I hang up the phone unsure of what to do next. I let our host at the trendy Jamaican wine bar escort the three of us to our table before it sinks in. “My grandpa had a heart attack,” I whisper.
“Is he…?” Ryan trails off. “Should we…?” I don’t know if it’s the news or the lack of sleep that prevents him from finishing his sentences, but then he springs into action and apologizes, excusing us from the table. The ride to the hospital feels insufferably long, the radio drowned out by the same unrelenting newborn cries that keep us up at night.
We arrive to watch them wheel his unconscious body into the OR, and the rest of the evening is a disorienting blur of code blues and big doctor words. My grandmother, his faithful companion for nearly six decades, wonders aloud if she could have made it to the phone to dial 9-1-1 sooner.
“You did everything you could,” I say.
She nods. The weight of our held breaths makes the room feel oppressively silent.
“I don’t know how much longer we can wait,” Ryan finally groans, the toll of new parent fatigue and a vending machine dinner evident in his voice. “I have to work in the morning.”
Streetlights whir by as I struggle to keep my eyes open, and my mind battles the increasingly likely worst-case-scenario. I picture my grandfather lying unconscious on a hospital room bed, his heart giving way to his age, and my chest tightens in solidarity. I play out scenes in my head from the original Snow White storybook he read to me so many times as a child, until finally, the wicked queen meets her demise, and we pull into our driveway, the babe asleep in his carseat. Ryan carries his little body into the house. I follow close behind with an embarrassing amount of baby gear towering above me. I stand alone in the laundry room, wearily letting diaper bag straps fall from my shoulders.
“I’m so sorry,” Ryan turns the corner and pulls me into his chest. My left ear presses against his shirt pocket, and I can hear his heart beating. Thump, thump, thump, thump. In this moment, with the persistent thud of my husband’s healthy heart in my ear, I can only feel grateful. Strong and steady: thump, thump, thump, thump. I return his squeeze, and commit this moment – standing silently together in our unkempt laundry room – to memory. The smell of warm dryer sheets, thump, junk mail fliers littering the floor, thump, and dim light filtering in from the kitchen, thump thump, because I know one day, hopefully many years from now, I may sit next to his hospital bed, longing for the quiet beating of his heart.