Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Sensitivity Training

Were it not for the steady stream of slushy rain, the flood watch, and the generally miserable weather last night I wouldn’t have considered a Valentine’s post at all. That’s how cringe-worthy I find the obligatory Valentine’s post. But we’ll return to epics floods and wild winter weather in a moment.

First, a quick update on the great plague of 2008:

I can walk. And talk. At the same time. And, without coughing till I throw up or pop blood vessels across my face that even the hardiest concealer can’t hide. This is progress, people. There’s a long way to go, to be sure, but things are more manageable.

Now, back to winter floods. Last year, February 14 fell on a wretchedly damp, raw, icy day. In fact, our city street flooded and then froze, leaving all the cars encased in a couple feet of ice for several days. I remember this vividly because the walk to the subway was an exercise in survival and cabs were nowhere to be found.

I also remember sitting on the nearly empty train car (apparently everyone else decided dinner out wasn’t worth braving this weather, but we weren’t so faint of heart) with my scarf-ed, glove-ed, wind-whipped reflection staring back at me. I was so engrossed in what I was telling my husband I didn’t notice how quiet he was. I was really excited about new research on improved diagnostic measures for PCD I’d read about earlier that day. It was technology I’d already used at my doctor’s office, but I was pleased to see its efficacy confirmed and hopeful that widespread use of it might mean easier diagnoses for other patients (PCD is notoriously hard to diagnose).

Later, as the various courses of our Valentine’s pres-fixe dinner arrived, I was still animated and excited. He was still quiet. I was oblivious, he was frustrated.

Turns out, Valentine’s Day dinner might not be the best time ever for research chat. (Did I mention the obliviousness?)

It wasn’t that he felt we talked about PCD (or any of the other conditions) too much—day to day, there really isn’t much to say. You cough, you wheeze, and with any luck you breathe okay and manage to avoid catching an infection. There’s not much riveting conversation to be had about it.

And it wasn’t that he felt the new research was scary or depressing—on the contrary, it was full of hope and promise, and intellectually he understood why it was encouraging.

This information was good stuff, right? So where was the problem?

But on a night that’s supposed to be about us, the side of medicine, however positive it was, that accompanied our meal was less than welcome.

On a night that’s supposed to be about us, PCD and all its potential, good and bad (and with progressive diseases, the long term potential for bad is certainly a legitimate issue), was also a reminder that someone he loves is sick and he can’t change that or fix it.

And when you love someone, isn’t your first instinct to take away whatever it is that causes them pain or discomfort? (And would you want a reminder, however benign, that you can’t?)

Message received. Timing is everything.

This year is different. The epics rains ended last night and today is actually sunny. We’re driving to our restaurant this year because our reservation is late and now we have a driveway, meaning we don’t need to take the subway because our car is iced in and we don't want to circle the block till midnight looking for a space.

And I don’t happen to have any new research or facts to share, but if I did, I’d save quoting the statistics and waxing poetic about the methodology for tomorrow.

We won’t need to talk about how I feel, because he will be able to tell by my complexion and my eyes and the way I inhale when I talk exactly how I am feeling and that unspoken understanding is better than any conversation.


Farty Girl said...

I hate those moments when you're talking a lot and the significant other is quiet, and you can just feel that something is wrong! I am a master at bringing up stuff at the wrong time.

For instance, just reading this blog, I was thinking: "Well, if it's a day for 'us', this topic is important to you, and you are included in 'us,' so what's the problem?"

But now, I get what you mean. Vday is the time for "us" talk, as in talk that includes the "both of us."

I get it now! Thanks Laurie! :)

SE said...

I managed to bring up death and my death and joke about them at our Valentine's dinner. How's that for sensitive?

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