He was seriously starting to piss me off. I said I was fine, I said it was too cold, I said I didn’t want to go. So Scott put on his swim vest and joined the others in the snorkeling pool, periodically rising to say ”it’s so pretty, c’mon out” but my feet were rooted to the sand, my ass to the rock and my mind to the hospital room with my mother. I could hear the respirator breathe for her. I could hear the moistness of the tubing and the machine clicking the numbers. And then he would pop up again and ask me to look at the size of this stingray. But I could only see the size of her hands as they swelled, could only hear that breathing.
Then he really got obnoxious and asked “please.” For God’s sake, we are adults and rarely have to use those kinds of tactics on each other. “Please join me, please go get a wetsuit. Please .“ I nodded yes, but my mind was screaming “don’t you know I can’t breathe with that, I will die, I will drown, I will never wake up?” but I went to the wetsuit hut, stomping as much as I could in sand. Then I wandered slowly back, knowing he would have forgotten me, long gone with the group and the fish. I could sit back on my rock, safely breathing.
But he looked up and then left the water to zip up my suit. He took my hand and led me to the water. He stayed with me while I got acustomed to the temp. He arranged my goggles and attached my snorkel. He said we were ready. Just go under. Just dip your face under. I started to and realized with panic that I couldn’t breathe. I forgot how, I wasn’t even under the water, I couldn’t catch my breath, I needed out. And he stopped me.
“Just Breathe normally.”
What? Completely radical instructions. I was looking for the way to stay alive, to keep from getting water in the goggles, in the tube, in my lungs. I was looking how to not do whatever would make those machines start. I looked into his eyes, followed his steps, and breathed normally. And it worked. And I didn’t die and I didn’t hear machines. I saw fish.
I still sputtered a couple of times and I did hyperventalate when I forgot how to breathe normally…. Then I got back on track. And I swam with fish today, 3 weeks after my mother died. I thought of her all day. I thought of how I hated that she stopped living long before machines did her breathing. And I am so deeply grateful for a husband who refused to let me do the same thing.