I Have a Confession
I have a confession to make. I knew this was going to happen.
I knew Pete wasn’t going to live a long life and that I would be left behind in this calamitous position of dealing with his loss. I knew that I would help him through the last years of his life and then try and figure out how to live through the last of mine. I knew it was going to happen. He told me years ago, “I have a bad heart and someday it will just wear out.” I wasn’t in denial. I completely believed him. I mean, who would make that up? Who would be so dramatic as to tell his fiancée that, so straight-faced, just to get her reaction? He delivered it with such practicality (another one of the things I love about him) and I received it the same way.
So I was forewarned.
I was aware.
I was an accomplice—and I didn’t care. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t intimidated.
Pete’s revelation wasn’t just tactical info that I received and then filed away for future use. It was in fact knowledge that colored everything in our lives. And I still didn’t care. And he didn’t care. Except for the fact that we both had the huge desire for him to live to be 100.
What did I do with information that was so onerous it would change my life forever? I embraced it and then tried to forget about it. Pete told me all this before we were married. I was asking him questions about his rare congenital heart condition and he was explaining it to me as best as he could. (It’s too much to go into here, we cover it thoroughly in “Joined At The Heart,” but Pete’s rare condition included a heart that was on the opposite side of his body, it had reversed ventricles, holes, bad valves, all his organs were reversed, and all the complications that this entails.) None of it caused me pause or hesitation. Do I want to marry a man who I know will likely not live as long as I will? You’re damn right I do. And not only that I want to run full-steam into it. Whether it would be for 1 year, or 10 or 20 or 60. I was going to make sure they were the best years of his life. I would do whatever it took to make sure he felt embraced and appreciated—make sure he was successful and joyous—to do my part to see that he had the space to create and to even enjoy the wonder of being a parent, albeit a step-parent.
It’s a strange reality in which to live. Knowing the worst and preparing for it yet still living like we’d live forever. Truly. We planned for the future all the time. The week before Pete died he finally convinced me to agree to go to Sweden for a speaking engagement. I say convinced me, not because I wouldn’t love to go to Sweden, but because of my fear of being out of the country should something go wrong with his VAD (Ventricular Assistance Device). He’d wanted to go back on tour internationally as soon as he’d recovered his playing skills, but I always said that I would be the one with heart failure if anything went wrong and I couldn’t get him back to the States.
This confession—all these contradictions of thought—are tricky to explain. It’s not like we had Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You’re Dying” as the soundtrack to our lives—but armed with all this knowledge, if I knew the outcome, you’d think I would have been prepared for it. I wasn’t.
When have you said “yes” to a challenge? I hope you’ll leave a comment.