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The Great Buttermilk War


DSCN4939Jack is in the hospital and he and I are fighting over buttermilk. I kid you not.

Here’s a little background for you.

Over the last few months, it has become increasingly difficult for Jack to breathe until even walking across the room left him struggling for breath, then even just standing up got him gasping.

We returned from a visit to the VA with the knowledge that his heart rate was irregular and slow. We also obtained a promise of an echo cardiogram in a month’s time. That night Jack had pain that ran across the back of his neck, down both arms, across his chest and into his abdomen.

He went to the ER by ambulance. He was taken to the local hospital because the VA did not have a bed for him. Within hours of his being admitted to the heart ward, an echo cardiogram had been done as well as a catheter heart procedure which revealed that an upper chamber of his heart was not able to pump blood out like it should. I am still fuzzy as to how, but apparently this defect causes fluid to build up around the lungs which is what is causing his shortness of breath.

For the first time in twenty-five years of hospital visits and emergencies with his health, we have a diagnosis that is less about an acute problem that can be solved and more of a long-term, chronic condition that may well end up killing him.

Both Jack and I are scared.

We deal with fear in polar opposite ways.

Fear makes Jack desperate to be the center of my universe, as though my acknowledgement of his central importance will convince the gods that they cannot take him. I, on the other hand, am desperate to know that my life will, in fact, go on if I lose him.

You see the issue.

This inconsistency in our methods has started The Great Buttermilk War.

He called from the hospital. “Bring me a quart of buttermilk when you come up.”

“What?” I pulled myself out of the lovely world I was building on my computer screen, a scene with its own problem, none of which involved a husband, the love of my life, in the hospital. “Buttermilk?”
I’m slow to catch on when jerked from one world into another.

“Yeah. The nurses don’t have any and I need some.”

“No, I’m not sneaking you buttermilk. They’re feeding you what they want you to have.”
Jack is well over a hundred pounds too heavy. This extra weight contributes directly to his high blood pressure, his diabetes and now it seems to this damn heart condition which may rob me of him. I went, not only from one world into another, but from calm and reasonable to fighting mad in less than ten seconds.

“I asked the nurses and they said it was okay.”

“You don’t need buttermilk. Besides, how are you going to refrigerate it?” Yes, I know, here is where I messed up.  Never negotiate with a Marine.

“The nurses will keep it in their refrigerator for me.”

So, I closed out my computer and swung by the local neighborhood Walmart. No buttermilk. I asked the friendly clerk. Nope, they usually carry it but there was evidently a run on the disgusting crap. Sorry, no offense meant to those lovers of buttermilk, but yuck.

At the hospital Jack was sitting up in bed.
“You bring my buttermilk?”
His first words. I swear to you. His very first words to me.

I told him why I didn’t have any buttermilk for him. We talked about what his doctor had said. For about thirty seconds. He picked up his cell phone, called two of his buddies, Marty and Jim, both it goes without even saying, Vietnam combat vets.
Three guesses what he asked them to do. The first two guesses don’t count.

Before my head exploded or I said something I couldn’t take back, I left to walk with a friend.

When I came back to the hospital, I ran into Marty who was trying to talk a young Vietnamese nurse into marrying him at 4:00 that afternoon. Two quarts of buttermilk rested in a bed of ice in a bedpan.

Combat vets. You gotta love em.

21 thoughts on “The Great Buttermilk War

  1. The writing of this story is as always – terrific, but the story itself is difficult. I hope the Buttermilk War has an ‘improved’ outcome .

  2. Praying Jack will get well soon and return to you. I know what you mean about Buttermilk, I hate the stuff but my husband loves it!

  3. Hang tough, Pam. You’re a combat vet yourself – just not the kind who gets any medals – and the munitions used are words, bedpans, and buttermilk. This time. You and Jack are both in our thoughts and prayers.

  4. I understand this, Pam. I lost my first husband to a heart attack, so I tend to worry about my current husband’s health. He seems to be doing great in spite of a huge family history of heart disease, diabetes, and being 40 pounds over his load limit. I’m the one with all the doctor visits, quarterly tests and radiology adventures but I worry more about him than myself. Does he worry? Not to my knowledge. He laughs his way through each day and expects us both to live until 100, with all of our faculties about us.He is my rock, but I know I would manage without him if I had to and he without me. We are trying to plan things that would make that event easier for both of us. In the meantime, we are thankful for each day and enjoy it to the fullest. There is an occasional “buttermilk” day, but that’s soon over and we’re on to the next one.
    You and your sweet Jack may have many a moon left together. Only God knows what’s in store. Live your life. Don’t waste it on worrying. It doesn’t change a thing.
    BTW: I’m a fan of buttermilk, but my husband hates it so much he can’t stand to see the empty glass with all of those globby stripes in it. It’s a small issue in the whole scheme of things.

  5. Hang in there! Buttermilk pending, you two can get through this. I remember when Huey went to the VA – for something completely unrelated to his heart – and in the ambulance, they “thought”, (don’t you just hate it when they “think”?), his heart was having an episode, so the VA wouldn’t take him, and he too was sent to the hospital Jack is in. The VA here don’t take anything in their ER to do with the heart, or so we were informed at the time. Huey’s heart was fluctuating BECAUSE he was sick – not the other way around, so all was good and that particular problem has been fixed, once he was back in the VA after the other found nothing wrong with his heart…
    We are having issues of a different variety now with his health, but I won’t put that up here. Suffice to say, I completely understand and am rooting for the pair of you xox

  6. You perfectly describe the dilemma of the chasm between the way you’re dealing with this and the way Jack is dealing with it, again, it such an honest and human way. I myself am a buttermilk lover, so I can understand why Jack might find it comforting, yet, I agree, it’s probably not the best thing for him right now. Funny what can end up symbolizing comfort and love. I sure would have liked to see a picture of that very unique bedpan cooler. 🙂

    Love you, Pam, and keeping you both in my prayers.

  7. When a man asks for buttermilk it’s a sure sign he’s getting better. It sounds like you are both handling this problem beautifully–him like a warrior and you like an artist.

  8. Granddaddy loved buttermilk, was hard-headed, opinionated, and way over weight. Since we had a cow, Mama churned weekly and had buttermilk for both the old folks. Granddad lived a long time.

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