Happy New Year

As we approached the automatic doors, I drew a tense breath. I feared what they would reveal when they opened. I’ve spent many nights in Emergency Rooms, and it’s never a pleasant experience.
I held my arm around Anne’s shoulders, and we walked into an empty room. A television hung from one wall, and Dick Clark counted down the remaining hours of 2002 for several empty chairs and a threadbare couch — the only occupants of the very small waiting room.
Anne pressed a towel to her mouth, hoping to slow the flow of blood. The shock was wearing off, and she was beginning to feel the pain.
I walked to the check-in window and thought, this is a fucked up way to spend New Year’s Eve.
Since the kids were with their dad, this New Year’s had presented Anne and me with several options. We could have attended numerous parties, eaten dinner in several restaurants, stayed home alone, or even walked to Colorado Blvd. and staked out a spot to watch the Rose Parade.
Two of our friends had recently bought a new house, and they were having a quiet gathering there. Most of our friends would be in attendance, so that’s where we went. Quiet and low-key would be the perfect way to end the year.
The evening had been pretty fun. A trip to the ER was the farthest thing from my mind as I played Munchkin with some of my friends, and Anne sat on the floor, trying to convince our friend’s new dog that he and Anne should be friends.
The dog, however, is the anti-Ferris: he’s really aggressive, and not good with people at all. He was recently rescued, and is still getting socialized around strangers. During the evening, he’d snapped at pretty much everyone there, and kept growling and barking at my friend Darin. Anne has the animal empathy of an 18th-level Druid Ranger, though, and she was determined to bring out the love in this animal.
She was doing a great job, too. She sat on the floor with him for close to two hours, calmly talking to him while his master held his leash, and the dog eventually relaxed. Everyone at the party was amazed, except for me. My wife is the very definition of boundless love, especially for animals. As soon as we were warned about the dog, I knew that Anne would have it eating out of her hand by the end of the evening.
While Anne continued to pet the dog, my friends and I prepared to follow up Munchkin with a rousing game of Naval War. We were laughing and fooling around, and then, like a bad made-for-cable movie, everything went horribly wrong.
I was holding the instructions in my hand, looking for the number of cards to be dealt, as my friend Cal shuffled them. KROQ was counting down the top 106.7 songs of 2002, and our friends Pat and Shane had just arrived. I heard the dog begin to growl at Darin, and thought nothing of it — he’d been growling at Darin all night long.
Then the dog barked, and I heard Anne’s voice cry out, shrill above the din of the party, “Wil!”
I turned, and saw something no husband would ever want to see (unless he was OJ Simpson): my wife was holding her mouth, as blood poured over her hand.
Anne went into shock, more from the emotional trauma than the wound, I thought. Before last night, Anne had taken 44 stitches in her face, and eight of them were not from a dog. When that dog bit her lip, Anne was five years old again, helpless and terrified.
We packed ice into a towel, pressed it against her mouth, and drove her to the hospital. Since it was empty, we got through triage and into a bed very quickly. While Anne was being prepared for closure, I walked out to the waiting room, to tell our friend Joe what her status was. He owns the dog, and he and his wife felt terrible about what had happened. We told him that he should go home to be with his wife at midnight, but he insisted that he stay with us until Anne was cared for.
As I walked to the waiting room, I passed an old man who was on a ventilator. A woman, possibly his daughter, sat at his feet, and leaned over the bed, clutching his legs. Sobs rocked her body. My heart went out to them, as I thought, “it’s just a dog bite. It could be so much worse.”I told Joe that we’d be leaving soon, and walked back to be with my wife. The doctor put six stitches into her lip, and we were out of the ER by 11:45 PM. We walked back into Joe’s house with 2 minutes remaining on the year. Anne drank a champagne toast, and we hugged our friends goodbye.
Joe and his wife walked us to the car, apologizing the entire way. We weren’t upset with them, and still aren’t. It wasn’t their fault. It was just a terrible accident. I thought back to that man on the ventilator, and told them that it could have been much, much worse.
We drove carefully back to our house. Each car on the freeway was a potential drunk driver, especially the one who was weaving across three lanes on the 210. I pointed to the car, a white Toyota, and told Anne that things like that made me wish I’d outfitted my car at Uncle Albert’s. She didn’t get it.
We were in bed by 12:30. Anne watched “Sex And The City” and I read “Watchmen.” We were asleep by 1. Yeah, this was not the way I planned on spending New Year’s Eve.
Anne woke me up in the middle of the night, crying. Her Advil had worn off, and she told me that the pain in her face reminded her of when she was a little kid. I wished that I could take her pain away from her, but I did the best that I could: I held her in my arms, and let her tears fall against my cheek and roll onto my pillow.
We fell back asleep, and slept until two Stealth Fighters flew over our house at 8 a.m. to start the Rose Parade.

253 thoughts on “Happy New Year”

  1. Shame to spend the New Year’s eve at the hospital. But hopefully a bit wiser, a bit older.
    Just don’t know about animals, can’t tell when they are going to do that to you… Then again, you can’t really tell if the person next to you is going to do that to you either. What the hell. Had a cat that clawed me, stripped a “tube” of flesh right out from my hand. Nice interested thing to look at until the shock came in. Had to have antibiotics shots all week. Thanks,

  2. Hello Mr. Wheaton. I came across you site from Rantbox.org. Saw your link and did a double take. I have to say that I was taken a back from how open … expressive you have made your site. Its different and has that personal touch. I am sorry to hear about your wife. Like you said it can always have been worse. I am sure you have better things to do then read all these so I will wrap up. But I like your site and will be back.
    God bless
    Corey

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