The whole process has taken six months, a very long time to be concerned, play the what-if game, and dream repeatedly about the scenarios we would be facing. John says I worry too much, “What’s going to happen is going to happen.” But I also know his sleep was fitful and dream-filled, and his waking hours were distracted.

A simple blood test result was questionable.

The primary care physician suggested a follow-up appointment with a specialist. The initial appointment was inconclusive, but we came home with lots of information “just in case” and a scheduled MRI. I couldn’t ignore that we were being swept along in the throes ofwhat had been happily spoken as part of a starry-eyed girl’s vows so many years agofor better, for worse.

The suspicious MRI led to a biopsy, the first time John had ever undergone a hospital procedure. The first time I had ever sat helplessly in a hospital waiting room with a pager, not to tell me my table was ready, but that my husband was in recovery. Gray-faced and trying mightily to come out of anesthesia, he once again told me, “See I told you it would be fine. You worry too much.”

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I was the one who had to keep things “quiet for now” until we had more information. Then I was charged with carefully wording the results, the next steps, and the things we knew so far to keep our four kids informed but not panicked. Two lived out of town, one had a 4-year-old and was pregnant with twins, and another lost a brother-in-law too short a time ago to be unnecessarily worried. John and I talked at length about what was necessary information during the process. In that discussion and digesting the doctor’s informational video and printed knowledge, I felt myself calming and thinking more logically.

We decided to take our scheduled vacation with the OK of the surgeon although there were times I absentmindedly felt as though I was going through the motions.  How could we be enjoying a storm that came up on the beach so quickly we barely made it back to the condo and laughed like teenagers at John’s broken sandal and a barefoot race across a gravel parking lot? 

This is the for worse for Pete’s sake. We shouldn’t be laughing.

Then there were papers to be filled out, restrictions to be adhered to, and prescriptions to be filled. There were questions to be fielded, therapy appointments to be attended, exercises to be mastered. There were nights neither of us slept, and we found ourselves talking or reading at two in the morning. Companionably. Reasonably. It didn’t feel like for worse.

Time was up. There was the liquid-only diet and packing for the overnight hospital stay, phone calls and texts from family, one more sleepless night, antibiotic soap, and a drive to the hospital. Then clever jokes in the pre-op room and a squeeze of the hand and a wave as they wheeled him away because I couldn’t reach across the gurney for my “for better” kiss. As John said, the surgeon had things under control, and it would only be a couple of hours.

Another beeper and an identification number that flashed onto a screen for privacy to let me know what step of the procedure they were in. “Preparing for Procedure” seemed to last forever, then it flashed “In Procedure” and the real waiting began. 

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During that time, our pregnant daughter, Becca, stopped by just for a few minutes on her way to work, and John’s brother walked in unexpectedly on his way home from a funeral. I learned in that time that our children are adults who no longer need to be protected. They are more than capable of stepping into the very roles we have prepared them for and tried so hard to shield them from. I also came to understand, for the first time, why our parents had chosen their reactions and protections of us “for better”.

There were instructions and first walks in the hall, a long drive home by myself that night, and endless hours of waiting before I was able to get back to the hospital. There was a lecture on things to watch for, more prescriptions to be filled, and a weak,  unhappy husband who swore I hit every bump on the way home. Then there were bathroom issues, small meals, constant hydration, bed protection, and me cutting the grass incorrectly.

All the for worse stuff.

Except we laughed at the process of emptying the catheter bag, and I marveled at the person who conceived the little, blue, plastic lever that makes the process work. We switched sides of the bed because of necessity and both woke repeatedly not only feeling like we were falling out of bed, but also to time pain pills, make sure there was no excess bleeding, check surgical glue, and talk through nausea. There has been a lot of talking, holding hands, and questioning the recovery time, but ultimately knowing we made the right decision.

Somewhere along the line, we’ve come to the conclusion that just maybe there’s a reason there is a for worse. Because it’s then we realize we need each other, comfort each other, and know we couldn’t ever imagine having to do this without the other. 

Who else would make the process of taking the first post-surgery shower an event, or discover an easier way to step into shorts? Who else would accept insane breakfast choices, request potty performance stickers, and appreciate my mowing the lawn in a spiral?  

Who else could look into my eyes and smile and make for worse seem so much like for better?

Vicki Bahr

I'm a mother of four, grandmother of nine, wife of John for forty nine years, an incurable optimist, word lover, and story sharer. I've worked and played at many careers, from proofreader to preschool teacher, businesswoman to human interest newspaper columnist to medical records clerk. Each path has afforded me the opportunity to appreciate the warmth of humanity and to hopefully spread a lifetime of smiles, empathy, and God's inspiration along the way. My life continues to be one of delight. With experience comes understanding, with understanding comes peace.