Monday, June 29, 2009


With all the talk of death recently, it started me thinking.

In the summer of 1964 my husband had his first heart attack. It's sometimes strange, the way our minds work - or don't work - in an emergency situation. I think that if the emergency is happening to someone else we are better able to be reasonable and objective. If it is happening to us, we are more emotionally involved and it gets in the way of reason. Ralph was not feeling very well all that day. As his work day ended, he definitely knew that something was very wrong. He got into the car and started home, and as he drove he became more and more aware that he needed help. Instead of heading to a hospital, or stopping at either his sister's home or his brother's - both of which he passed on the way - all he could think of was reaching his own home.

He literally staggered into the front door and told me he was having a heart attack. At the time we had three children, ages five, four and three. The neighbors in back of us were barbecuing outside. I rounded up our children and pushed them through the gate, calling to my friends to watch them, and I drove Ralph to the Emergency Room. Why did I not call an ambulance? I have no idea. Like his, my mind just wasn't working logically.

It turned out to be a very mild attack, but he was hospitalized for three weeks. I cannot see to drive at night, so I visited him every afternoon, leaving the kids with a baby sitter or a neighbor. The oldest was being really difficult and cranky, but I put it down to her missing her father and not liking the baby sitter. After a week or so, I was putting her to bed one night when she said to me, "Mommy, where do you go every day?" Of course I had told her that Daddy was sick and I visited him in the hospital, and I repeated this to her now. She got very angry and said, "No you don't! Daddy is dead." Well, that was a shocker for me. It seems that she had been listening to other children talking about a Little League coach who had a heart attack on the field, and had died. So, she knew that if you had a heart attack, you died. That was all there was to it in a five year old's mind.

Children were not permitted to visit in hospitals in those days. Fortunately for all concerned, my husband's room was on the first floor. I had the baby sitter bring the kids with me when I visited the next day, and she took them around to the window. He got out of bed (against doctor's orders) and came to the window to talk to them.

You never know what a child is thinking or how they are interpreting events around them. Even at that young age, Ruth kept her feelings to herself, and did not share them until she thought she had things all worked out. It's a bit frustrating for those who love her and want to be supportive. In 1964 I should have been more aware of her feelings. I suppose I was concentrating too exclusively on my husband's health.

By the way, he did recover from that attack, and returned to work after a stay at home, during which he drove me a little crazy. He was not a man who could stand being idle for long, or allow others to do things for him. We were to have eleven more years and another child before his next attack. He also kept things to himself when he thought they might worry us. This time I should have been more aware of his needs instead of concentrating so much on the children. His death in 1975 left me in shock. But, that's another story.


Dianne said...

"should" is a difficult word

I imagine you did all you could and more - I doubt he would have tolerated being concentrated on


Sylvia K said...

We all "should" on ourselves more than we need to, but you were always there for him and I can still feel the love you have for him and the loss that you feel. Always makes me wonder why some have to leave us so early, but that is a question I guess we all ask at one time or another. Sending you a big hug, Bobbie!

Daryl said...

(((Bobbie))) .. it never pays to try and second guess yourself ..

kenju said...

Good post, Bobbie. I know well how children can misinterpret what they are told by picking up bits and pieces of conversation, etc. We do have to be careful what we tell them and make sure they understand.

Ramblings of a Villas Girl said...

I agree that we better react when it is someone else and not a loved one.
I think in our minds, we can only think of our loved ones and what an impact it may have on them. You know,'ignore it and it will go away', mind set.
When going through an event, our minds don't think straight. We are focused on the person in need-pain, and how we can help them. And forget about others around us.

Dawn Fine said...

oh..sad story...he was so young to have heart problems....I enjoy your story telling.. said...

I am always amazed at what parents will do for their children, bringing the kids to the hospital so they could talk through the window & your husband getting out of bed against Dr's orders. You shared a lot of love in your home. I can see why you miss him so.

Kay said...

I'm so sorry for all you've had to endure but I can see what a strong amazing woman you are.

I did something very similar when my 5 year old son broke his arm at school. I should have driven him to the closest hospital instead of a half half hour to the military hospital. I didn't think... He could have lost his arm.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this with us, Bobbie. I found it very moving. x

storyteller said...

Hindsight is always 20-20 but it does no good to 'should' on ourselves (or anyone else for that matter). My mom lost her big brother to a sudden heart attack when I was 12 (in 1957) ... no warning or second chances. She didn't let us kids attend the funeral of our favorite uncle, but I suspect she was doing the best she could at the time. We all do ;--)
Thanks for sharing your story.
Hugs and blessings,

Anonymous said...

What a story and what a lesson for all of us. May he continue to rest in peace. Smart kid you have.


KG said...

Smart kid! Sad, though, too. It IS amazing how your brain doesn't function properly when it's somebody close to you. I totally freaked out when my son got his fingers shut in the car door last week. I thought for sure he'd broken his hand (he didn't). My husband was even worse than I was - he thought my son's fingers had been HACKED OFF! That would be the first hacking-off injury of fingers via a car door that I had ever heard of.