If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything.
"And then, they took me into the intimidation room where they ... they pulled out this big scary machine and started to torture me," he said as his eyelids drooped slowly again. I held his hand and brushed my fingers gently over his forehead and back into his hair.
"That must have been so scary, honey!" I said as I winked at the nurse checking his vitals. "You're so brave, sweetheart."
My husband Jim had gone in for a medical procedure and was now in the recovery room waiting for the anesthesia to wear off. He was normally strong, coherent, and rational, but today he was a groggy, grown man sitting like a toddler, wrapped in a blanket with both legs out straight. His tennis shoes were untied and dangling off the bed and he had both hands wrapped around a 7UP he was happily slurping from a bendy straw.
When I first walked into the recovery room, he was mimicking a fighter pilot with his arms out—floating over a terrain of twists and turns, dipping his head to go down into valleys and then nodding his chin upwards toward the hospital ceiling to fly over the imaginary peaks.
Every five minutes or so, he'd ask how I was, wondered about the dog who happened to be waiting in the car, expressed his deep desire for pizza, and told me about a nurse who apparently had very hairy arms. Each round of questioning brought him a step closer to consciousness as I assured him once again that the dog and I were both fine, pizza would be the first stop on the way home, and it wasn't nice to talk about someone's arms that way.
Internally I giggled at his imaginative and expressive stories and secretly wished I'd brought the video camera so he could laugh along with me once he finally came back to earth. His ability to make me laugh, even in the most trying circumstances, has been a form of anesthesia that has served to ease some of the pain felt over the years from lost loved ones, unexpected illness, and a multitude of other nuisances life has thrown our way. It has been a glue formed by a mixture of secret stories, inside jokes, winks across a crowded room, devilish smirks in the middle of dinner with the grandma, and endless silly pranks.
Though generally his teasing and trick playing are benign, I wasn't so sure about the effects of the medications he was under at the moment. So far, the anesthesia had been a truth serum, rendering useless any filtering devices that would have normally kept his random and sometimes inappropriate and socially awkward comments in check. For a moment I worried that it wouldn't be long until he started in on how much weight I'd gained since we got married, how horrible of a cook I'd turned out to be, or any of the other countless quirks I contribute to the marriage.
But he never mentioned any of that. Instead, he jabbered for a while about pizza and the dog and then remarked that the scrubs one of the nurses was wearing were so blue they hurt his eyes. I tried to shush him, but he turned towards me and mentally stopped dead in his tracks.
"You are so beautiful!" he exclaimed through the glaze in his eyes. I started to blush and then noticed a shade of worry suddenly panning across his face. He leaned close and whispered, "Am I a good husband to you?"
"Oh, honey." I smiled, feeling a piece of my heart melt. "Of course you're a good husband! I could never ask for anyone better," I promised.
"Are you sure? I mean, I don't ever want to sell you short," he said.
Then, with intense concentration, he grabbed my hand and pulled me close to him. I bent down and waited expectantly for another heartfelt sentiment. He thought deeply for a moment and then said, "You know, on second thought, I think I'd like a milkshake instead of pizza." He mused, sitting back and falling into his trance again.
"Sure, sweetie." I laughed and thought I should have seen that one coming. "We can get you a milkshake."
Though he doesn't remember anything from that day, I will always look back and smile when I think about it. We left the hospital with more funny stories than I can count, but what sticks with me a few years later is the fact that even the most powerful drugs couldn't keep him from pronouncing his care and concern for me. When his inhibitions were lowered and the verbal filter was broken, he was still gracious, kind, and compassionate towards me. Amidst the conflict between a milkshake and pizza and imagining airplanes and intimidation rooms, deep down in his core, there was a man who still cherished me above all else.