New Year’s Day, or “oh crap.”

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” –John Lennon

It was the worst sound I had ever heard in my life. The most horrifying, hideous noise in the universe. It was a sound I’ve literally heard in my nightmares for months since then.

And it came from my wife’s throat.

It was, weirdly enough, New Year’s Day. Day one of 2014. And we had plans.

*** *** ***

Lots of plans. Plans for me, plans for Wednesday. In particular, we had plans for our creative output.

I won’t speak to Weds’s creative output. That’s her’s to discuss or not. But I had plans for mine. I’d had a successful writing fall, and was building into a new writing plan for Spring — one that would have involved moving back into Banter Latte and beyond in a big way. December of 2013 involved a ton of prep work and project building. Concepts had been proofed, research had been done. 2014 was going to be the year for me.

But then came New Year’s Day.

I don’t actually remember if I saw her fall. I can picture it, mind. I can picture it plain as day. But I honestly can’t tell if I constructed that memory after the fact or not.

But I heard it. I remember that sound too. It wasn’t as hideous as the scream, but it was a close second. The sound of a human body hitting a hardwood floor. Completely unchecked. Completely uncontrolled. Absent any kind of consciousness, it was just meat hitting wood. It sounded wet.

We’ve joked for years about how we live within “staggering distance” of a recently completely renovated and upgraded Emergency Room. Well, there would be no staggering today, but it meant that the Ambulance got there incredibly fast. Within 20 minutes, Wednesday was getting absolutely fantastic medical care. And I was alone in my apartment, against grabbing all the stuff she was going to need.

I break to mention that I am not going to go into details on Weds’s medical diagnosis, treatment, therapy and so forth. Why not? It’s not my story. It’s not my narrative. It’s Weds’s, and she has the exclusive rights to it. What I will say for the purposes of this discussion is threefold:

1. This was not a “scare.” Beyond the fact that it was fucking terrifying, of course.
2. Diagnosis, treatment, therapy et al did happen and is still happening.
3. She is doing phenomenally well. Wonderfully well.

But getting there was brutal.

Going back to that day in particular — I remember nightmarish details. It was incredibly surreal. Dialing 911, my phone died in my hands, for example. But I got the call out. Attending to the cat, keeping it out of ambulance personnels’ way. Tests and more tests.

And then Wednesday was sent off to a much more extensive facility, some hours away. I followed with what she would need for an extended trip. (Indeed — I stayed in her room on a cot, and I didn’t leave that hospital for several days.)

When I drove up to join Wednesday, it was evening. Or night. I’m not sure which. I do know this much, I was pulled over, in that nebulous area of New Hampshire between Epsom and Concord.

I don’t remember other cars being there. I don’t remember the police officer’s face. I’m not sure I ever even looked at him. I remember fumbling desperately to find my registration. And I remember his voice.

“Good evening sir. Do you know why I st….” he trailed off. “Sir, is there an emergency?”

“My… my wife is up at the hospital.” I kept rummaging. “I need to… I mean, she’s at the hospital, so I don’t know if it’s an emergency or… I’m trying to get to–” My voice stumbled. I was 15 years old again, instead of 45. The world didn’t make sense.

I realized I’d packed Wednesday like six pairs of socks but no pants. Just out of nowhere. But I didn’t mention it then.

“All right. Just calm down sir.” His voice was soothing, but with authority. Clearly he was trained for this. “Just calm down, and wait here.”

He went to call it in. I remembered that it was okay that I didn’t have pants for Wednesday, because I would have to drive back that same night to give the cat medication — she had a thing, and it couldn’t wait. From there we could kennel her.

It was dark. Really dark. It was overcast, as a storm was coming. A storm we’d been talking about for a week, if I remember correctly. For those Northeasterners and New Englanders and Maritimes…ers… of you playing along at home, it was that storm.

But right then, it was just dark. The darkness of New Year’s Day, the day after all the parties and drinking. The night of the day most people had off.

I realized then that if all this had happened the day before or the day after… I wouldn’t have been home to make that 911 call. And I began to shake a little.

“All right, sir,” the officer said, having reappeared at my car window. Which had been rolled down that whole time, though it was very cold. “I’m officially giving you a warning. Don’t worry about it. But listen to me. Listen.” His voice dropped a bit. “You won’t do your wife any good if you get into an accident on your way to the hospital, okay?”

