BlogHer wants to know. My sister wants to know. Friends from college who disappeared from my life in 1973 want to know. Frankly, I want to know, too.
It's an interesting question from many perspectives. Physically, I am healing at a rate that amazes my physical therapist and my orthopedist and the ER doctors I met last Sunday. The exit wound on my thigh has healed with healthy flesh; it was so deep the trauma docs were convinced that it would "necrotize"... and let's not go there, okay? My shattered hip is less painful everyday, and those (somewhat neater) scars are clearing up as well. I have scars from incisions made to examine all my organs, and they are calming down, too. I'm supposed to be rubbing creams on them to reduce the ugliness, but that would entail looking at them and I'm not up to that yet.
I have mastered the art of showering without observing what I'm washing. I am adept at dressing without noticing the hole in my breast. I've convinced myself that the little entry wound which creeps out beneath the hem of my shorts is just another little boo-boo I picked up in my travels. My friends say that I look terrific and I choose to believe them. So, on that level, I am fine.
There's the whole Christina-Taylor piece which may never be fine. She was a big part of our lives and she's not here anymore. Her mom and I were discussing the fact that the perfect person to do the late afternoon SuziSitting, the keeping-me-company-while-TBG-goes-to-the-gym part of my life, the one who would enjoy it the most and think that the $1/day she earned was riches beyond compare, that person would be Christina. I imagine her fluffing my pillows and bringing me sparkling water and tending to my indoor flora and running to the mailbox and the refrigerator and I sigh. Sometimes I cry, but mostly I sigh. People say that everything happens for a reason, but no one can convince me that there is a reason for a dead 9 year old. Don't even try. In this area, I'm not so fine.
I am slow, very very slow. Getting up from my throne on Douglas is a major effort. Will my quadriceps cooperate or will I be grimacing in pain as I sit up and move my right leg off the pillow on which it rests, elevated, support under my kneecap to keep it from hyperextension..... the list goes on and on and on. Will the scar down the middle of my chest, my seam, bifurcating me, defining with raw clarity the mid-line of my self, will the wound decide that moving should hurt or will it let me push myself up with reckless abandon? A day or so ago I found myself upright in the wheelchair with no memory of moving there at all. TBG hadn't noticed it either, but there I was, ready to go. Then, last night, I was immobile, permanently attached to the cushions beneath me, with no hope of moving on my own. None. Not at all.
TBG comes in very handy at moments like these.
I was a hiker, a walker, a gym rat, a yogini, a gardener,,,,, and now I am told not to compare myself to who I was before. Easy for you to say...... exactly what, then, should I use as a yardstick? Should I try to be upright, using my erector spinae to maintain excellent posture or should I curve forward, into the cradle of the walker, to counteract the backward falling motion inherent in hopping? Am I better served by listening to my mother and standing up straight or should I follow the PT's advice and stay safe? Do I embrace the role of patient, and have patience and take care, or should I re-discover the person who plunged on ahead, paying no attention at all to what might lie in store for her, one who notices the adventure and chances the consequences?
And that's where I end up whenever I confront myself with this kind of questioning. I am neither the old me nor this version of the new me. This is temporary, a physical anomaly that will pass. When I worked at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago I became aware that those using wheelchairs to get around the campus referred to those of us who were self-locomoting as TAB......Temporarily Able Bodied. That resonates in a big way with me right now.
I am extremely conscious of my presentation to the world. I don't leave the house with the wheelchair. Reason #1 is that it really doesn't fit in any of our cars without major reorganization and seat shifting, but the truer reason is that I don't want Tucson to see me sitting down. I want to greet my town face to face, even if I have to hang on to a metal contraption with wheels to do so. When strangers run out of stores to tell me how happy they are to see me up and around, I want them to see me actually up and around. I don't want to be pushed, I want to get there on my own. I am tired of being viewed as a victim.
There are many funds set up to help those involved in this event. Tragedy in Tucson; Tucson Victims' Fund...... the thoughtfulness is overwhelming, but the names just make me sad. I'm connected to the Office of Victim Assistance and the Victim Compensation Program and the County Attorney's Victims' Services office. I've never wanted to be defined as a victim, as someone who has relinquished control and allowed something to happen to her. I like being in charge - just ask the resident who had to fight me off as I was helping her insert my chest tube. Little Cuter had to take my face in her hands and "MOM....MOM....Marcie went to medical school and you did not...let her do her job" made me relax enough so that a stranger could poke a tube into a hole in my side. MY side.
How has this happened to me? How did a sunny Saturday morning turn into a disaster beyond anything I ever could have imagined? I don't think that the community college or the mental health system or the justice system could have prevented this. I think that efforts to ascribe malicious motives to systems or individuals who shoulda/coulda done something are nothing more than attempts to make sense of a senseless act. Like closing the barn door after the horse has run off, arguments over whether policies and procedures were adequate and will be adequate or are or were woefully wanting are not helpful. I am not fine with anger and hostility and vengeance and blame. Tucson deserves better than that. I deserve better than that.
Knowing that fact keeps me out of the doldrums and focused forward. I have had amazing opportunities and I know that there are many more to come. My project on inter-generational mentoring is moving ahead nicely; I hope to reveal it when I can stand on my own two feet. I am surrounded by family and friends and neighbors and public servants who want nothing more than to make me happy. Food is delivered and rooms are re-arranged and schedules are altered to accommodate me. I've had lunch with Billy Collins and I've met Juan. I've discussed George Bush with Brian Williams. My girlfriends have flown in from North Carolina and Alabama and Illinois and Arkansas and Florida and they have chauffeurred and done laundry and waited as I hopped toward our destination and I've felt as though I were the one doing them the favors. I am surrounded by love.
The sun comes up every morning and I am here to see it. That makes it a good day.... every day.
That's how I am - I am here.