In Sickness and in Health
I was re-watching Obama’s historical speech when my husband got the phone call.
Obama was at the point when he was re-telling about his mother’s death and her combatting with her health insurance as she layed on her death bed when J came in to tell me that his co-worker’s husband was dying.
A few months ago Layla’s husband suffered a stroke and then a heart attack. He has been in the hospital for weeks in a coma. Her husband was retired and Layla was semi-retired, working a part-time job to help with incidentals since it was just the two of them now. When she wasn’t at work, she was by his side willing him to return to her.
“Are they sure he’s dying?” I’ve been through the death watch before when a close relative died from cancer nearly 10 years ago. A couple times they told us she would be gone by the end of the week only to have her last for six more months.
“Well, she’s been through it before,” J said. “She said the exact same thing happened to her son 10 years ago. They heard a rattle in his chest and put morphein under his tongue. It doesn’t look good.’
“She’s alone now,” I said. Her son was an only child and her husband was her closest family left.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be too shocked at her husband’s illness. Black women often outlive their husbands. I didn’t know that her husband was 20 years her senior; as lively and sprite as he was I thought that he was also in his 50s.
It’s time to cook. I often cooked for the older black women J worked with, they are nice and very funny. The last time I was on a muffin kick I baked so many J took them to work. Layla took them home to her husband who professed them to be the best muffins he ever had. J said if I baked the cinnamon rolls he would drop them off in the morning when he went to work.
“She’s not going to show up tomorrow morning. She’s going to be by her husband’s side.”
“She can’t afford to,” he then told me about how her husband’s sickness has put Layla into economic straits. Because they own property medicare told her she was worth too much for medical assistance.
“This is just wrong,” I said, angry and upset. “To make sure that her husband dies in comfort and peace she has to go into debt and possibly get ill herself from worry. That’s bullshit! It’s all a hustle. It costs a lot to be born and die and then they get you in between.”
“That’s life,” J said.
It’s still bull, I think. I think of how other’s thought she should pull the plug and I vow that when I die I don’t want big business to profit off of my death. But I know it’s not as easy if it was up to me to decide the fate of my husband or kids. When you love someone you hope for miracles because that’s all you will have.
J calls around to see if someone will work for Layla in the morning and I hope her missing those few days won’t put her into too much of a financial pinch. It’s still bull, I reflect as make a list of ingredients that I need for cinnamon buns, offering what little comfort I can.