“Okay,” I said, softly.

“All right.” He paused. “Do you need an escort?”

I opened my mouth. I wanted to say yes. I wanted to give myself over to this man’s authority, to let him lead and follow him in the car.

But it would take him far out of his way, and I suddenly didn’t feel 15 any more. I felt old. Too old to be wasting the time of the police. “No sir,” I said, shaking my head slightly. Jerkily. “No, I… no.”

“Okay. Take it easy. Drive safely, all right?”

“Yes, sir.”

And I drove. A long drive, but I made sure to check my speed. I had said I would, after all.

It was after two in the morning when I left the hospital to make the multi-hour drive home. The snowflakes were just beginning to fall. I stopped to get gas and a drink. I would get home past five in the morning, and then proceed to be unable to sleep, just me and the cat, whose eye I had spread antibiotic gel onto so she wasn’t in any mood to like me.

But I mentioned stopping to get gas and a drink. There, I discovered the attendant inside the convenience store. Lying flat on his back.

“Oh my God,” I said, getting out my phone. “Can you–”

“No no,” he said, hauling himself forward and dragging himself up to the level of the cash register. “Don’t worry about it. Sometimes my chest hurts is all.”

I stared. His skin was pale. “You had a heart attack,” I said.

“No no. It happens, it goes away. I’m feeling better. What can I get you?”

“We need to call an ambulance. We need to–”

He chuckled again. “No no,” he said.

So I didn’t. I felt disembodied and shaky, made all the worse by this surreal moment. I don’t know that guy’s circumstances. I was too blown apart by my own — by my wife’s. I just finished driving home.

It was two weeks later before I realized my inaction might have killed that man. And then had to decide where my responsibility was. Do I respect his wishes, even if I’m certain I know he has had a life threatening event — apparently one of many? Do I potentially saddle him with crippling debt for medical care because I won’t leave well enough alone? Alternately, do I have an innate responsibility to do my best for others, to help them, even if they don’t want it?

I don’t know the answer to that, by the way. I do know I was in no condition to make that call that night, exhausted physically and emotionally. That horrible day. The first day of the year.

The following day, after almost no sleep, I put more gel in the cat’s eye, brought her to the vet’s for kennelling, got proper supplies for the stay, and drove back to the hospital through the depths of the blizzard, never breaking 20 miles an hour, driving past indistinct shapes in whiteouts, and cars off the side of the road….

The rest of the year hasn’t been much better, to be honest. Medical treatments have involved literally thousands of miles of driving. Work was amazingly good about letting Weds and I have the time we needed, which was awesome… but then there were some major work related issues that needed resolving and repairing. (I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’ve gone on Nuvigil. I’ll say this — it likely saved my life during all of this.)

Oh, and I mentioned the cat and her eye? Well, that went nuclear midway through all of this. Along with lots of other things which meant vet bills and the stresses of trying to avoid ‘enucleation.’ (Which is still on the table as of this typing.)

And other things.

I had plans for 2014. I really did.

But now, it’s May, and I’m just glad we’re both alive and… well, getting better. Even as things… well, get better.

Which brings us back around to Banter Latte. Or Websnark, for that matter.

Writing simply hasn’t been. It took a while before I could come anywhere near it. Certainly, I didn’t get the things I wanted done and in place and in the pipeline. And of course, I didn’t say much here or at Websnark because….

…well, because I was booked. I’m not going to apologize for that, to be honest.

So. Is there still a plan for writing?

Yes. Yes there is. It still excites me, too.

Will there be more Lovelace ½, Interviewing Trey, and Corbett-877?

Yes. Yes there will. Right here on the site, no money needed to read them.

But things will be changing. Now more than ever. This has been a bloody expensive year, so there will need to be increased revenue from writing. It just needs to be that way. I’ll do my level best to do it in a way that doesn’t shaft my loyal readers, though. Folks deserve to have the rest of the story, presented the way the first section was done.

Will there be proper Websnark? Actually, maybe. At some point. Though all of the above applies there too.

Oh yes. There are plans.

But reread that quote above. And remember that so far, 2014 has literally been the worst year of my life, and it’s not half-over yet. I have plans, but we will see what happens.

