Updated: Aug 2, 2021
“ And lying here, on Valentine’s Day, on the cardiac unit of NYU, literally with a broken heart, I have never felt so alone. I envy him. I envy that sick old man with that old lady’s hand on his shoulder."
In the darkness of the middle of the night, the elderly man in the other bed would cry out in his sleep “Mema! Meeema..” over and over with desperation. Disoriented, he would wet himself and angrily push away the multiple nightly intrusions of pressure cuffs, needles and thermometers. The second day, I returned from my tests to find him sitting up in a chair, relaxed and watching television, a cup in his hand, things I did not know he could do. Beside him sat a short, round woman in a black dress, a loosely veiled look of worry on her face, her hand on his shoulder. Her sister came through the door and pulled the curtain closed between us. “Mema,” she said, “they said he can’t go home today.” So this was Mema. He had been crying out at night for his wife, unable to function without her after a long lifetime of children and grandchildren and vacations and dinners and struggles and laughter. She was here now, and so was he, and when she wasn’t, he was lost. They love each other. And lying here, on Valentine’s Day, on the cardiac unit of NYU, literally with a broken heart, I have never felt so alone. I envy him. I envy that sick old man with that old lady’s hand on his shoulder. And I hope. I hope to live long enough not only to yell out the name of someone I love so deeply into the dark of my loneliness, but to experience what it is like to find that someone seated next to me in the reality of the next day’s morning light.