April 14th, 2003
During the day, there are so many visitors. Friends and family come. They bring me beautiful gifts of flowers and vases and stuffed animals and toiletries and inspirational presents too. My bedside table and the window sill overflow. I am touched. And I try to spruce up, smile and not use my suction too much. I am getting many cards too. It is overwhelming how fast the word spread and how many people reach out with best wishes. (In my head I think about the gifts, calls and cards: I am 30 and unmarried and a renter. So I have had no showers or housewarming parties. And this is the way I get all the “stuff” and attention that my friends get. Nasty selfish, ungrateful thoughts, but they are mine.)
I think about my PT and OT and Speech sessions. It is about 1 and ½ hours per day. I wish it were all day. That is the way to get human again. I want more of that. But I one get 1 slot a day. So while it is great to see people who know me and care about me, I admit that while I am with them I am thinking about my therapies. When can I try to be human again? When can I be with the folks that don’t know me? Medical staff don’t wish me to be just like I was. They want me to get better, from where I am now. They don’t remind me of what I can’t do. They make me feel safe. I think about that when I look into the eyes of my visitors. I try to avoid eye contact with family and friends. I need to avoid their looks of pity and I can’t let them see my abject feeling of failure in my soul.
Somedays, my family visit all together. And the room is not going to be able to seat us comfortably. So we go to the Atrium. In my hospital, down near the Dunkin Donuts, there is an atrium. The walls are glass, it is 3 stories tall, with trees, waterfall, a walking track and even some birds that have come inside. You can sit at tables with umbrellas and have coffee and snacks. So we sit: my Jean Granny (the one who had the stroke. She walks in. She eats and she has coffee. And she goes home.) My aunt and uncle are there. My dad came from England. My Cuzzin comes from the Cape. And my mom is there too. They all come, drink coffee and have bagels perhaps. And at the end of the visit, they walk out and go home. Not me.
And so I wonder about this special time with my family. It is wonderful to be with them, in one place. I memorize the visit; not just drooling over what they all eat and drink, but the colorful ensembles they wear, the smells of home cooking on their clothes, the plentiful pet fur that travels with all the best people, the strong hands around my shoulders, and the loving sparkling eyes. These are the people I love most in the world. And I know they cherish me. And yet I feel shame about myself. They are ALL my elders. All of them. I am the only child and only grandchild on both sides of my family. I am the end of the line. And I am the one in the hospital? I am the one who can’t eat? I am the youngest. Some hope for the future I am. What future?
April 14th 2016
Here is the proof. I didn’t kill all the red tulips. I am just not that powerful. Last week I was playing Mother Nature by taking the snow off the plants. Then I was playing God by saying they were dead. Two big roles, not mine. Way to get me right sized, and smiling. “Life is funny,” I say as I shake my head at the very much alive bloom. I am repeating a treasured line of my Jean Granny. She had so many. I stored the words and her saying them, in my mind knowing at the time, that she was right. What she said was true, and smart and important. We would sit on her bench in the garden in fair weather of close to the wood stove in foul. Jean Granny would tell a story and say “life is funny” as the closer of the tale. And the line is still perfect.
I smile at the flower and head inside. I am still on cloud 9 from speaking at my hospital the other day. To say what so many stroke survivors can’t, to say thank you, to tell my story in a way that “moves them,” as they shared with me, is a priceless gift to me. But, I am also exhausted, to the bone tired. At school we are gearing up for vacation and then PARCC testing right after. Our wonderful student teacher is going to pass the torch back to me, have her last day this week, complete tests at college, graduate and head off to find her own classroom. And we are better for time with her. At home we are trying a new recipe for supper, cheeseburger pie. Jason has homework, time to play with friends, baseball practice, and new forms to learn in Tae Kwon Do. Tim is busy with fixing computers, ordering parts, designing systems, our taxes, coordinating camera systems and hopefully putting the electrics into an old oil lamp I got from dear friend and mentor. (Tim can do so many things already and is always up for learning something new. And I sure keep challenging him with things like the lamp. I am so grateful for him. ) And Stroke Advocacy projects are growing with the speaking engagement done, we are now heading full swing into fundraising for our Heart Walk Team. I GET to do all this today. I think, no, I KNOW, that I have pushed my limits, a bit too far. So it is now my time to sit on my bench with Tim and a cup of tea, warm my bones in the spring sun, kiss my son and head to bed.