Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Anniversary Gift

My husband and I just marked our fifteenth wedding anniversary. I say marked rather than celebrated because we didn’t really do anything special on the day. In fact, that evening I had a large dinner function to cater, so Jeff came along to the event with me. We toasted our anniversary that night, standing in the village hall kitchen, with a glass of tap water. After hearing this, my mother in-law said that we were now officially an old married couple.

Resignedly, I agreed.

You never know what is going to trigger you to recall exactly what drew you to each other in the first place; jogging the heart’s memory. It is quite often not the occasions we would expect.

Yesterday was a cold, damp, blustery British day. A tractor ran into the phone poll on our lane and took it clear out of the ground. With no phone or internet service my options for the day were to read and/or cook. I did both, settling on David Sedaris’, 'When You are Engulfed in Flames' and making a fine looking tomato soup for dinner.

The soup was perfect for the kids; after playing in the park for a couple of hours they were absolutely frigid and ravenous.

Tomato soup did not hold such an appeal for Jeff, though. After their dinner, I snuggled the girls up in our bed to watch an episode of Sponge Bob and made my way back downstairs just as Jeff arrived home from work. I enthused about the dinner menu and said that, because the kids had already eaten, we could dine alone.

Jeff- ‘Tomato soup?’
Me- ‘What—you don’t like tomato soup? I never knew that.’
Jeff- ‘Have you ever seen me eat tomato soup?’
Me- ‘No, come to think about it, I guess not.’
Jeff- ‘I don’t not- like tomato soup, I more avoid it.’

I walked into the laundry room to move damp clothes into the dryer. My disappointment was making the turn to anger, when I was startled to hear Jeff scream. Silence for a split second, then, ‘Oh my God!’

I ran into the kitchen, but was slowed as I took in the surreal scene. Jeff was lying on the floor with blood splattered all over the tiles and up the cabinets. He was holding his leg, repeating, Oh God. Oh God.'. I ran and crouched next to him.

He had been unloading the dishwasher when one of my heavy, chef’s knives slipped off the counter. In a split second, as it was falling, he picked his leg up then put it back down into the tip of the blade of the knife, which, in some freakish feat of aeronautical engineering, had landed handle side down, blade sticking straight into the air. The knife cut deeply into his calf.

We wrapped a tablecloth around the wound, laid him on his back and elevated his leg. I scrambled for the phone in the living room— no dial tone— I had forgotten it was out of service. Slamming the handset down, I ran back into the kitchen.

I tried to steady my voice. ‘Where’s your mobile phone?’
‘In the top drawer by the silverware.’ He was holding the table cloth as tightly as he could, but it was bleeding through.

I grabbed his phone and realized that I had no idea what the emergency number was. In the States, it is 911, in Switzerland it is 144—but here... we have lived here over a year and I had no idea what the number was.

I ran to the bottom of the stairs and screamed for my eldest daughter to come down. I heard her groan as her little sister taunted her with a childish song, ‘You’re have to do the dishes.’

Claire came into the kitchen where I was sitting with Jeff. His blood was now dripping to the tiles beneath his wrapped leg.
‘Holy—Daddy, what happened?’, she gasped.
‘What’s the emergency number?’ I shouted, even though she was four feet from me. My hands shook as I held the phone in front of me.
‘999! What happened?’ She repeated.
‘Daddy cut himself with a knife, but he will be okay.’ I was not at all convincing.

It all started to seem like a macabre episode of Little House on the Prairie.

I continued to shout. ‘Claire—you’ve got to run to Jude and Mike’s house and tell them that I need them to come quick!’

While not miles away from our nearest neighbour, we are out in the country, with just one neighbour—thankfully, a very good neighbour.

I called the emergency squad. Jude and Mike followed Claire back over and the ambulance arrived within minutes.

The medics checked Jeff’s wound. They said that he had not hit an artery or any big veins, (as I had secretly feared) but that the knife had made a wide cut into his muscle. They expertly wrapped his sliced leg and my panic began to subside.

Jude stayed with the kids, who, with the exception of Claire, lay upstairs in our bed contentedly watching Sponge Bob, completely oblivious to what now looked like a crime scene, one floor below them.

I followed behind the ambulance in our car for the 20 minute drive to the nearest hospital.

In case you were wondering, it was not amidst this chaotic, horrifying event that I grew thankful for my husband. Driving behind the ambulance, down the quiet, nightime motorway, alone in my car I didn't have soft-focus flashbacks of when Jeff and I first met-- the sweeping romance of it all. No, I must have still been in triage mode-- I was not awash in sentimentality, just trying to get to the hospital without crashing.

What brought about the thankful appreciation of the man I have made a life with happened more slowly, subtly.

We waited for three hours to be seen in the emergency room. The nurses would intermittently wheel him into a small room to change Jeff’s bandages, as they soaked through with blood. But, because he wasn’t critical, we had to wait... and wait.

In these interminable hours of mind-numbing delay, my husband and I sat, holding hands, sometimes in silence, sometimes whispering hilarious, disparaging things about our waiting room comrades: The comically inebriated Irishman with a bulbous, broken nose who shouted to no one in particular, ’How do you expect me NOT to pick me nose? It’s full of blood—I’ve GOT to pick me nose!’ Or the young woman who appeared to be in the emergency room because of her chronic coughing, but who stepped outside with her mother every 15 minutes for a smoke.

After I had taken my last picture for a collection of mobile-phone-images I was calling, ‘Leg Carnage Porn’, we were called in to see the doctor.

Jeff complained a bit about the pain of the slash into his muscle. I told him to pipe down—until he had delivered two babies through a slash in his stomach muscles, I would hear none of it.

They sewed him up and told us not to worry—there would be no permanent damage.
We hobbled out of the hospital at 2 am, arrived home and profusely thanked Jude for staying with the girls.

We saw her out then Jeff looked at me and said, ‘We never had dinner. Can I try some of your tomato soup?’

It was during his second cup of old fashioned tomato soup that I remembered what it was fifteen years ago, that I liked so much about him.


Anonymous said...

Bleedin hell woman ....!!!! What a night ..!!! and god bless tomato soup ..... xx Ruth

Michelle Daniel said...

Man! Not the usual Martha's Kitchen fare today. A little macabre. Yet, as often, I was touched and have tears in my eyes.

Glad your husband is ok.

For our eighteenth Anniversary my husband was out of town and we celebrated the big day via Facebook. I guess that makes us a really lame old married couple.

Kathy said...

Wow! I was just thinking this morning about Claire's Facebook comment about her daddy that I read late last night. Glad Jeff is alright and you ended up with a "priceless' anniversary gift. Happy 15th!