Monday morning
I’m awake early, a lot on today.

You’re taking me to work, but you don’t wake.

I shake you
Shout at you
Throw water on you
But you don’t wake!

There’s a promise that was made, and repeated often.

So I call The Girlie

Her response:
“I didn’t make any fucking promises”

The ambulance comes.
Four of them to take you.

Take you, and me, us
Into that netherworld.

A world of:
The kids and me
Ushered into a special waiting room at the hospital
So we know it’s bad.
They’re cutting off your clothes, intubating you.

A doctor crying while he gives the bad news
(It’s a stroke)
And me, saying:
“That’s okay. Five years is all it will take.”

A medical retrieval
(a nurse saying: “I really wish I’d known him”)

ICU (Level 6)
That waiting room

Strangers, suddenly our best friends.

And the news filters out.
Family, friends
All coming
To comfort, to cry.
We don’t know if you’ll live

Central line.
Family conference.
We’ll go on, because if any man can make it, this one will.

Look how he responds when I sing lullabies, sedatives turned off.

There’s a whole new universe to navigate.
You are at the centre.
Suddenly I know how to suction a trachy.
Every 15 minutes, because the nurses can’t cover it,
And the Ethics Committee is trying to shut you down (too expensive).

Your score on the GCS is 6, not viable.
So I say:
“Play dead!”
A least you can obey that command,
Though the poor registrar looks horrified.

Yet you keep breathing
And those damned monitors show that you know
When we are there.

You have a tube in your stomach to feed you
Because I will not have you starve to death.
You survive the pneumonia.
(At least the MRSA means you have a room to yourself)
You survive the nurse who made an almost lethal mistake.

And then they say you are well enough for rehab.
You’ll be allowed eight weeks.
We stay there four months.

Your paralyzed eyelids open,
Your first words: “Hey Em!”

And we are in a different reality
Of physiotherapy
Speech therapy
Occupational therapy
Recreational therapy

And while all this goes on,
My mother is dying
And you will never know that she is gone
Because you can’t remember

Then, the decision is made
No more money can be spent to help you
It’s a nursing home
And another reality

Now life goes on.
You are now walking
When they said you’d never get out of bed.

You eat
Where they said I had “condemned” you to a feeding tube.

You speak
And, more importantly, read and write
Where they said you could not possibly do that.

It’s been five years now.

And always
You are the same, gracious, loving, peaceful man
Who carried our family on his shoulders.