When you're really young you wonder and daydream about romance and finding your true love.
How will I know he's the ONE?
"Oh, you'll just know, dear", they say.
As it turns out, it's true. At least it was for me. There was absolutely a distinct moment when I knew that Mark was it for me.
The date was April 7, 1996. Easter. The place was the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. Mark and I had been together almost two years when he went under the knife for nearly 12 hours to receive a kidney and pancreas transplant.
At first it was only the two of us at the hospital as Mark was prepped for surgery. But by the time they wheeled him away, his mother, father and step-mother had arrived. I was grateful they made the trip, as I had no clue what I was going to do with myself during the long wait ahead of me.
The surgery began in the middle of the night. Since none of us could remember the last time we had eaten, we found an all night diner. The situation was so stressed and tense; very awkward for me to be sitting there with my boyfriend's divorced parents. Mark's dad thought we should try to get some rest. His mom opted to return to the hospital and set up camp in a waiting room. I wish I had joined her, but instead I accepted the invitation to get a hotel room with Mark's dad and step-mom. I slept for about four hours, waking around 7:00 AM, very eager to get back to the hospital. It was excruciating to wait for the others to get ready.
To this day, after many hospital stays, I still do not know what it is about physically being AT the hospital that makes one feel better about what their loved one is going through. It's simply preferable to be right there in the thick of it.
Unfortunately there were 3-4 more hours of surgery remaining once I took my seat in the waiting room next to Mark's mom. We drank complimentary coffee. We made small talk. I walked on eggshells, praying my future in-laws would behave themselves.
Speaking of prayers, I cannot know how many I said from the moment Mark left my sight, to the moment I saw his surgeon standing in front of us. One an hour? One every half hour? All I know is I prayed my little heart out. I prayed for the steadiness of his surgeon's hands, that the donated organs were a good match and would kick-in right away, and that this was the best thing for him.
Some vague time after noon the surgeon appeared. She informed us that the procedure had gone well and that Mark was still asleep. He would need to stay in recovery for an hour or two and then he would be admitted to the ICU for the first couple of days. The best news of all was that as soon as she sutured in the new kidney, it began producing urine!
I believe I stalked the hallway in front of the ICU doors for what seemed like an eternity. Doctors, nurses, students and patient visitors going in and out as I anticipated a glimpse of Mark. When finally he was wheeled by, I could barely tell it was him for all the equipment he was attached to. Once in the ICU, we had to wait for his nurse to get him set up as her charge. The waiting was endless. The waiting is always endless in hospitals.
The time came when we were allowed to see Mark. He was in and out of consciousness. I was very anxious to see him, but I hung back and let his parents go to his bedside first. They touched him gently, spoke quietly. Each of them hoping for a sign from Mark that he knew they were there.
He would try to open his eyes every now and then. Turned his head from side to side some. Maybe also tried to lift his arm. After awhile his mother realized I was waiting and said so to the other two. She gestured for me to come and stepped out of the way.
I couldn't say much past the huge lump in my throat. I came forward and positioned myself on Mark's left side. I hesitated, took a breath and placed my left hand in his and my right hand on top of his head. I said, "Hi Mark, it's me, Jen."
Mark turned his head toward the sound of my voice, opened his eyes and squeezed my hand, hard.
My knees buckled, but I didn't move. How could I possibly? No longer able to contain my emotion, I grinned and the tears flowed.
In that one moment, when Mark used what little energy he had to acknowledge my presence, he let me know just how much I meant to him, how much he loved me. And I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I felt the same.
I've told this story verbally many times over the years. But I was inspired to write it by a prompt from Mama Kat, and I'm sharing it with the awesome bloggers at the Yeah Write Speakeasy.