She reached for his hand. "Oh, you're right there?" he said, surprised. His peripheral vision couldn't sense her presence in the recliner beside his hospital bed.
"I'm right here," she assured him.
Her bonnet, untied, rested on the counter beside the sink in the hospital room. Her stockings and shoes were neatly tucked into the corner. His plaid shirt and loafers were in a hospital belongings bag, hastily thrown in the corner by me when she decided she would spend the night and the nurse brought in the recliner for her to rest on, too. She too is recovering from the same car accident that is wrecking havoc on him.
The room was dark, dimly lit by a lamp I recognized from Ikea and the screen of the heart and blood pressure monitors. The beep of the machines has become a calming sound to me, familiar, reassuring. It sends me in to a state of mind where I am strong, task driven, and calm. What's the next step to take?
He laid in bed, covered to his chin, tucked in under blankets, wires, and love, but still writhing in pain. She rubbed his feet, I took a turn holding his hand and rubbing his arm. The air was heavy, and yet the most sobering sight was the moment she resigned to her chair, removed her day bonnet, and replaced it with a night handkerchief. Settling in for the night, she reached for his hand, and he realized she was right there.
Tonight they would spend together in the ICU, not like the previous ten nights separated one being at home and another being in rehab care. Tonight she would be there with him while his pain slowly subsided, giving in to the morphine. Tonight she would hold his hand and reassure him that he was not alone. Tonight she would stay by his side until the morning when he awoke. Or the middle of the night when prodding needles arrive to measure his blood cell volume.
Tonight I watched my grandparents be vulnerable like I've never seen before. Tonight I prayed for peace and comfort and healing like I've never asked before. Tonight I thought about the morning Herb asked me to be his wife.
Hooked up to a dialysis machine through a tube in his stomach, he gently coaxed me awake in the guest room at his parents house. It was fall, and much like the last few weeks have been, that year we had been spending much time together listening to the drone of beeps from hospital monitors.
"... it's morning, and neither one of us will look great right now, and if we can love each other with messed up hair and bad breath, we can love each other anytime...I want to spend all my mornings with you."
Tonight I freeze the image of Herb waking me up, asking me to be his wife. I flash to our wedding day, tearfully promising in sickness and health. Tonight I looked at two people who have been loving and caring for one another for over six decades, literally living out "in sickness and health" and promising to be there when they wake.