Hurricane Florence made landfall on Sept. 14, 2018. It was a big, scary storm and about 40 people in North Carolina died as a result. I don’t know how they died. Did they drown? Were they crushed by falling trees? In Charlotte, we were far enough inland that the dangers didn’t register with us. In fact, we were somewhat excited to have some real weather for a change. But honestly I wasn’t expecting much.
Herb, on the other hand, was all geared up for the big one. He had loaded up his Ford Escape to come over and hunker down with his dog in my third-floor bonus room, or “the hole” as he called it. He was sentimental, this ex-husband, hoping to recreate some distant familial memory of us hanging out, watching TV or sitting by a fire, during a weather event.
Turns out I was right: The sky gets gray. A few pathetic attempts at wind gusts stir the trees now and again. Rain drizzles. We sit in my living room — I on the couch with my computer, he in the chair. There isn’t a lot to say. He has always disparaged my writing so we don’t talk about that. As a leftist and a right-winger, we cannot talk politics. The only things we can talk about are our daughter (though that can be tricky as we disagree on so much about her), our dogs (which admittedly we can go on about for quite a while) or his health.
And that is what we wind up talking about. His health. His feet hurt from neuropathy. He had a bad episode in New York when he was working at the U.S. Open. His back muscles had contracted. There was weakness on one side of his body. He had difficulty walking. He’d gone to the urgent care. The doctor said it could be caused by a brain problem and told him to get it checked out when he got home. Somehow he managed to make it through the Open, where he was working in some technical capacity for ESPN. But he hadn’t gone to a doctor yet because even though he’d been 65 since April 15, he hadn’t signed up for Medicare.
As we sit there in my living room, the storm whimpering outside, I have the clearest vision: He is in a hospital bed, and I am in a chair next to him. What I can’t see is the hell that comes after that.
When he realizes there will be no hurricane and leaves, I am overwhelmed by a sense of dread. It’s a suffocating feeling, and I gasp as I flee my own house. I call my daughter and tell her what’s going on.
“That’s anxiety,” she says.
Yes, of course it is. I know what’s coming, and everything in me tells me to run as far and as fast as I can. But I won’t do that. Instead I will live my life, waiting for that phone call, knowing it is coming.