How We Talked with Our Eyes and Our Hands
By Michael Kimball - Jul 20, 2018
The following is an excerpt from the novel Us by Michael Kimball, available from Tyrant Books here.
I woke up and she had woken up too. She had opened her eyes up, but she couldn’t turn her head to look at me in the other hospital bed. But I got up and went around to the end of her hospital bed so that she could see me too.
My wife looked so much brighter and more alive with her eyes open and looking back at me. I held onto her feet with my hands and she pushed her toes against them. She must have been smiling under that oxygen mask, but I didn’t know what to say to her, and she couldn’t talk again yet.
But we talked with our eyes and our hands and our feet. She lifted some of her fingers up enough so that it felt as if she were reaching for me. I walked over to the side of her hospital bed and closer to her arms, but she couldn’t lift her arms up yet then, so I lifted them up for her and put myself in them and put my hands and my arms around her too.
The nurse wanted to see if she could drink or swallow, but she couldn’t hold onto the cup of water or the pill that was supposed to keep her from having any more seizures. The nurse set the pill on my wife’s tongue and tipped some water from the cup into her mouth so that she could swallow it. Another nurse brought in a tray of soft food to see what else my wife could eat.
They fed her spoonfuls of chicken broth, oatmeal, and jello. They shook little clumps of ice chips into her mouth from a plastic cup and they put a straw into a little bottle of apple juice and the straw into her mouth to see if she could draw the apple juice out of the bottle. My wife could eat and drink enough that they could unhook the IVs and pull her tubes out, but somebody else was going to have to feed her and she needed to move more than she could then before we could go back home again.
I still had to move her arms and her legs for her so that they would still work when she could move them again for herself. I had to hold onto the cup of water or the bottle of apple juice, but she could put the straw into her mouth so that she could drink. She could hold onto a spoon, but she couldn’t move it to her mouth without spilling the food. But when I tried to feed her, the spoon trembled in my hand too. We were both afraid of her dying.
But there were so many small ways that my wife started to get better than she had been. She moved from eating soft food to solid food and to going to the bathroom inside the bathroom instead of into a bedpan or through tubes. She started to smile with both sides of her mouth and then with her whole face. She started to be able to move all of her fingers and both of her thumbs. She could lift her arms up and reach her hands out and touch me with them.
She could sit up in bed again, and then she could get up out of her hospital bed and stand up, but she had to hold herself up with her arms too. She couldn’t stand up with only her legs yet. But she could stand up with her walker before she could walk again, and then she could walk back and forth between her hospital bed and the bathroom, and then between the nurse’s station and her hospital room, and then all of the way around the floor of the hospital. She could walk and eat and breathe so much that they told us that she was better enough to go back home and try to do those things there.
Read more about Us.