chicken bag pinched between my fingers. My breath is getting heavier with every step. Cue the cartoon steam exhaling from my ears. I walk through the door and put the bag in front of my husband’s face. With a clipped tone I ask, “What the hell. Is. This?”

Husband looks slightly shamefaced but not nearly enough. He’s smiling a little, but that nervous smile he gets when he knows he’s fucked up and got caught. I may have been afraid to yell at him a week ago, worried he’d have another heart attack. I certainly wasn’t scared today. I lit into him. When our son asked what Papa did, I showed him the bag with the fork still in it so he could eat in his car without anyone knowing. The boy just shook his head.

I raged for just a few minutes. Told him that it hadn’t even been 4 weeks since his nearly fatal heart attack. 27 days, in fact. “You couldn’t even go one fucking month without fried, fatty food?!?” I left the room to put my sneakers on so I could take a walk to cool down. But before I left, I stomped back into the living room, pointed my finger at my husband and said, “YOU are not allowed to kill yourself. I am the only one who gets the pleasure of killing you!”

Ok. Not my finest hour, but it felt good. And we both ended up laughing because it was so absurd and sounded exactly like me. Then I still had to leave the house because I was pissed.

But you know what REALLY upsets me about this? The night before he ate that fried chicken, he had a scary episode. He went to bed, but then came back to the living room just a minute later and said he couldn’t lie down. His stomach was bothering him, which was one of the signs he had before his heart attack. So he sat in his recliner, and I asked him if he’d like me to stay with him. He said that he would and took my hand. “Once I start snoring, you can go to bed if you want. I’ll be ok by then.” So I kissed him, turned out the lights, got blankets for us both, and lay on the couch listening to my husband breathe, cough, and sniffle. Eventually he slept deeply and I went to bed. It was a frightening time, yet he trusted and loved me enough to ask me to stay, which I know is a great gift.

And then…he ate the fucking chicken.

As a caregiver, one has to know when to draw the line or when to say, “Ok, big boy, you can make the phone call to your cardiologist to find out when they’re going to look at your other blocked arteries.” (This is something I’ve been asking him to do for a week, and today his nurse told him the exact same thing. Should we take a bet on how long it takes for him to do it now?) Since Wal’s heart attack, my sister and so many of my friends have been telling me to make sure I take care of myself, to take some time for myself. I mostly have. But no one has yet said, “It’s time to stop taking care of him.”

Because we don’t do that, right? We try to squeeze moments out for ourselves which often causes more stress in the long run, but we never say to someone, “Ok, you can give up on that person now.” And why? Because what if that person dies or has a stroke due to their declining health and is bedbound or mute or paralyzed. How would we feel then?


But…shouldn’t there be a time when we finally say, “I will no longer take care of you. I will remain your partner until death, but I can no longer help you if you refuse to help yourself.” Any person we are taking care of must take some responsibility in their own health if they are able. When I took care of my mother, I understood that she could no longer do this. She could make her own coffee and get dressed, but showering and eating well and taking her medications were no longer in her realm of tasks she could do. And after a few months of working full time and taking care of my son and my mom, I knew that I couldn’t keep caring for her without losing much of myself.

So what do you do when you’re taking care of your spouse or partner? I have a friend who is dealing with this on an even more intense level. I have tried to lend my shoulder and ear to her as much as I can, but I know it’s never enough. She’s given me loads of advice and listens whenever I need her to, but her caregiving tasks are much more serious and frightening. And her spouse is NOT able to care for himself much anymore.

But my husband can. And he needs to. I find his lack of respect for his health infuriating but also incredibly sad and unfair to me. To our son. Does Wal know and understand all of this and everything I’m feeling and what I wish he felt? Yes. He does. And if he doesn’t, he will when I read him this blog post. 😉

The question remains: What do I do now? Do I throw my hands up and say, “Whatever. Do whatever you want”? Or do I say I will help you if you need me to, but I will not make phone calls for you or keep track of your sodium or fluid intake? My therapist and I just had conversations about what kinds of boundaries to set down, and the latter seemed the most appropriate at that time a week ago, but now? Now I’m angry and hurt and not sure what steps to take next.

