Friday, April 29, 2011

Protecting

Megan had been thinking about Christina-Taylor while brushing her 9 year old's hair and she commented yesterday that she had to keep myself from crying in front of my daughter. 


She'd gone right into protective mode.  It's a reaction I've seen a lot of lately.  More often than not I am on the receiving end of the equation.  I haven't had much energy going toward protecting other people. 

Please don't ask TBG how that has been working out.  I'm self-involved and reference everything in life vis-a-vis my situation and my situation is all that I can think about and my friends and family and strangers on the street have been enabling my addiction.  Protecting anyone but myself has been beyond my capabilities for the last 4 months. 

I couldn't even take care of a 9 year old on a Saturday morning in front of a grocery store in an upscale neighborhood.  I couldn't keep either of us out of harm's way.  How in the world could I possibly be asked to help someone else? 

Those around me were complicit in my behavior.  When I tried to carry something or walk out to the mailbox or load the dishwasher cries of "What are you doing?" and "Let me do that!" floated my way before I had a chance to do much of anything. I was being protected.  Nothing more than healing was expected from me

Up until the last few weeks it never got much deeper than that.  My focus was on healing my broken body and presenting a strong front to the outside world.  That was my job.  But then my physical self stopped inserting itself in the forefront of my brain and there was room in there for the sorrow to reassert itself.

I began to cry.  I'm walking around with a lump in my throat most of the time. Some of it is PTSD but most of it is just plain sad. All I have left of my little friend is a purple bracelet and her photo showing up on my screensaver's slide show.  I have no problem sharing my sorrow with anyone and everyone who comes anywhere close to mentioning her.  I startle people with the intensity of my reaction.  Ask me a question and you'll get an answer, an honest answer.  You asked the question.... you have to chance the consequences.  Protecting anyone but myself is beyond my ken. 
 
When C-T's mom is confronted with strangers' anguish over her loss, she feels the need to comfort them.  She's a nurse and it's what she was trained to do but it's also who she is in the depths of her soul.  Being out in public is exhausting for her.  So many people feel her loss.  Megan had to choke back tears.

When I am approached by such strangers I can allow the hugging and the tears and the sentiment to wash over me.  I feel no responsibility for it. Whatever you are getting from the interaction is yours and yours alone. If touching me makes you feel better, gives you something you're missing, establishes a connection, if being hugged can help you heal, that is fine with me. 

I am getting what I need as you show me that I am not alone.  I'm protecting myself by using you as a bulwark against the evil and the awful and the sad. That's about as far as I can get right how. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

PTSD's a Bitch.... And I Embrace Her

You find yourself screaming at laundry detergent.  Filled with rage, you are prepared to throw the plastic container through the roof and your fist through a wall.

Someone leaves a voice-mail which is incomprehensible to you but totally clear to your spouse.  You listen again as your confusion turns to fury.  How dare he be so obtuse?  And then mad turns to tears then to sobs then to an emptiness in the middle of your soul as your body rocks from side to side and the sorrow comes pouring out.

Rudeness on the bus?  Torture the perpetrator.  Sun not shining?  What the hell is going on?  Wake up in the morning.... and there it is again.... that rage... directed at something specific,  but really not.

Somewhere inside you might have a clue that PTSD is why you are so mightily angry or sad or lost.  Friends and loved ones and professionals try to help. From the outside you hear him saying that he knows your sobs are PTSD, though they are real and painful, too.  Calmness meets your laundry tantrum and you're fine when you get back from WallyWorld 10 minutes later, the proper detergent in hand and "Well, PTSD does rear its  ugly head in mysterious ways, eh?!" and a smile on your lips.  After a week or so you can acknowledge that the misunderstood message was just a Mars/Venus thing and laugh at yourself.  But it always always always hurts.

