When I was home after my discharge, he had to deal with my confusion, that is, with my misunderstandings, faulty memory, and yelling. He would work long days and, besides, had to do all the things I had done around the house and no longer could do: cook, clean, do the small shopping (he’d gone at Trader Joe’s to do the big one), and take care of Nathan’s needs. And while he was doing them, he would constantly feel the sword of Damocles over his head; the same questions would run over and over in his mind: what would happen to the household if he got sick? Who would bring money every day? Who would take care of me? Who would bring the money to pay the nurse aid agency? Who would make my anti-seizure meds on time and ensure I was never alone when I did have a seizure? Who would prepare and give me enough food so that I gained the weight I needed to gain? (At that time, I was weighing eighty-seven pounds.)
He always says he can’t know what I experienced during my coma and what I’m experiencing now. But I can’t know what he experienced and is experiencing. I can’t know what it means to have a loved one who is on the verge of death. I can’t know what it means to have the entire weight of your family’s survival on your shoulders; to feel that the full responsibility for your family’s financial support lies on your hands. I can’t know what it means not to be able to share your innermost fears and thoughts with the person who’s closest to you because you’re concerned about her stress levels and her brain’s ability to heal, but you’re forced to hear hers as well as her doubts and despondency, and then comfort and encourage her.
I faced near-death situations. I suffered loneliness, pain, and dread. I’m having to live with the memories and after-effects of my injury. But my past and present experiences are nothing like Eric’s.