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Turning Lemons into Lemonade

by Mary M. Alward

Three months before our 12th anniversary, we got word that my husband needed open heart surgery. He’d been put on a waiting list and the surgery would be sometime in the next three to six months. When they notified us, he would have to be at the hospital within 24 hours.

Because of the impending surgery we put off making any anniversary plans. We didn’t want to be disappointed. Then, six weeks before the big day, they called my husband to the hospital. Our hopes soared. If he had his surgery now, he would be able to celebrate when our anniversary date came.

The next morning we reported to the hospital at 6 am. The nurses prepared him for surgery and just before he was to be wheeled in, he was bumped. An emergency bypass would take his place.

We didn’t mind because the man who was having the emergency surgery needed it badly. It was a life and death situation, but we had hoped that my husband’s surgery would be over that day. Life is full of little disappointments.

Four days before our anniversary, the hospital called again. Hubby was to report for surgery the next morning. The months of waiting had been a roller coaster of emotions and we only hoped that this thing could be over and done with. Missing an anniversary was no big deal; or was it?

The surgery was completed the next day. After six hours, my husband was taken to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and I was allowed to see him. He was hooked up to all kinds of machines, a heart monitor and oxygen. Though he was heavily drugged, I was happy that the operation had gone well.

Later that day all of the heart bypass patients were sent to their rooms; all, that is, except my husband. Complications had set in and he was going to have to stay in ICU until the medical professionals could find out what was happening. I was scared to death. Would I lose him?

The day of our anniversary arrived and when I got to the hospital there was good news. The problem had been in a lung and it had been resolved. Although hubby was still very weak and sleepy, he could sit up and talk for a few minutes. The nurses told me that as the day progressed he would be more responsive. The drugs he was on had been greatly reduced.

At noon, I left the hospital to run a few errands. On the half hour drive home, I put my thinking cap on. I wasn’t going to let our anniversary pass without some type of celebration. But what could I do to raise hubby’s spirits and celebrate our big day?

As soon as I arrived at home, I called the hospital and talked to his nurse. I told her my plan and she was all for it. “Just what the doctor ordered,” she laughed. “Go for it.”

I arrived at the hospital later that afternoon, just before dinner would be served. I entered his room with two bags in tow. My husband was inquisitive and I could see that he wasn’t nearly as drugged as he’d been earlier in the day. This was going to be better than I’d planned.

I opened the first bag and spread a tablecloth on hubby’s hospital bed. Then, I took a small vase, put a little water in it from the bathroom tap and place a rose and a rosebud from our garden in it; next, an aromatherapy candle. Although it couldn’t be lit because of safety reasons, the fragrance was heavenly.

Hubby was still on a light diet, so the picnic fare was simple. I had picked up two bowls of our favorite soup from a coffee shop down the street, which was a real treat because we aren’t ones to frequent coffee shops.

The soup was piping hot and, since it was homemade, mouth watering good. We took our time eating and celebrated the success of our marriage; the mountains we had conquered and the dark valleys we had traversed. We reminisced the events and special moments that we had shared over the years and talked about his most recent triumph. For dessert, we enjoyed some rice pudding I had made; something that we both enjoyed on occasion.

As I was cleaning up our picnic fare, the nurses came through the door singing “Happy Anniversary,” in soft tones. My hubby’s nurse carried a cake complete with fifteen candles. We were both overwhelmed with their kindness and swiped at a tear. What a lovely and generous gesture.

We shared the cake with the nurses and when they were gone, we spoke of their kindness and our love for one another. What really mattered most was that this had been a very special day and we still had each other. My husband’s health was on the way to a full recovery and we’d celebrated our anniversary in a very special way; by turning lemons into lemonade -- an ingredient for a successful marriage.

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