How to Hold a Vigil : Advice for the Anxious
I worry too much. I worry about stupid, insignificant things like work and doing the ironing, and whether my butt looks big in those skinny jeans I got last week. (It totally does, by the way. Stupid skinny jeans.) What a freakin’ idiot I am, no?
Terry is having an operation tomorrow. Now, it’s a fairly minor operation, to disconnect the fistula he used to receive dialysis through. It’ll be done under local anesthetic, he’ll be back home the same day, and really, this operation is a good thing. The fistula is being removed because Terry doesn’t need it anymore, and there’s really nothing to worry about here. Needless to say, I am going to worry anyway. I am probably going to worry A LOT. In fact, let’s make no bones about it: I am going to hold a vigil ALL day tomorrow. Want to join me?
Luckily (or “not so luckily”, depending on how you look at it), I am one of the world’s foremost authorities on holding vigils. I hold them a lot – more than you do, anyway. Terry late home from somewhere he’s been? Why, he has probably been killed in a car crash! Haven’t heard from the parents in a few days? They must be lying dead on the floor of their carbon-monoxide-filled home! Motorway pileup on the news? It will probably involve EVERY SINGLE PERSON I KNOW, even the ones that don’t live in this country. Yes, I worry a lot.
Of course, holding a vigil doesn’t help with the worrying one little bit. In fact, you could argue that it actually makes it a whole lot worse. I mean, you could argue that, but I wouldn’t care, because I know I’m going to do it anyway. Now, there are 7 basic stages to any given Vigil:
STAGE ONE : MILD ALARM
This stage involves nothing more taxing than looking at the clock a few times and thinking, “Hey, times a-movin’, wonder where <insert name of loved-one here> is? Possibly dead?”
STAGE TWO: GROWING ALARM
This stage follows hot on the heels of stage one, occurring at the point where it becomes impossible to ignore the non-appearance of The Loved One. You’re going to want to do some mild pacing here, taking in all of the windows of your house as you watch and listen for The Return of T.L.O. You should also pick up your phone a few times during this stage, just to make sure it’s still working. (It will be).
STAGE THREE : RAISING (the) ALARM
It’s now time to try and make contact with the missing person. At this point you will realise that your mobile phone, which is the only place all of your important numbers are stored, has run out of juice, so you’ll need to plug it into the charger, cursing as you do so. It won’t really matter, though, because once you’ve dialed the number, you’ll find that The Loved-One’s phone either rings out un-answered or goes straight to voicemail. (Leave a slightly hysterical message at this point if it does).
Defcon 1 alert: sometimes during this stage, if you are very unlucky, the phone will be answered but there will be no one on the other end. Feel free to crap yourself at this point because OMG, what if the injured loved one has just managed to pick up the phone but has passed out from the effort, WHAT IF?
STAGE FOUR : FULL-ON PANIC ATTACK
Heart palpitations, cold sweats, churning stomach, the runs…. Fun for all Vigil-holders!
STAGE FIVE : THE MAIN EVENT
Pour yourself a coffee, folks, because this is the main part of your Vigil and you could be here for some time. It’ll also give you something to throw up later, should the need arise. For this part of the Vigil, you’ll want to choose yourself a window to stand by. Experienced Vigilers will already know which window affords the best view of all approaches to the home: choose well, here, because this window is about to become your best friend.
STAGE SIX : CALLING IN REINFORCEMENTS
During particularly long vigils (i.e. That time Terry went to some bar to meet people from a business networking group he was in, and six hours later he still wasn’t home and other members of the group started posting messages saying, “Hey, I went to the bar like we agreed but there was was no one there – what happened?” This Vigil also included a Defcon 1 alert, in which I called Terry’s mobile and it was answered but there was no one there. GOD.) it may be necessary to call in reinforcements to talk you through the vigil and repeat the words, “I’m sure he’s just lost track of time” several times per minute. When you’re calling other people out on a Vigil, it’s best to choose people who are, themselves, experienced vigil holders. In fact, to be perfectly honest, it’s best to call my mum. Don’t, though: she’s got enough on her plate with all of my vigils, give the woman a break.
STAGE SEVEN : STANDING DOWN THE VIGIL
Obviously, this stage is only reached when the Loved One’s car pulls into the driveway. Congratulations! You made it through your first vigil! Have a cookie! And also: a strong brandy.
So yes, this is what I’ll be doing tomorrow between the hours of noon and whatever time Terry gets out of theatre. Why yes, I do feel a bit stupid about it, but hey, I didn’t choose the Vigil, the Vigil chose me. And, on the plus side, holding a Vigil like this certainly helps get things in perspective for you: like the ironing and the Project O’ Doom and those skinny jeans (which seriously, I think give me a bit of muffin top). There’s nothing focuses the mind quite like having someone you love go through an operation, and while yes, this is a good operation, an “end of an era” operation, getting rid of the last remaining symbol of the time Terry spent on dialysis, it also serves to bring that time back to me in horrible, Technicolor close-up.
I always told myself that I would never let myself forget That Time, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I rarely think of it these days. It feels like something that happened to someone else, and I can’t quite decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. When I do think about it I tend to find myself overwhelmed by the thought what if it happens again? I don’t like to think about that too much, but maybe I should, because lately I’ve been letting myself get bogged down and hacked off with work and with all of those other things that don’t really matter, when the reality is that, compared with the way things were when Terry was ill, we’re actually living the dream here, folks. Really.