I’m already tired of being angry. I’m not apathetic because I’m too emotional about this. I think I’m sad, frustrated, and disappointed.

Maybe I just need to find some patience and let him be and hope he finds the path towards good health. He doesn’t need to die trying to look for it because it’s right there in front of him. I’ve been holding out my hand to show him for a long time, but now I guess I just need to go on ahead and hope he catches up. I’ve left breadcrumbs and neon arrows to guide him, so let’s hope he just opens his eyes.

Anger Management

This past week has been filled with nearly every emotion that exists. Fear, surprise, sadness, guilt, frustration, grief, joy, and anger. These were all felt by everyone in my home and they continue to ping pong from one to another in each of us every day.

On Saturday, I spent the morning with my husband at the hospital. I crawled into his hospital bed, we held each other, and I cried for the first time since he had his heart attack. They were tears of relief but also fear of what the future will bring, and even grief for what he has lost. His life, our lives, have begun to change, and the changes can be difficult. But necessary.

The husband came home on Sunday afternoon. As we waited for someone to bring us a wheelchair, I scrounged the hospital floor, found a chair with no owner, and snagged it. I was done waiting and this guy needed to be home! It was kind of fun–like we were breaking out of prison. We laughed and waved to the nurses and enjoyed the moment. But on the way home, I could feel little bits of anger escaping. I snapped at him for telling me where to go then again when he said I didn’t pick up one of his meds when, in fact, I did. “You wouldn’t know because you were in the hospital!”


Then I went to the pharmacy to pick up his new medications…10 of them. TEN. The pharmacist wanted to speak with me since these were all new. We had gone over all of them with the nurse so I basically knew what to expect and what he had to stop taking at home, but as the pharmacist started to tell me how Wal can no longer take ibuprofren for aches and pains and if he does need to take a nitroglycerin that the package is only good for 3 months after you open it and he (or I) would need to put it under his tongue…I started to cry. Could this be any more overwhelming? The pharmacist looked at me and said, “I know. It’s a lot. I had to do this with my father, too.” I just nodded but inside I was scoffing and yelling, “But it’s my husband, damn it!!” She went on to say I should probably keep a list of his meds and I said that yeah, I had done this with my mom so I was good.

I was so not good.

Once we got home, Wal went directly to a rocking chair we have in our library where our son has his computer. They sat together and we all talked. It was ok. We were ok. But as the evening went on, both my son and I were harboring feelings of anger, maybe resentment that Wal had put us through this again? I’m just speculating because I really don’t know what I’m feeling sometimes. I know that our son was being kind of a dick and I was flying off the handle at the most foolish things. And yet I was also trying so hard not to yell or upset my husband at all. But I could not be calm. I think I had kept my cool throughout this entire event (thanks to the support of my friends) but now that he was home, I could truly lose it…for a little bit.

But I felt so incredibly stressed and overwhelmed that night. What was he going to eat? What could I cook for meals? I put together a few snacks and salads for all of us, then realized he can’t eat leafy greens or broccoli because of his blood thinner. He can only have 8 cups of liquid a day, so let’s make a little chart for that. He’s diabetic so needs to eat as few carbs as possible.

Oh. My. God.

I spent the rest of that night cooking meals ahead for mostly my son and I and making snacks for my husband. I tried not to hover, but any kind of noise he made I asked him what was wrong. I didn’t sleep well that night because I was afraid he wouldn’t wake up again.

I needed to work all day on Monday, so after running my husband to the lab to have bloodwork done, I went to work but called home 4 times just to check on him. He is sad and scared and frustrated, too. Facing your own mortality must be some scary shit to deal with. He wasn’t awake or very aware of that fact last year, but this event is completely different. He felt himself dying this time.

Yet when I took Wal to our doctor on Tuesday, one week since his heart attack, I found myself getting angry again. He doesn’t think he needs to have a biPAP machine (he was not able to get one before he left the hospital). Since he’s slept well for a few nights, he thinks it’s ok. I did tell him that, in fact, he stopped breathing the night before, which why I had been awake since 4am. This has been a near daily occurrence for the past umpteen years, but since he nearly died the week before, I’m hyper aware of every little sound or movement his body makes…or doesn’t make. Once our doctor insisted that he seriously think about getting a biPAP did Wal concede that it might be a good idea.

