I lost my husband. That always makes me laugh. I know he isn’t lost, I know where he is sort of, he is off playing golf someplace, I guess. He died a year and a quarter ago; January 13, 2016. It just doesn’t seem like it has been a little over a year to me. This was my second husband, and the best one I liked to tell him. I was his fourth wife. He believed in the institution of marriage. We married in 1997.
We always knew that we wanted to see the world. When he got to be in his late fifties he knew he had enough time in to retire but he was always worried about money. I always used to joke with him, “You had better spend that money because I am going to waste it, I am going to give it away,” just to try and loosen him up a bit.
In 2007 his appendix busted. He got sepsis and was on a respirator for three and a half months. I thought he would die, instead he developed something called Adult Respiratory Disease Syndrome. This is when the lungs fill up with water and it is the bodies systemic response to trauma, blunt force or infection. He lost a great deal of weight and went on disability. He eventually got stronger and stronger; he retired, he played golf, he took care of stuff around the house.
In 2011 he started having a hard time breathing again, and was diagnosed with acute fibrosis. The doctors said that there was nothing they could do for him and gave him, at most, five years. I explained to the doctor, “He is 62 years old, there is nothing else wrong with him.” So, on a whim they sent him to New York City to a transplant team. The cut off age for transplants is 65 but they accepted him and he became a candidate for a transplant.
He went through every test imaginable looking for anything that would be prone to disease. He ended up getting a lung transplant in 2013. At first, he didn’t want to do it because he didn’t want to take a lung away from a younger person. Lungs are very perishable. He was part of an experimental program where you receive a lung that is not usually transplantable because of the kind of accident and the rescue attempts performed on the person. They put the lung in a special box and after four or six hours they decide if the lung is viable or not. This is the kind of lung he got.
When he woke up from the operation he could tell the difference immediately. After he came home from the hospital he was able to get up and down the stairs. He had to rebuild a lot of strength with physical therapy and he had to be very careful of what he ate. The doctors didn’t want him to fly.
So, in order for us to be able to travel together and with our dog, Bentley, we bought a 31 foot pull behind camper. This allowed us to protect our surroundings so he wouldn’t get sick. Doug was not a camper, he wanted his luxuries and there had to be enough room for the dog. We had all these trips planned of places we wanted to see. He had two and a half years of life after the transplant. We only had the camper six months together.
After he died I went on one trip with the pull behind and it was too much for me to handle physically. It needed a special hitch on the truck to hitch it up with and then there were stabilizer bars that had to be tightened up to keep it from swaying on the highway. So, I traded the pull behind for a Coachman Recreational Vehicle. The Coachman has a Chevy motor and chassis in it and my only regret is that it doesn’t have a slide because Bentley, the dog, and I do this little dance because the floor space is minimal. Aside from that it fits me perfectly. My grandson calls me Free Range Grandma.
I didn’t really consider traveling without him at first. I knew I needed to do something because I watched my mother after my father got sick and died and other older people that I know and they kind of lost their zest for doing things. I feel pretty good right now but I don’t want to lose my zest. And I have been depressed. I know the symptoms. I hide it well. I am so glad that I have Bentley, that dog has to walk twice a day. So, it makes me get out of the house and I can’t cocoon up inside of myself.
I know that there is more out there. I just don’t know what it is. I don’t know what I want to do. My biggest thing now is to not just do what I already know. I don’t even know if I want to stay in the town that I am in. I could continue on in Norwich doing all the things I have done in the past. But my family doesn’t live there and a lot of the people I really like have moved someplace else. All I know to do is volunteer at the hospital or work part time. I think that there is something more out there and I am afraid if I don’t push myself I won’t find it. To connect the heart and the head, I think, is a challenging thing to do.
Debra Wuliger, figurative artist working with color, texture and pattern to celebrate life.
Image silhouetted with story. Ready for hanging.