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Protector

June 17, 2009

When I drove from Montana to Chicago for graduate school, all alone, with my earthy possessions crammed into my car, my mom started calling me her “steel petunia.”  Which is kind of overkill, as petunias are some of the toughest flowers I know.

(Pansies are tough, too, though, and if someone calls you a Pansy, the implication isn’t one of toughness, so what do I know?)

I took my sheltered, small-town self to the big city, and spent years honing my survival skills.  Chicago broadened my shoulders, toughened my skin, made me less gullible and more alert.  I learned how to walk from the nearest El stop to my apartment at 2:00 am without getting into trouble, how to be safe instead of nice, how to push for what I wanted.  I survived grad school, the Red Line, and living on my own for the first time.  I changed, from someone who’d been largely taken care of to some one who could (and did) take care of herself.

I’m still proud of that.

So, this morning, when N explained that he didn’t want me staying home alone while the contractor and our landlord’s boyfriend are there working on the water damage, that he didn’t trust them alone with me, I was skeptical.  He’s much more disturbed by the sound and fury of home repairs than I am and I’d hoped he could go to his office on campus and work, away from things that would infuriate him, while I stayed home and made sure that our cats and possessions remained safe.  While I do tend to believe the best of people as long as I can, I’m not a delicate flower who needs to be protected.

N has been angrier since Teddy died (well, I have been, too, though maybe less obviously), and I can’t help but wonder if sending me in to work while he stays home is just a way to let the anger boil over, to stew and fume until things reach some sort of fever pitch.

But on my walk into work, I thought of all he couldn’t protect me from last summer, me and Teddy.  He did just about everything you could do to protect your wife and unborn child – reminded me to take my nightly prenatal vitamin, brought me water, took care of the cat litter, did all the heavy lifting, came to my OB appointments, gave me rides to and from work.  When we heard that Teddy was in danger, he was my prop and my comfort; when I was on bed rest, he fetched and carried and tried to console me, and took the brunt of working with our insurance so that we could find a hospital with ECMO.  He drove us across the state, took out the communal garbage at the Ronald McDonald House, stayed by my side when I was hooked up to IVs, made me laugh, befriended all of our nurses, comforted Mom, and held my hand.  He did everything he could, and he did it with strength and grace and skill, but Teddy still died and our hearts still broke.

I often think that, of the two of us, his job was the hardest.  He had to watch. He had to be the one who was most helpless to save us even though he loved us more than anything.  And in addition, he had that pressure to fix things and to protect that is laid, heavier than lead blankets, on men, in spite of all our societal advances and Real Men (Do or Don’t) Eat Quiche.  I couldn’t have done it; I would have cracked into a thousand pieces and run screaming through the streets, or melted into a gibbering puddle of despair.  A little anger, that’s understandable.  That’s positively sane.

I don’t think he can protect me.  I don’t think anyone can, not from the things that really hurt.  But I can see why he needs to try.  And, Heaven (or Whatever) help me, I’ll let him, if it makes him feel the tiniest bit better.  I’ll let him.

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9 comments

  1. Wow, Erica. Your husband sounds just like mine.

    I’ve had the same thoughts so many times- that it was harder on him b/c he had to watch.

    It’s awful that we’re both here, but you made me feel a little less alone today.


  2. this was a beautiful tribute to him, Erica.

    you can be a steel petunia, i think, and still have a protector. we all need to do what we can for each other, and sometimes that’s making room for someone to do what they need for us, even if we don’t need it.

    oh god. that was convoluted.


  3. He sounds a very special man, Erica.

    When Emma was born and whisked away from us, it all took place behind my head. My DH saw everything – and he is utterly traumatised by what he witnessed. He knows it was done to save her – and if it had worked he’d be so grateful for the aggressive techniques they tried. As it is – you’re right. They had the harder job. They had to watch.


  4. I think you described my husband too! He was there. He was strong. He was hurting as much as I was but he never stopped being the one to support me. He was the one to make sure all of the arangements were taken care of after Ellie died while I sat in the bed and cried. He had to watch all of the amnio’s, IV’s and blood draws were done.

    It’s so wonderful to know that there is someoneout there who cares enough to fight to protect you.


  5. you are so right, the hubbys do need their chance to be useful. If only their trying could affect some things…


  6. Beautiful post Erica. Your husband sounds like a wonderful man. I feel so blessed to have one of those, too.


  7. Beautiful post indeed. Much love.


  8. Wonderful and beautiful tribute, Erica.
    Still, this post and the previous, just broke my heart for you, for you both, what you have endured together. *hugs* and much love.


  9. My husband needs to be needed. And fortunately for him, I need him desperately. He picked me up when I lost Freyja, and he’s still carrying me following our loss of Kees. I’m very proud of my beautiful man.



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