My husband Craig and I – against all odds – met at Melbourne County Court on jury service. I was only 18 then; We have been married for almost 30 years now.
They’ve been largely good, prosperous, throughout the decade; But anyone who’s been around long enough knows that longevity comes with a price. That shiny, shiny wedding we drove out of the dealership in 1995 now has tons of miles on the meter, some visible scrapes, some mismatched panels. One of the biggest things is that I am a romantic, a great feeler, an announcer of every possible emotion. My husband, by contrast, is the strong silent type. Mostly silent. This has led to more than a few fights, I’ve accused him of not caring; His answer was that love is not a song and dance – it doesn’t have to be.
up to it. Not long into Melbourne’s first COVID-19 lockdown, Craig was in a bike accident.
We later determined that he had hit a stationary car (parked illegally in the bike lane) when he was coming down a hill at approximately 40 km/h. Both his helmet and bike were broken due to the collision. He was thrown from his toe clip and onto the road, where he was found by another cyclist after regaining consciousness.
“He’s not right,” the cyclist told me when I arrived at the scene. “I don’t think anything is broken, but he is really repetitive.” I work as a neuropsychologist: someone who assesses brain damage. Against Craig’s protests I was immediately taken to our local hospital.
Yet when we arrived at A&E, I was not allowed in with him. Covid protocol, I was told by a gown and masked nurse. I must go home; They’ll call me.
I started walking back to my car, but just then my mobile rang. It was Craig, who must have moved his phone to the back of his bike shorts.
“choke!” He called out when I answered. “What happened? I’m in the hospital. Why aren’t you with me?” I explained that I had brought him there, but I was not allowed inside because of the pandemic. He had an accident on his bike, but the doctor will take care of him and will come back to pick him up as soon as he’d let me go.
He seemed soft, and we hung up. Five minutes later he called again. This time he was crying.
“Choc! Where are you? Why aren’t you with me?” My stomach turned. Weeping My husband never cried. Not since 1995, when they did it twice: once at our wedding and again eight months later when Carlton won the premiership, a feat they have not managed since. “A good year,” Craig said at the time.
Will he still remember, or ever? I repeated my explanation, wracked with guilt, even though it was not my choice to leave him. “I wish you were here, Choc,” he said when I finished. “I need you.” He called twice more before I reached home; At least eight times before they finally took him to the whistle.
To my enormous relief it came back clear and Craig was discharged four hours later, completely himself again. On the way home I told that he had called me 10 times. His eyes widened in surprise.
“In fact?” He asked. “Are you sure?” I grabbed my phone, every incoming call listed. Huh,” he said, shaking his head. “I wouldn’t have believed you if you hadn’t shown me,,
I can’t believe it either: Craig, in tears, crying that he needed me.
Apart from a short, and potentially permanent, period of amnesia for an hour before and after his accident, he has made a full recovery. I am very grateful for this. But I am also thankful that he had an accident because there was no permanent damage.
Even though it tore his Lycra and threw his bike in the trash, it strengthened our marriage. To see my stoic, silent husband with his defenses, to hear my need, has been comforting.
Sometimes you are needed. Sometimes things have to be spoken out loud, not taken for granted, not taken for granted. His accident was, in a strange way, a renewal of our vows.
I wish that all marriages, especially long marriages, had such moments of vulnerability; To leave the defense, to be snatched right behind the bone.
His accident may still keep us alive for another 30 years.
Kylie Ladd’s novel I’ll Leave You With This is now released through Penguin Random House.
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