Wednesday, February 6, 2008


We’re buried inside on this snowy day. Winds blow thick tufts against my balcony door. Driving is a needless risk, walking past the mailbox a foolish notion. Super Tuesday primaries have settled enough to turn off the television and enjoy Leonard Cohen’s music, read a book, write a few words.

Years ago, when Rebeccah was a toddler, a similar snowstorm piled mountains of the stuff on our front lawn, covering sidewalks in five foot drifts and blockading streets. A Chicago mayor lost her job, disgraced by irate citizens for her delayed response to the blizzard. But for me, those few days remain a cherished memory. Time stopped. We had plenty of food, wine, books, each other. Quiet moments, safely inside. Respite.

I’ve recently emerged from a different kind of respite, one filled with fear and sadness. But being at this end reminds me that I can still surface, that I still have enough spirit left to carry me the distance.

Just a few days after I last posted, Steve slipped on ice from a similar storm, while walking our adored, twelve year old Shar Pei-Staffordshire Terrier, Emma. To avoid crushing her, he landed against the curb and ruptured his kidney. After 12 pints of blood and 10 days in intensive care, he came home to a slow recovery. While he improved, Emma deteriorated, first from arthritis and then from a neurological insult to her spine. Time slowed as I barricaded myself inside, carried Steve his dinner, helped Emma walk. No distractions existed apart from what was needed in the moment.

Three weeks later, Emma died. The next day, Steve returned to the hospital for yet another week with a pulmonary embolism. I found Pema Chodron’s book on my shelf, When Things Fall Apart, and managed to read a page a day. Once again, my days and evenings were spent at the hospital. Steve improved. I joined a friend for a coffee, squeezed in an hour at the health club. Two days earlier than expected, I brought Steve home.

Today, for the first time in two months, I’m writing a few words. I can talk about Emma without crying. Steve looks trim, having lost more than 50 pounds, and feels confident his health is improving. Freezing rain coats the road below my window. And so it goes.


Carol said...

Please know how much I admire you. As the storm of Steve's injury wreaked havoc and worry, you cared for him and rallied. As final snowflakes fell on Emma's life, you grieved. Having loved Emma since she was a puppy romping through life, I join you, Steve and the Byer Family in your loss of her physical presence. I also rejoice with each of you to hear the great news that Steve's health is vibrant again.

Barbara, here's a toast (gotta drink that wine, right?)to celebrate the resilient, loving person you are. Clink, clink, clink. I propose yet another toast to cheer your return to "Burnt Chocolate." Welcome back, Sunshine.


thebarn said...

Dear Barb: Our love to you and Steve. Life is precious and at unusual times, we treasure it even more. Bill and I came south to the Rio Grande Valley for the winter. I had looked forward to this time for years and 2007 was the year to buy a small house in Hidalgo, TX 5 miles from the Mexico border. I have the joy of family almost every week-end. Monterrey is just 3 hours away. Martha Boyer

bam said...

your story brings me an aching heart, a full heart, and in the end a heart that sighs, thank God for the redemptive power of time and healing.......i winced as i read, gasped out loud. i ached. i winced again. but as i read of you reaching for the bookshelf, i knew power was again within your reach. that you are writing again is a beautiful thing. i am so sorry for the reprieve that brought you so much heartache....welcome back. another B.