Nobody likes to hurt.  Well, nobody who doesn't need lots and lots of therapy likes to hurt.  I certainly don't.  I tend to run the other direction, taking prophylactic medications as I flee.  For 10 years or so I've been scrupulously avoiding situations and people who make me squirm (read roller coasters and annoying relatives).  I'm too old to go into a situation where I am guaranteed to be unhappy.

But PTSD is different.  Avoiding it just makes it worse.  The over-reactions, the hurt that is spewed, the uncontrollable rage..... they are poised on the end of 3 bullets and a dead nine year old.  That's hard to type, hard to look at, hard to live with.  But it is real.  There's an empty place in my gut and a gulp of tears in my throat and I want it to go away and it won't because it can't.

I'm stuck and I'm enraged.  For a while I was tired, and then I went through a numb phase.  As my body healed and hurt less I found emotional space for the bitch to insert herself.  The notion of consecutive life sentences made me smile.  Who was I?  Where was I?

All I know for sure is that I'm not the only one.  We're an interesting crew, those of us who have sought succor with one another at dedications and ceremonies and proceedings and ball games.  Sentences are started at one end of the table and completed at the other.  Many of those sentences have to do with how we are doing.  None of us is really sure.

That's an uncomfortable place to be and running is not an option.  So, on the advice of a short and oddly attired while being remarkably effective therapist, I am learning to embrace the feelings that infuriate and crush and plague me.  I am angry and I shout out loud.  I cry and I give myself permission.  I notice the bitch riding on my shoulder, so I've added Christina-Taylor's HOPE bracelet to my wrist.  I didn't need the white 1-8-11 Remember bracelet to keep those memories fresh.  I had my scars and my pains for that.  But against the bitch, I need a little help from my friends.

I know that that is what will get me through to the other side, after all.  There is no one I know who is surrounded by more loving caring kind thoughtful ready to help people than I am.  I am enveloped in hugs by waitresses who insist on picking up my tab.

And I am furious that I can't move more fluidly through the dining room to the door.

She's a bitch, but she's my bitch and I'm embracing her as yet another part of the strange newness that is mine. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Coming Home

Chicago was home for nearly 20 years.  I lived on my own for the very first time in a tiny studio I shared with the roaches.  We came to an uneasy truce, the bugs and I: they stayed off the bed and I didn't smash them when they ran for cover as I turned on the light in the kitchenette.  The apartment was awful but the city was grand.

DePaul before it was gentrified, then Lincoln Park and Lakeview and Buena Park but mostly the city itself, we lived all over the city.  Longtime denizens know of my love affair with Chicago; the lakefront and the parks and the music and the people.  It was hard to leave and we love going back, especially now that Little Cuter and SIR are there.  So, when we received the 60th birthday party invitation last month I made it a goal.  Air travel by the last week of April.

We were leaving 90 and sunny for 40 and dreary but we didn't care.  Our kids in our favorite city with some of our favorite people thrown in for spice - what could go wrong.  The friends and family were outstanding, all that we could ask for and then twice more.  As for the rest of it, well.......

No one at Tucson International Airport had a clue about what to do with me and my walker and my cane and the borrowed wheelchair.  Could TBG push me himself?  Should the walker go through security with me or be checked at the ticket counter?  Did we have the proper labeling for all my paraphernalia?  Which security lane could accommodate me?  Did my laptop need to come out of the backpack?  Why didn't I have a blue pre-boarding packet like the others in our gimpy group at the edge of the doorway?  Did I have to put the cane in the overhead bin or could it rest on the side of my seat?  Would there be a wheelchair for me at the other end?  And, once again, could TBG push me through the airport or did I have to wait for a red vested attendant?

Since I usually fly wearing no coat and slip-on shoes, with one small carry-on and a personal item in the form of TBG's 20th Reunion Cornell Class of '72 backpack, this trip was a new experience for me.  TBG is a reluctant-at-best flier; this was making him nuts. 

