Keith has bought a truck and I have broken my back, or at least it feels like it. Yesterday I was in enough pain that Keith insisted on taking me to the emergency room on post to get checked out.
We are in the middle of a cold snap here and it was freezing all day long. There are patches of ice and snow on the sidewalks and smeared across the parking lot. I held on to Keith's hand and hobbled along beside him, my nose and ears tingling with the cold.
He was dressed in his uniform because that morning we'd gotten his I.D. updated to reflect his new rank. The place was packed and we waited over an hour to see an assistant, along with many others waiting on similar business.
I needed to use the restroom, so Keith led the way there. It happened to be located at the far end of a long, narrow hall lined on both sides by soldiers, their legs sprawled out, talking quietly. They all lifted their heads and drew in their feet as we passed by; I felt like I was walking the gauntlet.
Later, I asked Keith why they were all there and he said they were in the final stages of preparing for deployment. In the waiting room, there was a young couple near us that sat and cuddled and talked quietly about his up coming deployment.
Keith and I sat silently, for the most part; I was concentrating on bearing the pain and not moving much. I felt like part of an old married couple, especially when Keith started a word search he found in a magazine and then asked for my help. We finished it together in a matter of minutes, murmuring, our heads close together.
My picture on the new I.D. is very different than the first, in which I looked solemn, my hair pulled back and glasses on. In this new one I am smiling a cheesy smile, I look confident and cheerful.
Afterward, we stopped for lunch before going to the hospital, where we anticipated long lines again. I ate a chicken sandwich and 1000mgs of ibuprofen. It didn't seem to do much good, but I still felt silly going to the emergency room just because my back hurt.
Keith was remarkably patient; he carried my coat down the hospital corridors and offered to take my purse as well, but I felt that would be too much. He came into the examination room with me and sat silent, his cap on his knee. When the doctor told me to kick my shoes off, Keith leaned forward and took them gently in his hands and slid them off for me.
The doctor tested my reflexes and seemed particularly interested when I told him that I could feel the pain all the way down into my feet. He scribbled for a long time after he let me get down from the exam table.
"Don't worry, hon," Keith said, out of the blue. "We'll get you one of those electric carts for you to cruise around in, I'll paint it up real pretty for you."
After a bit, the doctor told me he thought the pain must be from a disk in my spine; he thought this because I'd already had x-rays taken and they hadn't shown anything, and because the pain showed up in my ankles and feet. We made an appointment for an MRI the next morning; he prescribed me vicodin and a muscle relaxant.
Riding the happy high of the muscle relaxant, I followed Keith into the commissary; our final stop for the day. I love the way Keith shops; he simply goes up one isle and down another and tosses in whatever catches his eye. In this way, we soon found ourselves the lucky recipients of Fruit Loops, purple mouth wash, assorted Snapples, barbecue potato chips, steak, cauliflower, Velveeta and a ham, among other things.
Today he reviewed all the bills and threw away my hand written reference sheet with all the account numbers, fax numbers, due dates and minimum payment information on it. He also tossed out all the bills I was keeping for reference and was very proud of himself for having so dramatically pared down the paperwork sitting around.
I was horrified and a little angry; I had put a lot of work into that seemingly disorganized pile of paperwork and in one fell swoop, Keith had obliterated all my carefully arranged order. It would be one thing if he were staying for good; he could simply take over. But he's not staying, and in less than two weeks, I'll have to painstakingly piece it all together again.
"You love your husband," he reminded me, when he saw how irritated I was. "Don't you forget it!" (This is his get-out-of-jail-free card, and he uses it often.)
He's finished all the projects he had set out for himself and has lately been suffering from a lack of purpose. Keith cannot tolerate long stretches of time with nothing to do. At first, he was happy just to be home and walked around in a daze.
But eventually, real life set in and he found himself at home, for two weeks, with no purpose. He felt bad about this; he was feeling pressure to exude happiness and contentment twenty four seven, but I have told him over and over that it's ok if he isn't, that I won't take it personally.
Which all led up to him excitedly calling, "Woman!" as he came bounding up the stairs to the bedroom, where I was lying in a drug induced stupor. "Woman, you should never leave me alone for more than five minutes," he continued, leaning his face down close to mine.
"What did you buy?" I asked, resigned.
"I haven't yet," he confessed, looking guilty in the most endearing way.
Not an hour later, however, we were the proud new owners of an ancient and beaten up work truck. As I write, Keith is in the garage, in tee shirt and jeans, oil and grease smears up as high as his elbows, completely absorbed in his new project.
"No more purchases," I said sternly, shivering in the driveway, as Keith sang the truck's praises sky high in order to convince me it was worth it.
"No more," he agreed solemnly, gesturing abruptly with his hands. "I'm content."
"Give me your word," I pressed.
He sobered up immediately, we both know what it means to make a promise in our relationship; they are commitments that we don't make lightly and we don't ask them lightly either.
"I promise," Keith said quietly, I nodded and that was that. As for me, I currently lie upstairs, one pillow under the small of my back, counting the hours until I can take my next vicodin. I can hear the powerful thrum of the four wheeler engine outside, even though it's fully dark.
I did get to ride it, once; though I suspect that ride did further damage to my back. It snowed yesterday morning, when Keith opened the blinds, he turned to me, elated.
"It snowed!" he exclaimed. "It snowed for me!"
He threw on some clothes and went out to do donuts in the road and later on in the day, persuaded me to join him. He was wearing the tan farm jacket and gloves and cap; he looked incredibly long legged and broad shouldered.
He swung the fourwheer around in donuts, over and over again, sending up the powdery snow in light and airy waves. I screamed and clung to him with all my strength, burying my face against the back of his shoulder.
"Honey, I can't control it! You have to stop doing that!" he'd say, looking back at me, his mouth curled up into a grin. "Is that our driveway?" he'd ask, as we approached it, "Is it here?"
"Yes! Yes, it's here!" I'd cry and we'd begin to turn in, only to swing loose, flying in backward circles over the packed snow.
"It did it again!" he say, pretending to be shocked. "I just don't know what happened to this thing!"
I'm quite sure it did my back no good and probably a lot of harm, but I can't regret it. The doctor thinks I have injured a disc in my spine, but he thought adequate pain medication should cause it to quiet down some. I really hope so, because right now, everything hurts and my days of four wheeler riding, looking effortlessly to the right, getting easily off the bed and sitting for longer than two minutes are over. I have another appointment day after tomorrow to see what more can be done and what my MRI results looked like.
Many times in the past few days, I've looked over at Keith and thought to myself, "Who is this man and why do I love him so?" He'll be talking away, animated, earnest, about spark plugs, for example, and I'll just watch his face; he looks so young to me lately. I'll watch his face and think, "This man; I married this man." And I feel incredibly grateful and amazed, and then of course, I must kiss him, because I can, because he is there, because he is mine.
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