At 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, Justin woke me up.
He was having trouble breathing.
His heart hurt.
He couldn’t catch his breath.
I figured it was nothing new, just a slight panic attack he gets mid-sleep sometimes, and we could easily remedy it with a back rub and a glass of water and a few deep breaths.
I stroked his back and laid my head back down on my pillow. I let my eyes close again. Sleep seconds away.
But I wouldn’t go back to sleep for six more hours. Something was wrong.
We got in the car. He felt OK enough to drive. To where? We weren’t exactly sure. We’ve loved and lived in this city for two-plus years (him even longer), and we’ve been lucky enough to never need to go to the emergency room or urgent care.
Google Maps took us to a place that was closed. It was a hospital without emergency room services. My exhaustion and frustration mounting, we searched for another place and ended up on the other side of town in an emergency room near our old apartment.
An EKG came back abnormal, which I guess is kind of normal. Regardless, he went on to an x-ray and an ultrasound.
And I went home. I just left him there and told him to call me later.
Why? I was angry.
I was so angry with him. I thought maybe it was exacerbated by no sleep, but it was something else.
How dare this person, my person, the person who means everything to me, get sick?
Why wasn’t he taking better care of himself?
What was I going to do if something happened to him? I didn’t even know where the nearest hospital was!
Later that afternoon, after I had slept and stewed, I texted that I would come back to the hospital. Too late. He was already on his way home.
It turns out everything is OK, just a few precautions we need to take.
But we were not OK. I apologized. I felt awful for reacting the way I did. Getting angry at a person who is hurt is, at best, not helpful, at worst, even more hurtful.
God. Despite all my kind-hearted tendencies when things are solid, in a moment of fear and lack of control, I turned into a bad dad stereotype.
You can’t be weak… because I love you so much!
And a 16-year-old.
If you’re going to leave me, I’m going to leave you first!
I’m embarrassed my fear made me so selfish and my exhaustion made me so primal, self-protective.
All things considered, this was probably the most gentle way for both of us to learn some important lessons.
His: To finally go see a doctor about his sleep and stop ignoring the nagging of his body and his wife.
Hers: To recognize things won’t always be in my power to control and I have to better prepare to be the kind of partner I want to be, no matter what my natural urges are. I don’t have to protect myself all the time. There are two of us who need my unconditional love now.
Both: Maybe learn how to get to a hospital in our city.