=

16 comments ↓

#1 Noëlle on 05.02.14 at 8:28 pm

I’m sure you don’t want to (or need to) hear it, Eric, but set up a Patreon account. We’ll be there for you. <3

#2 Eric Burns-White on 05.02.14 at 9:51 pm

Patreon is a great program, but needs to be in its proper place and time. Until I truly feel I could produce to the proper level for that patronage, I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking.

Further, while I have amazing readers, fans and (most importantly) friends, there aren’t a huge amount right now, due to… well, all the quiet around here.

If things go well in the first few phases of the projects I’m setting up, then a Patreon may make sense after that. :)

(That said, thank you for the sentiment. :) )

#3 Bauke on 05.04.14 at 8:05 am

Seeing that you have a huge (free!) archive of stuff, you shouldn’t feel bad about setting up a Patreon account, IMHO. :-)

#4 Eric Burns-White on 05.04.14 at 11:50 pm

Ah, but that’s why I have a tip jar, instead. :)

#5 Robotech_Master on 05.02.14 at 9:27 pm

Aw crap. I didn’t know about any of this. I’m sorry to hear you all have been having such a bad time, and I really hope all is better for you soon.

#6 Eric the .5b on 05.02.14 at 11:50 pm

Same here – very best wishes.

#7 David Bishop on 05.02.14 at 9:28 pm

Having just gone through my own thing with my wife, even though it was apparently much shorter lived (in terms of hospital visits), I’m discovering that it’s not actually “over” even when it’s over. Reading your post, I started crying. My wife will start sobbing “for no reason”. I truly believe we’re both going through some PTSD – and by the sounds of it, your situation was (is!) much worse than ours. All of which is to say that 1) my thoughts are with you both and 2) I fully understand why it has taken 5 months to get around to writing this up. If you’re anything like me, it’s going to take 5 times longer to actually recover than you think it ‘should’.

Be well.

#8 Eric Burns-White on 05.02.14 at 9:47 pm

David — for the record, seeking help for PTSD is just as important for the caregivers — you’ve been through a trauma as well, and it’s absolutely okay to get help in dealing with it. I did. I needed to.

Regardless, take all the time you need to recover, and I hope you and your wife just do better and better.

Be well as well.

#9 gwalla on 05.02.14 at 10:14 pm

Holy crap, that’s terrifying. I hope things start getting better for both of you.

#10 ArchangelBeth on 05.03.14 at 1:11 am

*hugs*

#11 PlaidPhantom on 05.03.14 at 1:21 am

Was just thinking about you and missing your writing yesterday, Eric. I honestly can’t imagine going through all that at once. I’ll keep both you and Wednesday in my thoughts and prayers, and I’m definitely looking forward for what you have in store. ☺

#12 John Robey on 05.03.14 at 10:48 am

Yikes. It’s been a year, hasn’t it? I’ve been going through similar things over here, I understand the state you’re in. Hope things pick up quickly for you, bud.

#13 Moe Lane » Request for prayers/good wishes for a friend. on 05.03.14 at 11:33 am

[…] Burns-White: it’s sounding like he’s having a horrible year, and it’s only […]

#14 Jesse Howard on 05.07.14 at 6:44 am

Welp, I love the writing and so I will put some money into the Tip Jar. Well deserved and I wish you, your wife, and your cat all the best.

#15 Eric Burns-White on 05.08.14 at 11:15 pm

Sir — thank you very, very much.

#16 Jason Frey on 05.15.14 at 6:37 pm

The worst year of my life was 2013. My dad died after a long and painful series of illnesses (the kind where things are bound to get better, until they don’t), and a dear friend nearly died herself, most likely only surviving because she happened to be outside and within sight of someone when she collapsed. 2013 was a terrible year, and it truly took till a full year after my father’s death, in April, before I began to consider the possibility that things might not always be terrible. Still not sure about that, sometimes, but I’m entertaining the possibility.

All of which is to say, I’m sorry for the pain and fear that you and Weds have experienced. My thoughts are with you, truly. If writing feeds you on a creative and/or emotional level, then I hope you come back to it when the time is right. I know a number of people, myself included, will celebrate that with you. And if it doesn’t happen, or if it takes longer than you anticipate, I think that’s all right. I hope and trust that you’ll do what is best for you and for your family.

You must log in to post a comment.