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I Owed Her

Story ID:7362
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Biography
Location:Fort Lee New Jersey USA
Year:2003
Person:Georgia
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I wrote this to submit to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Caregiver.

I Owed Her

I worked in New Jersey for a year and was happy my wife Georgia and our son
Justin would soon be with me. Georgia stayed in Ohio for our daughter Vanessa to complete her senior year of high school. Justin stayed with them.

Before I moved to New Jersey, I suspected Georgia ill, but she wouldn’t talk. I
respected her privacy. She’d talk when she wanted. I flew home every month. Georgia
looked worse each time.

“Georgia!” I warned. “You need to see a
doctor.”

“No one is cutting me open!” she growled.

I said no more. She’d lost family members to cancer. She was afraid of the
disease.

Vanessa graduated. I flew for her. Georgia looked horrible. I went to Vanessa’s
graduation alone. The graduates accepted their diplomas. I was a proud dad, but my heart
ached. Georgia should have been there.

Vanessa settled. She had a place to live and was ready for the adventures of
college. A few months later, I flew home to move Georgia and Justin to New Jersey.
Georgia was in the hospital for a transfusion. Her liver had failed because of alcohol.

“Georgia, do you want me to wait until you are well enough to travel.”

She sighed. “Move! Justin needs to start school. I’ll be OK. I’ll come as soon as
they let me out of here.”

I hesitated, agreed.

Back in New Jersey, the days turned into weeks. Georgia remained in the hospital.

Three weeks later, my phone rang. “Hello?”

“Mr. Smith?”

“Yes?”

“This is Georgia’s case worker.”

“Yes?”

“Mr. Smith, Georgia’s kidneys have failed. We gave her dialysis today. You
need to arrange a flight for her tomorrow and have her at the dialysis center near you
the day after?”

My mind reeled, but I went into action. I booked a flight, called our daughter,
explained what needed to be done and was in the airport the next day waiting for my wife
to arrive.

They wheeled Georgia around the corner in a wheelchair. My jaw dropped.
She’d aged thirty years in only a few weeks. Her hair hung like old straw from her
head. The slippers on her feet did nothing to hide her swollen feet and ankles.

“What happened to the beautiful woman I married?” I asked myself.

I hid my surprise and smiled. She gave me a weak wave and smile in return.

“Hi, Hun! I so happy you got here.”

“It’s so good to be with you again.” she said.

I took control of the wheelchair and rolled her through the to our car, where I
opened the door.

Georgia looked up at me with sorrow. I realized with horror: she couldn’t stand
on her own. Tears filled my eyes, but I refused to let her see them. I helped her out of the
chair and into the passenger seat.

On the way home, I tried to engage her in cheerful banter, “Wait till you see
Manhattan across the Hudson River at night. The lights are mesmerizing.” I realized she
wasn’t interested. Georgia was scared.

“Are there stairs?”

“In Manhattan? There are many stairs, Hun.”

“No! I mean at the house you got.”

“Of course!”

“Oh …OK!” She fell silent.

We pulled into our driveway. “Welcome to your new home, Hun!”

She stared at the ten steps leading to the front door and said nothing.

I held her arms and helped her stand. With effort, I helped her walk to the
first step. She tried, but couldn’t lift her leg. I lifted it for her, but got her only to the
second step, before she had to sit.

I called for Justin. “Justin! Son! I need your help.”

Together, we got her to the landing by the door. Her strength failed. Georgia
dropped to her hands and knees.

We tried everything to get her up, but she was too weak. Justin ran to his room.
I sat with her, trying to convince her I needed to call 911, but she didn’t want that. A lady
walking in the street said she was a nurse and came to help. We got Georgia into a sitting
position. She convinced Georgia we needed 911.

Georgia refused go to the hospital. They carried her into the house and made her comfortable on the sofa.

He cried to me later. “Dad, what happened? That’s not my mom down there!
What happened to her?” I had no answer for him.

The next day, I couldn’t get her to her feet. I called 911 again. Two policemen
came and helped me get her to the bathroom and down the stairs to the car.

At the dialysis center, a case worker arranged for ambulance transport to and from
the center and advised me how to get for home care.

At home, I added cushions to the sofa. If she sat higher, I’d be able to get her to
her feet easier.

I borrowed a walker from the fire department. Georgia and I developed a system.
I lifted her legs, swung them over the side of the sofa, took her hands in mine and twisted
her into a sitting position, then bend down, hug her under her arms, whisper “I love you.”
and lift her to her feet. She used the walker to get to the bathroom, but still needed my
help with her pants, sitting, wiping, and standing again.

This went on for a several weeks. However, as time went on, she became weaker.
and hallucinated: talked to people who weren’t there. She no longer used the walker on
her own and often lost control of her bodily functions. I had to hold her as she made her
way to the bathroom. I was a wreck trying to keep up with a busy job, dealing with my son and taking care of her. My hands shook, and I had trouble concentrating.

Four weeks after she moved to New Jersey, she had trouble holding her food and
drink down. When I arrived home from work that evening, she was crying. I asked,
“What’s wrong, Hun?”

“I fell down.”

“You couldn’t have. How did you get back on the sofa?”

“I fell off my horsy.”

I called 911. At the hospital, she was diagnosed with a severe infection.

The next morning, the doctor asked. “Mr. Smith, how do you feel about life
support?”

“It’s that bad?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“My wife and I agreed we would never want to be on life support.”

“Mr. Smith, I understand, but sometimes it’s needed for a short time to get
someone over a hump.”

Later that day, she was put into a drug induced coma and connected to life support. A week later she was gone.

My heart was torn. She was gone, but she was also not suffering. The decision
to turn off life support was the hardest one of my life, but I knew it was want she would
want. I missed her so much and would have continued our routine of bathroom breaks,
cleaning her and loving her for as long as it took. She was my wife and love for twenty
years. I owed her that and would do it again.

Michael T. Smith