Thursday, April 17, 2008

On Not Writing

About six weeks ago, my husband fell seriously ill. It was a Sunday night. He’d been complaining all day about having a terrible headache. When I reached our family doctor, he said to keep a close eye on him. About 7 PM I went in to rouse him from a nap and talk about what we would do for dinner. He woke up completely disoriented and talking nonsense—Dr. Seuss words, I called them. Another conversation with our physician resulted in my calling EMS. The consensus was that he was having a stroke.

It turned out they were wrong, thank God. A viral infection—encephalitis, of all things—and his brain was swollen. After four days, I brought him home from the hospital, and the long road to recovery began. Just now, in the last week or so, he has begun to return to someone vaguely resembling his former laughing, wisecracking self.

Scared the hell out of me, I can tell you. It was the first time in our nearly 36 years of marriage that either one of us had spent a night in a hospital bed.

During his first days at home, he slept a lot in his recliner, and I thought I could steal perhaps a half hour at a time to catch up on my work-in-progress, the ninth Bay Tanner mystery. But what I discovered was that . . . I couldn’t do it. I reread the nearly 150 pages I’d already completed to get myself back in the groove, but the words wouldn’t come. For the past ten years I’d been able to slip seamlessly into that world of my own creation, to leave my den and my computer and follow Bay around Hilton Head Island and the rest of Beaufort County, South Carolina. I’d leaped into Bay’s head, seen the world through her lens, like a movie unwinding behind my eyes. But now it wouldn’t come.

I told myself it was stress, that in a couple of days things would get back to normal. But they didn’t. Time after time I sat and stared at the screen, unable to give myself over to a fictional world, even one of my own making. And then it dawned on me. Real life was very real at that moment. “The world is too much with us,” Wordsworth wrote, and that seemed to describe my feelings to a T.

I’d been one of those authors who earnestly declared to anyone who would listen, “I have to write. I just don’t feel complete if I’m not knee-deep in a project.” So much for that. What I’ve discovered over the past six weeks is that I can not write. I have more important things on my mind. I have serious responsibilities shepherding my husband back to good health. When all that’s straightened out, I have no doubt I’ll be able to get back to my usual routine. Until then, I’m not writing, and that’s okay.

We went to the park today and tossed a softball around. My husband wants to get back in shape for the senior league which will be starting spring practice next week.

And that’s more than okay.

Kathy Wall grew up in a small town in northern Ohio. She and her husband Norman have lived on Hilton Head Island since 1994. Her 8th Bay Tanner mystery, The Mercy Oak, will be released April 29 by St. Martin’s Press

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness your husband is okay. My heart goes out to you.