Nina Fosati has always been a storyteller. At 58, she believed she was too old to be a writer. Then physical and mental limitations struck, and she decided she had to try. Finding she no longer functions well in the world, she uses impairment as the inspiration for many of her stories.
A fledgling author, Nina is a member of the Hamburg Writers’ Group. With their encouragement, she started shopping her stories around. To date, they have been chosen for two anthologies: “Tales of Our Lives: Reflection Pond,” and “The Spoon Knife Anthology.” Nina invites you to follow her on Facebook.
We spoon together, he and I. This is how we fall asleep each night. Cradled together. He massages my aching muscles, the ones that try to compensate for the damaged parts. His warm hands sooth me. This end of day ritual is sacred to me now. I can’t fall asleep without it. He usually falls asleep first. His breathing slows. His hands start to twitch as his body discharges the day’s excess energy. I cherish these moments because I know they are a gift. A gift I almost never knew.
It was the coldest day of the New Year, a meager twelve degrees. I lay on the gurney, next to the ambulance, the snow almost reaching my fingertips, waiting in the cold. They had fished me off the bathroom floor, my body wheezing as I struggled for air. As they flipped me over, a burning spotlight ringed with static filled my mind, and another seizure engulfed me. My oxygen-starved organs had begun their pre-ordained sequence, shutting down one by one in a desperate fight to keep my heart pumping. They had sedated me, strapping me to a board for the halting, rocking ride down the stairs, through the first floor, and down the porch steps. All the while I kept mumbling, “I don’t want to go to the hospital.” Once we were on our way, I wondered if the siren was on. I could barely hear it.
At the hospital, they told me I had blood clots littering both lungs and pulmonary arteries. It was very serious. I was lucky I was alive. The threat of complications – scary serious things like stroke, heart attack and even a vegetative coma – were still on the table. Complications they were fighting with all the logic, chemicals and tests available to them. I was trying to be a patient patient, but I was having a hard go of it. I was sick of being sick, sick of smelling and tasting like chemicals, sick of my roommate, sick of the little humiliations built into being in the place.
On the fourth day in the hospital, I decided to tell every person who walked into my room, “I want to go home.” I theorized if I said it to enough people, eventually word would go up the chain to the person who could release me. Finally, after two days of nagging it was arranged. I just needed to get through the endless afternoon.
I sat in my reclining chair, a cotton blanket wrapped around my shoulders, another draped over my naked legs, arguing with the chilly air leaching through the windows. Someone, noting my agitation, had pulled the privacy curtain around my half of the room and closed the blinds leaving me in a semi-private anti-stimulation chamber. The primary sensations were auditory. I could hear the continual bonging of monitor alarms up and down the floor. I could hear conversations in the corridor. I could hear the impersonal female voice directing nurses and aides to assist patients via the PA system. It was one of the indignities of being in the hospital, after a while you learned to decode the announcements. Usually, it boiled down to excretions. If you called for help, be it bedpan, a walk to the toilet or a diaper change, your need was announced to the floor.
My roommate was elderly, black, had a large family and a church connection. They called her Mother Merris. The difference in our level of support was depressing. While I whined intermittently on Facebook about boredom and grouchiness, what I meant was I was lonely and jealous. I was disappointed there were few phone calls, and no visits, cards or flowers to surprise and distract me. My husband would sneak into my room for a few minutes before work and come back for an hour or so after dinner. But I was left largely on my own to endure the long days and nights. My husband, protective of my privacy, and careful about putting medical information online, hadn’t told our friends and family how serious it was. But its unintentional consequence was I felt abandoned and friendless.
I might not have felt quite so forsaken if my roommate had not had so many visitors. They started arriving at eleven am and stayed until visiting hours ended at nine pm. They brought presents and food every day. I heard her, all afternoon unwrapping and chewing the hard candies and chocolates they brought. Her extended family made my lack seem starker in contrast.
I sat in my chilly recliner, listening to the babble of people helping my roommate prepare to leave for a rehab facility. I knew I had to fight my gloominess. I put on my headphones and thumbed on my favorite music. I didn’t care who heard, I was going to sing along, loudly. So what if they thought I was touched. I needed comfort, let them stare at the beige curtain separating us, their heads shaking, their shoulders twitching with suppressed laughter. I sat there, headphones on, warbling along to my favorite tunes. Bruce Springsteen’s “For You” came on. I had focused on this song, off and on, for the past four months. It was part of an ongoing reassessment of my life, a reflection on choices made, on paths taken, and paths not taken. Lyrics that had no significance previously, plunged into my mood and grabbed my emotions, my nose clogged, my eyes brimmed over, I could barely breathe for the sadness, yet I continued to sing along.
The song had transformed. Part of it was about an old decision, a man denied and turned away. Part of it was about my life now. References to the ambulance ride, oxygen masks, compromised lungs and the heart being the key wrecked me. Now the song was about the fact I almost died. I had wasted decades drifting away from my husband. Recently, we had fought our way back to each other. After finding trust and love again, I’d almost left him, albeit unintentionally, but still. I thought I had years left to carefully, gently rebuild, and it could have all crashed down in a single day. I gulped and sobbed, but my tears helped wash away the fear of the past week. They helped revive my spirit, and I found the courage to face the weary days of rehab ahead of me.
Someone once said to me, “Every good marriage ends in tragedy.” I suppose it could be said of bad marriages too, but the line has stuck with me. Mostly it’s women who bear the cost. Usually, it’s the woman left to live her last decades alone without physical comfort and companionship. My husband and I have a secret deal. I’ve always known it. I will die first. But, I’d never thought about what that would mean for him. It means I will leave him alone. I who know him better than anyone. I who have loved him through all the insecurities and pain. I will leave him alone and for that, I cried, for the sorrow, pain and loneliness my leaving will cause him.
Six months earlier I had been on the brink of leaving my husband. If we hadn’t fought so hard to reconnect, perhaps the regret wouldn’t have been so poignant. He would have lost a housemate, a friend, a companion, instead of his best friend, his lover, his wife.
We spoon together, he and I. This is how we fall asleep each night. Cradled together.