We ended up in the aisle and middle bulkhead seats next to a lovely young soldier who slept the whole way.  Our friends were held up in traffic, but the sun was out and the breeze was soft as we waited on the bench for our ride uptown.  There was a lot of whistle blowing and frantic arm waving by yellow clad traffic officers wielding flashing orange lights.  Not one bit like Tucson, and we were loving it.

It was all downhill from there.  The weather turned ugly, with cold rain and blustery winds.  Parking is a nightmare, so when my done-in-Chicago-and-guaranteed-not-to-chip-shellac-french-manicure chipped it was too much of an effort to get back to the salon for a fix.  Without a shattered hip it would have been a lovely 20 minute excursion to the end of their street and back.  With a shattered hip, one of the kids would have had to drive me up there and then re-park.  And we had such a great space, it seemed a shame to move the car at all.  Such is life in the city.

Does it sound like I'm whining?  I guess I am.  What started out to be "I'm glad it's yukky out so that I don't miss out on everyone else walking along the lake" turned into "This weather is making my scars ache."  I was bitter.

And then I began to think about it from another perspective, the perspective that Nance alluded to in her comment yesterday.  This was good, solid and normal.  It was freezing cold at the end of April and I was peeved.  I wanted Springtime and the wonderful thing was that everyone else did, too.  From the doorman to the newscasters, everyone was peeved.  I was not the only one.  My concerns were everyone's concerns.  I was normal.  It felt good to be in the moment with everyone else.  The fact that the moment was all about something as mundane as the weather was just icing on the cake.

And yet I was in the moment and the moment was gloomy. Even with the wonderfulness of old friends and Benito (the kids' couch - yes, we do have a naming mania it seems) and playing scrabble with SIR and Little Cuter I was vaguely ill at ease.  We taxied.  We ate. We talked. We taxied. We ate. We talked. The company was outstanding; I just wished we were all in the sunny and warm desert Southwest.

For the first time, Chicago felt alien to me.  I always had a little frisson of regret when I left before.  This time,  I was happy to be on the plane, returning home.

Because Tucson truly is home now.  The anonymity of the big city, which used to be so attractive to me, now only seems aloof and cold.  The hustle and bustle which once drew me in is now more noise and bother than excitement.  Tucson's relaxed friendliness is my warm blanket now.

Like this:
There were some extraordinarily rude people boarding the plane home who, for a variety of really rather uninteresting reasons, prevented us from sitting in the bulkhead seats.  Upon landing at TIA, we unwound our achy legs from the second row, gathered our luggage and got home as fast as we could.  I went out to get sandwiches and was greeted by a giant hug from a total stranger who recognized my face.  She told me she was sorry for my loss and she held me tight as she told me that I was doing then what she was going to do now - take an 8 year old out for an adventure.  We exchanged rueful but loving smiles and went on our way.
As much as I try to deny it, this is also my moment, and others are sharing it with me.  This is my normal.

It felt good to be home.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Unchanged

Nathakes knows everyone. Every walk down Michigan Avenue was a trip through her past. Kindergarten classmates, camp counselors, divorced neighbors who had moved away - they all recognized her and hugged her on our journey between work and lunch. Every single day.

We met up again today for lunch at Fred's at Barney's.  A place for ladies who lunch, located on the 7th floor of the store with a view of the lake, we were disappointed to find no famous socialites drinking martinis and flashing their diamonds.  Little Cuter and TBG ordered artisan pizza; the waitress encouraged them to use their fingers instead of a knife and fork.  It was that kind of place.

There were seven of us around the table, and the conversation touched on friends and colleagues and acquaintances from now and then.  Poor Little Cuter and SIR were subjected, once again, to a series of reminiscences with no connection to their own lives at all.  The meal was fine, nothing special, and very expensive.  The hostess had attitude but the chairs were comfortable and the company was outstanding, even if the kids were bored to tears.

