Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Matters of the Heart

Luca, my husband - my healthy eating, soccer playing, good natured, no history of heart disease in his family husband - had a heart attack on January 15, 2006. Before the incident, we used to exercise regularly and eat fairly well, but now, his cholesterol levels need to be below the recommended number to keep his blood flowing through the stent holding his artery open.

Curiously, (and somehow, predictably) Luca took the whole episode in stride. It was people around him who struggled with the news. My mother said to me recently that she "might never recover". The nurse practitioner at our cardiologist's office confided she went home that night and held her husband close. As for me, I still don't know what to make of it. I felt my life had been thrown in a blender.

Scott and Erin were always there. Figuratively, because they're excellent friends, but literally too, since they live right across the street. When I called to explain why they hadn't seen our car, Erin asked if I needed anything. She realized I was alone keeping Luca company in the Cardiac Care Unit around the clock and came right over, despite my (admittedly weak) protests. They visited, brought me food that had not been cooked in a hospital kitchen, kept an eye on our house, and later picked me up almost every evening so I wouldn't have to drive back home in the dark and exhausted.

In a weird twist of fate, Erin's brother in law, Ron, had to go to the hospital for heart related symptoms three days after Luca got back home. Ron required open heart surgery.

We had been trying hard to get together since then, but between conflicting work schedules, business related travel and a snarled commute due to the shutting down of Highway 1 at Devil's Slide, we had only seen each other in passing. We usually talked on the phone while one of us was sitting in traffic too, since the other was the most appropriate person to commiserate with. We finally got together for dinner last weekend.

Scott, in typical Scott fashion, called me Saturday morning to run the menu by me. "Grilled wild salmon with ginger, steamed broccoli served with a light finishing sauce, asparagus and maybe other vegetables, is that OK? And, for dessert we're having fresh strawberry shortcake. Erin brought mascarpone to spoon on top but we won't put any on Luca's. What do you think?"

"That sounds fine, thank you so much, Scott" I said. What I really wanted to say was "How soon can we move in?"

When we arrived, everything was set out on the porch. There was a beautiful juniper bonsai tree as centerpiece. We sat around the table, drank wine and talked while Scott lined things up on the grill.

The thing I heard most often from people calling to ask how Luca was doing was that "things happen for a reason". I don't buy it. Things happen for no reason, so you better be clear on what matters to you. Family. A job you're into. Strawberries. A red recliner you can read on. Someone who thinks about feeding you the one time you're not thinking about food. And a friend who is handy with the grill.

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