You called me about an hour ago. “I’m not going to be coming to trivia night.” “Why not? I’m on the way out the door to pick you up!” “Steve got some bad news from the cardiologist. He needs to have surgery to get a pacemaker. In less than a week. I need to spend tonight with him.”
Your little brother, born with a heart defect, who just recovered from valve replacement surgery five months ago. Your brother. Your closest friend in the world. He’s going to have surgery again. This week.
As always, I asked too many technical questions you don’t know the answers to yet. Are your parents flying out here? (You don’t know. Probably.) What’s the recovery time? (You don’t know.) How will this affect your (read: our) Christmas plans? (You don’t know.)
I don’t know how many calls you’ve gotten like this over the course of your life. This is only the second or third time I’ve received one, and each time it knocks the wind out of me. How have you done this for so long?
I’ll never know what it was like to be a three-year-old who didn’t get to go to the hospital to meet his new baby brother because he was in surgery. I’ll never know what it was like to stay with friends and relatives so many nights of your childhood, while your parents had to be in the hospital with your brother. I’ll never know what it was like to have your parents constantly tell you to look out for your brother, to take care of him, to keep him from overexerting himself, to make sure he was okay.
But I do know this:
You’ve got someone to take care of you now. You will never be alone with this. I will be right here, at your side, for the rest of your life. I will hold your hand when you get phone calls containing bad news. I will let you sleep on my shoulder in hospital waiting rooms. I will text you how much I love you and am thinking about you every hour that your brother’s in surgery and you’re waiting to hear how it went.
As much as it hurts to receive this kind of news, as jarring as it is to our lives and our plans (and you know how much I love a good plan), I understand that marrying you means this is just going to be a part of my life. Your brother is always going to have a heart condition. We’re always going to be waiting with bated breath to hear the cardiologist’s report every six months. We’re probably going to spend more than one night on a hospital floor. We’ll probably miss a few more trivia nights, and dinner dates, and possibly even a vacation or two.
Tonight, while your mind is still racing from all the doctors’ recommendations and procedures and surgery schedules, I just want you to know this: I am here for you. While you’re supporting your brother, I will support you. I’ll buy your groceries and wash your sheets and do whatever else you need. And I promise, I’m not going anywhere. For better or for worse (and I know I’m signing up for a certain amount of “worse”) I’m gonna be right beside you. In the words of Luke Danes from Gilmore Girls: I’m in. I’m all in.
We haven’t written our wedding ceremony yet, but when we do, I’d like us to include this reading from the first chapter of Ruth:
Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go I will go; where you stay I will stay; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
Your people are my people, babe. And no matter how many phone calls we get in the middle of the night, or how many hospital rooms we have to visit, where you go I will go.
Love you always, R
Photo from author’s personal collection