It was the typical Friday afternoon… I was kicking my feet up and down underneath my computer desk, counting down the minutes until my weekend officially began. The sunshine was streaming through the office windows, and everyone was in a stellar mood. Why not? It had been a short week, the weekened was here, and the weather outside was perfect.
The phone rang, and I straightened a bit as I reached for the button to turn on my head set.
“Hello, thank you for calling, this is Nicole, how can I help you?” I stated professionally, so used to this phrase that I didn’t even think about it before I murmured the words.
An unfamiliar voice came on the line. “Nate wants to talk to you.”
I didn’t have time to process this unusual statement before a different man came on the line. Stuttering. Sounding drunk or as though he had cotton in his mouth. I couldn’t make out what he said or who he was… until he stuttered, “let me put the captain on.”
Wait, what? Had that been my husband on the line?
I don’t talk about my husband’s job much, for security purposes. He works in a prison. And yesterday, I received the phone-call I’ve always dreaded. My husband had been assaulted by a prisoner.
The drive to the hospital was the longest 45 minutes I’ve ever experienced. But it gave me enough time to clench my jaw and to push down the tears as far as they could be pushed. I knew that he would need me to be strong.
In the ER, I found him sitting on a stretcher, his left eye swollen shut, his lips cut up, the entire side of his face puffy and bruised, his nose two sizes larger than normal. When our eyes met, his good eye welled up a minute. And I knew that I had to be strong.
So there, in the ER, I began to jump up and down Rocky fashion, my fists clenched, teasingly chanting, “Okay, point out who did this to you. Where’s the other guy? Let me at him!”
Inside, I was shaking. This was happening just days after the one-year anniversary of my Memere’s death. Just a year ago, I had been in the same hospital to say goodbye to someone I loved dearly. And here I was again, the sights and sounds the same. I wanted to gag when he struggled to talk but couldn’t because of the cuts on his lips. I wanted to curl up on the floor and put my head between my legs. I wanted to throw my arms around my neck, but didn’t know where to touch him without it hurting. So I could only hold his hand…
Honestly, God’s strength alone held me up. Didn’t let me fall. Gave me control over emotions that would have otherwise left me unable to deal with an extremely difficult situation. And He protected my husband from a beating that could have been much worse.
The afternoon felt like an eternity, as we spent hours waiting in the ER. We had some important visitors stop by to make sure that he was okay. A guy that Nate works with kept us company. But I breathed a huge sigh of relief when we were finally walking out of the hospital and climbing into my little yellow car. Finally, we were going home together.
Nate’s sleeping now… He was up for most of the night, unable to sleep because his broken nose made it difficult to breathe. His left eye is black and swollen shut. He can’t close his jaw, so I’ve been feeding him smoothies and chocolate soy milk.
The guy is going to take days to heal, both physically and mentally. But I know he’s strong. And when he isn’t feeling strong? I’ll be here with him, every step of the way.
I love you, Nate.