*insert silent scream here*

Each day this week and part of next, I’ll take Wal to various appointments, work when I can, and will take our boy to have his wisdom teeth out. Most of our meals will be made by various friends, restaurants and an online premade meal service. It’s one thing we’re hoping to stop stressing about, at least for a few weeks. We’re all trying to find little things that bring us joy or peace. Our son had a friend over and they played video games and talked to other friends and just enjoyed themselves. My husband has been watching YouTube videos about camping…he has no desire to camp anymore but loves watching others do it, and playing Space Engineers where he gets to build his own space stations. That brings him a sense of accomplishment and happiness. I have been taking walks when I can while listening to fun podcasts and started running again after taking a few weeks off. Typically reading calms me and lets me escape, but I haven’t been able to concentrate on much. Today was the first day I’ve been able to get at least a few pages in and actually enjoyed it.

As we go about our day, none of us seem to be at the point where we forget Wally nearly died. Our groceries look different, the calendar is covered with appointments, and our phone rings more often with check ins and reminders of said appointments. And even the mail. Today’s mail was a lovely mixture of kindness–an encouraging card for both Wally and I from a dear friend–then a letter from the hospital with a different type of encouragement–to make an Advance Directive. That little piece of mail was such a kick in the ass. First because…holy shit. If anything can remind you of your mortality it’s someone telling you to get your shit together before you have another heart attack. And second, because the man already has one and they should have had it on file!! (I had to bring it to the hospital last year when he was in a coma.)

Thanks to all for your incredibly kind and uplifting words and thoughtful gifts. We have a long road ahead of us– physically, mentally and emotionally. I will need to work harder on trying to support my husband and to understand what he must be feeling. I am also aware that I need to take care of myself. I haven’t been great at it before, but I think I’m getting better. I am finding little moments that I take as mini vacations for my mind. Like these photos:

As I waited for my husband at an eye appointment today (yup, he can’t see well out of one of them due to diabetes), I found this little garden hidden behind the office. Pretty sure it was meant for the staff, but no one was there so I took the opportunity to sit in the sun, read a bit, take a few photos and just breathe.

That’s the key, right? Find those moments you like and suck every bit of life and love and joy from them.

So go hug, kiss, touch someone you care about, then find a few of those mini vacations for your mind.

We have to keep living one day (or moment) at a time. We just have to.

Trauma not Drama

Now that I know my husband is going to live, I can write about our week.

My birthday was Monday. It began with me rushing my husband to the doctor because he was feeling so awful. After I broke down in the office and made sure we were leaving with some kind of plan to get him better, the rest of the day went well. My husband stayed home and rested, I went for a lovely hike, shopped for a bit and brought home sushi for dinner. The next day began like any other work day. But like the saying goes, our lives changed in an instant. I received a call at work from the hospital, with a doctor on the other line saying my husband had a heart attack and they were in the process of putting a stent into his blocked artery. I’m not sure I understood everything he said because I was so confused.

Wait. What just happened? I remember asking, “Where do I go when I get there? How do I see him?” I called my sister on the way to the hospital so I could freak out to her and she’d calm me down. She told me, “Remember, you’re a Williams Woman. We’re tough and strong and you’ve got this.” But…EVERYONE has a breaking point.

Once I got to the hospital, they couldn’t find him. I was sent to the ER even though I told the front desk that he wasn’t there because I just received a voice mail from the surgeon and he already put a stent in my husband’s heart. But nope. They sent me to the ER anyway. And, of course, he wasn’t there. They sent me BACK to the main entrance but thankfully found my husband because I was already giving the guy at the desk my mean librarian look (staring down over my glasses). When I got to Wal’ss room, he was talking and he was happy to see me and he told me everything that happened.

