Lying in bed beside my husband of 45 years
I can feel the warmth of his strong body
as I listen to his quiet, steady breathing
and know that all is well with us.
Our body heat, reinforced by the quilt,
envelopes us like a cocoon.  It’s comforting.

But when I was lying on that hospital gurney
in the cool, brightly-lit emergency room
where he had taken me in a frantic hurry
in his car—the one that doesn’t like to start—
when I had those sudden, stabbing chest pains,
that was quite a different experience.

There was no body heat to warm me
so they brought two hospital blankets
and since it was the middle of the night
they turned off the lights in my cubicle.
While my blood was sent out for testing
he held my hand and we worried silently.

When he got up to go to the men’s room
I watched him walk through the curtains,
saw his halting, somewhat unsteady gait,
and realized suddenly that we are old.
Later, lulled by the quiet sounds of the staff,
we both dozed in the subdued light,

and as I drifted off I found myself
more frightened by unwelcome thoughts
than of the event that brought us there.
When he is no longer able to care for me,
or I for him, who will take care of us
now that we are old and frail together?

©2009 Dorothy Miller Gutenkauf