Our lives overlap one another.  Mutual friends, supervisors, colleagues, relatives... she had updates on each and every one of them.  Her son is following in his father's footsteps, her daughter is on her way toward changing the world, and her little one isn't so little any more.  Shlakes is still doctoring and her mother is still gallery-owning and her smile is as wide as it was 30-some years ago when I hired her.

She bought the infant Big Cuter Gap overalls with a hot pink stripe down the side.  "Does the color bother you," she wondered?  While it upset the saleswoman from whom I requested matching socks, TBG and I were able to enjoy the outfit without worrying about any concomitant gender identity issues for our 2 week old son.  It was trendy and well-made and totally Nathakes.

She took my favorite picture of his infancy: me holding him in a Cubs cap in front of my garage.  My smile merely reflected the joy she took in our love.  She would tease me that the kid had a better wardrobe than I did.  I could only agree.  We would sit on her couch and look through her refrigerator for baby-appropriate snacks; as 20-somethings living together they didn't have much that worked for a 6 month old.  She began to stock apple sauce just for our visits.  That's the kind of friend she was.

She's shared her new-to-Tucson friend with me and agreed to pass on regards to those she emails and I do not.  We've made plans for her to come to the desert and I know she'll drive down from the 'burbs to the city next time I'm in town.

There are some friendships that just don't realize that decades have passed between visits.  This is one of them.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Joy Arising

We came to Chicago for her 60th birthday party.  The invitation showed her child self in an Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it.  There was no doubt about her identity.  She looks exactly the same.

She's always looked the same - taller and thinner and classier than I, but uninterested in those distinctions.  She was Connecticut and Madison Avenue and boarding school.  I was Long Island and the garment district and public schools.  It didn't matter; we were friends.

The mother of three boys, she was always ready to advise on Little Cuter's attire.  Some women are meant to mother little girls.... or meant to dress little girls, at least.... and she was certainly one.  She put Little Cuter in one of my ribbed camisoles, wrapped a belt around her middle, and suddenly my 3 year old was stylin'.  Without her, I would never have known that a white blouse over a black skirt could be my default outfit for any event.  Look in my closet if you doubt that I believed her.

If she couldn't parent girls, then she would raise great husbands.  Her well-mannered and thoughtful young men are the proof in the pudding.  She did a good job, and, as the birthday video they created so eloquently told her, they love her more than she can ever know.

That's just what a mom wants to hear. 

The eldest, Big Cuter's playgroup playmate and the reason we became friends 28 years ago, gave the opening toast and announced the big surprise - she and AdMan were getting married right then and there.

There was hooting and hollering.  There was cheering and clapping. Most of all, there was joy.  Joy on our faces and joy in our hearts. 

He had asked her forever ago, and she's been thinking about it ever since, feeling neither pressure nor necessity.  Life was good without a formal commitment.  There was no reason to rush. 

And then I got shot.

She says that our trauma made her confront the fragility of life.  The randomness of the shooting reminded her than control is just an illusion.  She decided to seize the moment.

Lots of wonderful things have happened as a result of the tragedy on January 8th.  Schoolkids will have a new playground and smartboards in their classrooms.  Mental health care will be available where it was absent before.  Eight girls are playing hardball with the boys in the CDO Little League this season, with Christina as their inspiration.  But this feels very special to me.  This is a gift that my sorrow could give to my friends. 

This brought joy. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

On Vacation

Happy Earth Day, denizens!

TBG and I are visiting Little Cuter and SIR in Chicago.  I flew without trouble, though TSA in Tucson had some issues with my walker and my cane and the x-ray machines.  My repaired hip didn't set off any alarms and pre-boarding put us in the bulkhead seats with plenty of leg room for TBG's long legs and my achy short one.

It's cold and crowded and I'm having too much fun sitting on the couch snuggling with my girl to think about anything worth writing or reading today.  So, while you are planting a tree or recycling refuse or otherwise celebrating one of my favorite made-up holidays, I am going to continue to hug her and revel in the familial joy.