He was working on a printer at a local university. Once he left the building, he didn’t feel well but got in his car and started to head home. But the pain in his stomach was coming up his chest and it just didn’t feel right, he said. Thankfully he knew where the health clinic was, so he drove there. His legs weren’t working well, but he made it into the building and told them he was in trouble and thought he might be having a heart attack. They rallied around him, got the ambulance there in minutes and he was off to the hospital.

They saved him.

As soon as he got to the ER, they just wheeled him through and went directly to the cath lab. We now know that he had a 95% blockage. But the surgeon put the stent in and truly saved him. But what we also found out is that he has two other arteries that are 100% blocked.

Every few hours since Tuesday afternoon, we get a little more information or another scare.

Tuesday night my husband experienced flash pulmonary edema–his lungs immediately filled with fluid and he was drowning in his bed. This happened just one hour after I left his bedside and his first thought was, “I won’t get to say goodbye to Holly and Bri one more time.” A nurse rushed down the hall and retrieved a biPAP machine and slapped the mask on Wal’s face. The machine uses pressure to push air into your lungs and Wal said as soon as the mask was on he felt relief and knew that they had saved his life again.

When I walked into his room on Wednesday morning, I found my husband with the mask on his face and he was miserable….but alive. I met the surgeon who put his stent in, and he expressed how serious the heart attack was. I met a cardiologist and while the mask was on Wal’s face, I explained what happened to him last year and the lung damage he now has from the infection and ventilator he was on in February of 2020 due to pneumonia and the flu and possibly COVID-19. But also mentioned his incredibly high cholesterol he’s had for years that medicines have never been able to touch. The rest of the day, Wal tried to nap and I rubbed his legs, texted his friends to keep them informed, talked to his family and we both called our son to check in. He was better before I left that night, but we just didn’t know what would happen next.

Thursday I worked all day. When I called in the morning, Wal was not great. Couldn’t breathe well. I felt weighed down that morning. I hadn’t cried since this happened, just choked up a few times, but I felt like I was going to completely lose it. What was going to happen to my husband? Will he live and if so, what will his life be like? Will he work? Have to be on disability?

I called Wal again a few hours later and he was ok. He called me in the afternoon and he felt quite a bit better. A cardiologist talked to him and told him he had a “widow maker” heart attack. He was so damn lucky to be at the university when this happened, because more than likely if he was home, he wouldn’t have gotten to the hospital in time.

But he did.

Today, Friday, talk began about my husband coming home. His eating habits, exercise habits, his life–will need to change. No more salt, fast food, fried food, fatty food. More vegetables and fruit and whole grains and exercise. He will need to go to cardiac rehab for at least a month where he’ll have access to physical therapy and dieticians and therapists. The latter is the one I hope he uses more than anything. But he will need a biPAP machine before he can come home. So it may be a few days yet. For the first time in any of his hospital stays, he’s ok with staying there. Having a near death experience (or two in one day) can change a person.

At some point, bypass surgery will have to take place to work on the other arteries, but his heart needs to get stronger for that to happen. Right now, the cardiologists don’t even want to talk about that because we have to get through this event first.

My husband’s spirits are good right now. Like mine and our son’s, his mood changes from moment to moment. We’ve all been through so many traumatic events in the past few years, that this one is making us all feel…almost numb. At least that’s how I’ve felt this week. This morning I was almost in a horrendous car accident because my mind was not on my driving…at all. I didn’t even feel like I was in the car. Nearly being t-boned got my focus back and I was pretty much ok the rest of the day.

I know we need to live one day at a time, which I’m absolutely horrible at, but I know I need to find that patience somewhere inside of me. I am feeling overwhelmed and sad and angry, but maybe if I can slow down and try to live day by day, then I can find some kind of control over my emotions.

Or I could take a vacation and sleep for a few days.

But right now, I am just grateful for the many medical professionals who saved my husband’s life this week. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to thank many of them in person. But a big THANK YOU also goes out to my dear friends who listened to me this week, drove me to the university to get my husband’s car, and made meals for my son and I. I have the greatest support network in the world. I love you and I am grateful for all of YOU.

Hug someone you love today, friends, and live in that moment.

Hold on tight.