Other people’s emergencies

Waiting is the worst part, listening for the sirens in the distance, listening to her soft sobs in the bedroom, knowing she doesn’t want me to know how much it hurts.

The engine company first, Warwick, RI Fire Department Engine Co. 6 from West Shore Road, great guys, polite, serious and efficient. Even in their borrowed yellow truck from Cranston they manage to look good. I tell them what I can, she has MS, hard to walk most days, impossible today, sudden onset abdominal pain, right side, 10 out of 10.

She jokes through clenched teeth, “the house is a mess,” though it is gleaming, and the guys tell her so. The ambulance arrives, guys half my age, looking just as worn out as I did.

A quick but thorough assessment and she’s in their chair and gone, into the rescue, ekg, IV and all of that. I let them take her, knowing she is in good hands.

The house is still, deathly quiet as I gather her things. I’m overwhelmed with lonliness as I get an unexpected glimpse of life without her, and her presence in my life is the only thing I can think of, the only thing that matters.

Stuff in a bag hastily thrown together will have to do, little did I know it would be three days before we get home. Kidney problems. Waiting for follow up. Tests inconclusive. Pain intense.

Life is funny; we just can’t see how fragile it is, until it punches us in the face.

Waiting now, no sirens, but the painful sobs keep coming. And I thought responding to other people’s emergencies was hard.


  • Dale Wiebe says:

    I’m sorry, Michael.

  • Sharon says:

    Last night at the Book Club presentation, I told you that I had taken many rides to the ER with my husband. I understand how you must have felt in your emergency and can completely sympathize with your feeling of being punched in the face. You are an excellent writer and a true empathizer. I wish you peace.

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