Have a great weekend.  I'll be back on Monday with more in the continuing adventures of Ashleigh Burroughs.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Giving Back

It's nice to be needed.  Having been the recipient of the largesse of my neighbors and friends for the last 3 months, I've been starting to feel as if I've overstayed my welcome.  Guests, like fish, begin to smell after 3 days. What odor do you suppose I, who have been needy for 300times that long, am emitting?

Were I to ask my food providers or drivers or other SuziSitters I am certain that they would say something like "Chanel No.5" or "gardenias" because "it was our pleasure" and "we loved doing it."  I heard those sentiments every afternoon all through the winter and into the spring.  I never quite got comfortable with it, though.  I always felt vaguely guilty about interrupting someone's day to ask them to meet my own personal needs. 

One of our chefs is disabled herself and she and her husband and TBG and I had a conversation which helped me turn the corner on this issue.  I watched from the window over my desk as she limped up to our front door.  Every step was an event.  Opening the courtyard gate was an experience.  I walker-hopped out to get the door and spare them having to juggle bags while ringing the bell.

We four stood in the foyer, us thanking and they smiling.  After depositing dinner in the kitchen and distributing "thank you t-shirts" to the cooks there wasn't usually much to say that hadn't been said before.  This afternoon was different.  In a tip of the hat to the Passover season, one might ask "Why was this afternoon different from all others?" The answer is in the quality of the conversation.  We were bound together by the tricks our bodies had played upon us. 

My usual thank you's included a reference to the difficulty I had in being on the other side of the providing equation.  My normal role would be that of the helper; I was ill-equipped to be the recipient.
When I got to that part as we were saying farewell, she met my eyes squarely and, with a huge smile, agreed that "Yes, it does take a certain amount of grace, doesn't it?"

Grace.  It's a word that I can't really define.  Grace Kelly had grace, as did Jackie O and Brooke Astor.  Colonel Pickering (My Fair Lady) had grace.  Perhaps it has something to do with treating everyone like royalty, oneself included.  Henry Higgins did not have grace.

But there's more to it in this instance, I think.  It's being willing to be humble.  It's acknowledging that I can't do everything for myself.  It is not whining or begging.  It is realistic.  Appreciation from a true perspective: I need this and you know it and our actions suit us both.

Because it is better to give than to receive.  It certainly feels better to be on the giving side, though getting all the goodies has its own special wonderfulness as every single birthday kid knows so well.  It is easier to be gracious when you are not feeling vulnerable; it's called beneficence.  But my limping chef and I were talking about something more profound.  We were bonding over the reciprocity inherent in the transaction.

Sharing the love helps others to heal.  This happened to all of Tucson, not just me and my family.  Everyone feels awful and if hugging me helps you then bring it on.  My arms are open wide.  Strangers approach me with bear hugs and I acquiesce.  This is not who I was before January 8th.  I kept myself more private and protected my personal space with fervor.  Since then, I've welcomed the opportunity to join with the world in a giant embrace. 

I can truly feel the love.

That's why, when Fast Eddie wanted to play golf I jumped at the chance to chemo-sit with JannyLou today.  As she pushed TBG and me to accept the loving ministrations of the food providers they organized for us, so was I able to give Fast Eddie the space to take care of himself.  We hugged, we ate Reggie's chicken soup, she tried to send me home and I stood my ground.  Grace takes some practice, I guess.  I know it did for me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dear Miss Levine's Kindergarten Class,

Dear Miss Levine's Kindergarten Class,

Thank you for inviting me to be your Special Reader this morning. 

Although waking up and getting dressed and eating breakfast and getting to your school on time was not easy, I reminded myself that each and every one of you does it each and every day.  I remembered that you will continue to do the same thing every day for the next 15 years, until you graduate from college.  I know this because I know that you are all College Bound.

