Affaire du coeur, Part 1

Someone read a newspaper article about the day I got married in January of 2000. That person only knew what was written; not the events leading up to it, or the articles that proceeded it. I’ve thought about this story for a long time, and maybe it’s time to tell all of it.

It was 1987. Kathy had a congenital heart defect. It had hospitalized her a number of times. Finally, they decided to do a diagnostic surgery. Nowadays they’d do a biopsy of the heart by running a long needle with snippers on the end of it up the groin artery, to the heart, and take a snip of the heart for diagnosis. Back then, they didn’t have this procedure, so to evaluate the heart, they’d have to open Kathy’s chest.

The procedure was to be done in Texas. Kathy stayed at her mom’s the night before. She called me, and to be honest, I don’t know what we chatted about, but it turned to the surgery, and she told me she was scared. I flippantly told her that she’d be fine, and I’d buy her a beer when she got back. The most painful thing I remember about that conversation was that I didn’t tell her that I loved her. Just that I’d buy her a fucking beer when she got back.

 

The day of the procedure, March 22nd, 1987, I was sitting in my kitchen tinkering with a new computer. My phone rang.

I knew what it was before I even picked up the phone. It plays back in slow-motion even to this day. I stood up and walked to the phone, and picked up the receiver. It was Kathy’s mom. She told me that Kathy hadn’t survived the surgery.

 

I’m understating it, when I say I was devastated. I dropped the receiver, started to shake, and sat on the floor. I don’t remember when I stopped weeping.

 

A black hole in time passes, and I’m a pallbearer at her funeral. I tried to be strong, but still wept.

 

They tell you that with time, the hurt goes away. It never really goes away, just turns into a dull throb of pain. On her birthday, on the day that she died.

 

I never said “I love you” at the end of that phone call. Every year since, I have a rose placed in a beer bottle at her gravesite. It’s been decades, and I still turn into a mess on March 22nd.

 

There was nothing in my power to stop it from happening. I’ve had a long time to think about it. I can say I’m sorry, I can say a lot of things, but I’ll never forget what I didn’t say.

 

A few years ago, I had a dream about her. I don’t remember much of the dream, but I remembered the color of her eyes, her laugh, every part of her face that I had touched.

 

You never forget.

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