My Valentine


Yesterday morning at this time, Richard, the love of my life, my companion and my husband for nearly 29 years, was barely responsive, sinking lower under the pressure of what we now know was more than 150 ml (around 3 cups, if I’m doing the math right) of blood and clots pressing on the right side of his brain.

Today, after his neurosurgery team installed a temporary drain in that side of his skull yesterday afternoon, allowing much of that fluid to drain off, he is back. Well, mostly back. He still gets confused now and again, and he tires easily, but he’s been up and walking around the Intensive Care Unit and beyond, he ate his hospital breakfast cheerfully (which probably qualifies him for sainthood right there!), and he’s carrying on conversations with his usual brilliance, if a touch slower than before…

He’s off for a CT scan now, so I’m over at a local coffee shop, snatching a moment for breakfast and using the internet (the VA Hospital as a fabulous staff, great equipment, and an amazing culture of caring and compassion, but it’s an old facility, so no internet). We’re hoping that he’ll get to move from the Intensive Care Unit today to the regular ward, and maybe even have the drain unscrewed from his skull.


I’d include a photo of the skull jewelry he’s sporting, but honestly, it’s a mite gory. On their rounds this morning, the neurosurgeons assured me when I used the term “oogy” to describe the drain and the fluid it’s carrying from his brain that it is indeed a technical term, and in fact is in the medical dictionary… (Instead of the oogy skull jewelry, the photo above is Richard at the Salida train station in about 1951. Is he a cute toddler or what?)

There’s even a possibility we can go home tomorrow. (I don’t have the car here, since I got a ride to Denver with friends who were willing to follow the ambulance over the mountains in the middle of the night, so we’ll be taking the bus, another adventure…) My mother’s memorial service is Saturday, here in the Denver metro area, so if he’s not released tomorrow, we’ll probably just stay out the week rather than making the trip twice in a few days.

To that end, when I woke this morning in the spare bedroom of our generous friends in the darkness before dawn, I opened the blinds and saw Venus shining bright in the southeastern sky, undimmed by the city skyglow. Seeing the bright planet associated with love seemed especially appropriate when I remembered that today is Valentine’s Day. Richard had been planning to take me out to dinner at our favorite Salida Restaurant, Laughing Ladies. Instead, we’ll be sharing dinner in his hospital room.


No matter, I’ll have the best Valentine’s Day present ever: Richard, alive and recovering after having outsmarted the odds once again. When I got to his hospital room this morning at seven, the first thing he said to me was “Happy Valentine’s Day.” Apparently, he had been waiting all night to say it, and was so eager that at one point, groggy and half asleep, he greeted his ICU nurse that way, thinking she was me. He said she was delighted, even after he confessed his confusion. What a sweet man!

Whatever’s ahead, we’re fortunate to have found each other 29 years ago, fortunate to have figured out how to nurture the love we share, fortunate to have forged a wonderful family that includes “our” Molly (his daughter by birth, mine by love–that’s Molly with her dad in the photo below) and our siblings and their kids and grandkids, fortunate to be surrounded by a loving community. Thanks to all of you!

It’s Valentine’s Day. Remember to spread the love around, whether just with a smile that wasn’t expected, a kind word, an offer to help, or some other act of heartfelt kindness. Live, as I try to do, with your heart outstretched as if it were our hand. (That’s from a line in a Mary Chapin Carpenter song. I’d link to it, but I need to get back to the hospital and to my love.)

Happy Valentine’s Day, My Love! Thanks for coming back to us. Here’s to many more years…