While I was remembering, I was getting ready.  I packed my bag, just as you pack your backpacks, and I checked it a few times just to be sure that I had not forgotten anything.  Checking it wasn't much fun, because when I remembered something I had to walk all the way back to where it was lying and walking was hard and I didn't feel like doing it but my house is a No Whining Zone so I had to take a deep breath and put on my Super Girl cloak and whiz back to my desk to pick up those pickle stickers for you.

I'm glad you liked them.  I was surprised that Miss Levine asked Kaila to take hers off her mouth.  I wonder why she didn't ask all of you to put yours on each of your mouths.  The silence would have been lovely.

I am not saying that you were rambunctious or disrespectful or discourteous.  You sat down and paid attention whenever Miss Levine or I reminded you about your manners.  But next time I think that I will only read two books while you are sitting on the carpet.  I will stay just as long, but there will be some moving around involved.

I loved watching you at your Work Centers.  The maze on the computer was fun, boys, but I think we laughed harder when we found the treasure inside the clamshells we unleashed after reading out loud hug and tug something else I can't remember.  Do you know what it was? (I'm closing my eyes and watching you shout out the answer as Miss Levine is reading this to you.  It is a very happy sight.)

Thank you, ladies, for inviting me to try my hand at In the Bag at the Farm artwork.  I hope you like your portraits in my bag.  I wish I could draw animals the way that you do.  You captured exactly what I think it feels like to be a cow.  I wonder why so few grown-ups are able to do what you girls did so effortlessly.

I think my favorite part of the morning (aside from the hugs - I love the hugs) was seeing your pride as you presented your Thank You cards to me.  I'm glad you think that I am nice and pretty and that you love me and like me.  I feel the same way about you and Miss Levine.

Finally, thank you, Miss Levine, for opening your classroom to a stranger.  Thank you for sharing your students' loving hearts with me.  In your room, as you reminded someone this morning, you do use kind words.  You maintain order amidst incipient chaos, and no one is pouting.  You are teaching a lesson with every inhale and exhale; you are never off stage.  I was exhausted after 60 minutes in the middle of one morning and I wasn't even in charge.  I'm awestruck by your patience and grace and strength.

I loved how you told that young miscreant not to worry, that everyone has those moments where she needs to take a break with a book in the hallway.  Learning to walk away before the situation gets even worse is a skill that your students are mastering quite nicely with your totally non-judgmental assistance.  Would that someone had given me that advice when I was 6.

(And thanks for the smile as I walked by on my way out, Miss Molly.  I've kept it with me all day.)

I'll be back real soon, if for no other reason than I, too, am wondering where the capital letter is in that first sentence in our reading book.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Surrounded by Love

Thanking our dinner providers and airport transporters and get-Suzi-out-of-the-house people took place at a hug fest in our backyard Saturday night.  Scheduled around JannyLou's chemo and my ability to ambulate and Chicago Gal's gallivanting ways, I somehow managed to choose the most perfect Saturday night of the season.  Warm all day to heat up the air so that, as the sun got lower in the sky, our sleeveless guests could meander on the hardscape and admire the landscape and watch the colors come out behind Stafford Peak.

Not taken that night, but this is the general idea.

Guest brought guests and children and wine and guest towels and candles and cards.  A crocheted heart was appended to a hand-written hug from a friend who was tired of sending me angels.  It didn't really matter; I've loved them all.

There were two sets of DVD's recording moments revolving around The Event.  One set is more personal, with healing vibes sent out into the community by people who live and work and shop in the Safeway shopping center.  The coming together, the refusal to relinquish their store to awful memories, the healing they took from announcing their resolve as a group - it's a tearfest and a gigantic smile all at the same time.

And then there is the second set of DVD's, more than a dozen of them, precisely labeled and delivered in chronological order.  Remember those three days of my life which passed while leaving no memory in their wake?  They are there, on these round disks, filling in the gaps and rounding out the edges.

