Hospital issue gray socks, with the little non-slip nubbies crisscrossed on the bottom so you don’t slide on the polished floors.
Gray socks, slightly askew, on the ends of bare white legs. Gray socks, poking out from under thin white flannel blankets. Gray socks, wrapped in crinkly plastic, on top of the industrial tissue box.
Gray socks that say, “I’m vulnerable”.
A week and a half ago, my husband wore loafers. Or wingtips. Or running shoes. His footwear said, “I’m powerful. I’m active. I’m strong. I have places to be.”
Then, he couldn’t catch his breath. He thought he pulled a chest muscle. Or had pneumonia. A couple of days of an antibiotic and he would be good as new. He resisted the gray socks in the ER – what was the point since he would be lacing his running shoes back up to go home in a couple of hours?
He wore his own socks in the ambulance on the way to Muskegon – just a stress test under the supervision of a cardiologist – then I’d be bringing him home for lunch. He’d be wearing running shoes for that anyway, right?
The gray came out on the day of the surgery. I noticed that they were gone from the overcrowded window shelf when I got there in the morning. I went to my bedside recliner, moved the tissue box over to set down the oversized coffee I bought in the lobby, then glanced down at his feet.
There they were, peeking out from under the blanket. And I started to cry.
I needed to be brave and I needed to be strong. I needed to hold us both up, because his heart wasn’t strong enough. And so, I stared at his feet. Those damn gray socks, mocking everything I hadn’t said in the last year. And all of the things I wished I hadn’t.
They taunted me with the times I thought our relationship wasn’t going to survive, and ridiculed me for worrying about dirty dishes in the sink. They slapped me with missed opportunities. They punched me over and over with regrets until I followed them down the hall to the operating room.
I locked myself in a bathroom stall. I paced the hallway. I sat in the waiting room and cried. I have never felt so completely alone in my life.
We have faced a lot of gray socks in the twenty some years we have been together – miscarriages, accidents, funerals – but I have never had to face them without my husband right there to catch me should I stumble.
The only hand I wanted to hold, the only arms I wanted around me, the only person who I wasn’t embarrassed to cry in front of – was the one wearing the gray socks.
An hour in, the charge nurse came out to tell me that they had found a blockage and would be placing a stent. “How long?” I pleaded.
How long before I could see the gray socks again. How long before I could show them I could be better, that WE could be better. How long before this was over…..
Thirty minutes. Twenty-eight exactly. It took twenty-eight minutes for the doctor to insert a specially coated spring into my husband’s almost completely blocked coronary artery, then wheel him into the recovery room.
Less than 24 hours later, the gray socks were gone, leaving behind a wake of gratitude, blessings, and a renewed sense of what is really important.
We are not blind to the fact that we have been given a gift. We are remembering what it feels like to be lifted in love, wrapped in prayers, and held close by family and friends. As my husband’s heart heals, mine does as well.
We are committed to living a life of fierce grace from this day forward – so that should the gray socks come again, we will face them head on with no regrets.