The wheels of the gurney squeaked as I watched them roll my husband, the love of my life, away. The operating ante-room had floor to ceiling draping which segmented off several privacy areas for consulting physicians and their patients. We were at the Maine Medical hospital in Portland. The young heart surgeon, Dr. Quinn, pulled no punches. The operation in question was to replace an aortic heart valve. The words from our medical professional, garbed in pale blue scrubs and a matching cap, were not exactly encouraging.

“You have a 35 percent chance of not getting off that operating table” he told Bill. “For most people it’s about 5 percent. I want you to understand that going in.”

If the surgery was successful, it would buy us a few more years, making it worth the risk. As they wheeled my husband away, he blew me a kiss and waved and I wondered if that would be the last time I would see him alive.

Waiting in the hospital during a loved one’s operation is never fun. I could see, though, that an effort had been made by someone to make the waiting room homey; but the light was all wrong. It was too bright to be a home. The couches were worn and a shapeless slipcover in a distasteful shade of brown covered the more egregious stains. The tables were marred. The shag rug was way out of date and the odor of stale doughnuts was apparent as soon as one walked into the space. We, the waiting, anxiety-ridden, relatives held our vigil. When the wall phone rang, one of us had to answer it and the appropriate family member would then receive permission to visit their loved one in the recovery room. But before even that could even happen, we had to wait for the surgeon to arrive and give us the play-by-play report on the surgery.

Two of my stepsons had made the trip up to Portland to carry on the vigil with me. Woody, the youngest, had driven up from Connecticut. One of the most successful of our blended family with six kids, Woody, paced the floor, all five-foot-eight and quarter-inch of him. Larry, our second eldest son, had come two days earlier from Vermont. Hours passed and still no Dr. Quinn. The boys were laughing and joking, telling funny stories about their Dad. I did my best to match their nonchalance, but I was only marginally successful. We were feeling an undercurrent of fear as we waited for word. I was just about to take a Xanax when our interminable wait was almost over. Woody laughed and said to Larry “I guess Nancy is not as strong as we think she is!”

Dr Quinn finally appeared. As he walked toward us in that crowded room, he was smiling from ear to ear. We all heaved a great sigh of relief. The news was good. Dr. Quinn shook our hands and informed us that we would soon be able to visit Bill in the recovery room. After all the waiting, to have to wait even more was infuriating. Our turn finally came and we three went into recovery. It was a series of white curtains hanging from rods like shower curtains. Each patient has his or her own private space. Much like the ante-rooms they inhabited prior to surgery. The boys reassured themselves that their father had, indeed, survived and they left.

I was alone with Bill in a curtained off space that had nothing more than a gurney and a patient. My husband, all six feet three inches of him, reposed under the sheet. That handsome face with the Hemingway beard and horseshoe of white hair circling his leonine head, appeared to be sleeping with a smile on his face. The gurney was raised up to waist height for me. I bent my head down to be right next to his ear, and I started to sing our song: ”I’ve got a crush on you, sweetie pie, all the day and nighttime hear me sigh” and before I knew it, Bill was singing along with me.””I’ve got a crush on you, sweetie pie, all the day and nighttime hear me sigh.”

As I listened to him,  I turned my head to the left slightly and there were three or four nurses looking on our duet scene with open mouths. More nurses gathered around the curtained opening and looked on in amazement. Patients in the recovery room were not expected to serenade the staff. Bill and I sang the final verse, “I have got a crush, my baby, on you.” And they applauded.

Nancy and her husband, Bill, retired to the Midcoast in 1998 from New Jersey.  They have a blended family of six children and 13 grandchildren.  Many recognize Nancy from the Food Network, which covered the Lobster Festival Cooking contest in 2001 when she won first prize for her lobster scampi.  Nancy is currently the president of the Rockport Garden Club.