My family was in the ICU for 48 hours straight.  There was no newspaper reading nor television viewing.  There were loving eyes on my en-tubed carcass every hour of every day.  No one had any idea of the magnitude of The Event outside our own private little horror.  When TBG agreed to speak to the media he imagined a reporter from our local paper and her notepad and pencil.  Instead, he walked into the Kiewit Auditorium and the world's press corps.

Trust me, denizens.  Had he known that he'd be talking to all of you that morning he wouldn't have had his sunglasses balanced on his head.   But he had no idea.

One of my hiking buddies is a techie-genius, or so it seems to me.  He captured the local ABC and NBC affiliates' broadcasts and presented us with "The Days of Our Lives - How We Ended Up in the Middle of it All."

That's our name for them, not his.  We'd seen the CNN B-roll footage over and over again, but we'd never heard the pain and horror in the voices of the reporters, we'd never listened to the 911 calls nor tried to find my feet in the shots of patients being loaded into helicopters or carried across the parking lot.  Every once in a while we have to hit pause and look at one another in astonishment.  This really happened to us.  To us.  Us.

We were anonymous and now we are not.  We've cried in public, in front of 21 million people at a time (or so says Dateline), and we felt better after it was done.  From different perspectives our questioners asked us to look at the circumstances anew.  We learned and found answers as we were surrounded by love.  And the love grew and grew.


Our favorite part of the retrospective is watching the memorial outside UMC.  Reporters were stationed on the grassy lawn in the center of the hospital's circular main driveway.  It offered the perfect backdrop for their stand-ups.  From a dozen candles in glass and a bouquet or two on Saturday afternoon, it soon covered the eastern edge of the green.  By Sunday it began to divide into a pathway or two.  On Monday there were mariachis and violinists and choirs.

  The love just kept on growing.

Most of the time, now, January 8th isn't in the forefront of my mind.  Most of the time, as Billy Collins says better than I could, life goes on
As Usual

After we have parted, the boats
will continue to leave the harbor at dawn.
The salmon will struggle up to the pools,
one month following the other on the wall.

The magnolia will flower,
and the bee, the noble bee-
I saw one earlier on my walk-
will shoulder his way into the bud.
But sometimes it helps to remember, to relive it, to feel it.  Now there are a few less holes in our story.

*****
from horoscopes for the dead by Billy Collins, United States Poet Laureate, 2001-2003.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Springtime in the Desert

There's a family of quail who roam my courtyard every morning and eveing.

There's a very clean bunny who looks like his mom and dad brought him lots of yummy to-grow-on meals.  He hops himself up the berms and takes the lantana leaves in his paws and I can just about hear him sigh.

The ground squirrels are making a mess of my newly rock-mulched front yard as they drop the husks barrel cacti tuna on their way home.

 
I wonder if I need to apologize to their leader for covering the burrow with 20 tons of cracked stone?  After all, they were here before we were.

The birds hide someplace during the heat of the day, but the morning sun brings dozens of woodpeckers and doves and assorted don't-mind-me-I'm-just-migrating-through species.  They weigh down the branches of the palo verde surrounding the saguaro, all but the lone black bird who perches on the tallest branch of the neighbor's ocotillo.  My sentinel, my gatekeeper, and today, my muse.  I needed to take his picture, so out I went, camera and cane in hand, exploring the great outdoors on two feet and a metal prop. 

The yellow is popping up all over town, trees waking up after this cold dry winter and renewing my faith in the garden.

One drenching downpour and the ocotillo are orange tipped. 




One warm weekend and the hesperaloe parviflora stalks sprout up out of nowhere. 


And the cacti. 



The what-you-imagine-when-you-think-of-the-desert cacti.


And that bird?  The one that drew me outside?  Like my muse on most days, he is just out of reach, flying away as I opened the front door, taking the deeper, more meaningful posts with him and leaving us with another spring afternoon and a garden post.

It's nice to be finding my way back.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Charming Rascal

First things first : What is it with the hair?

Are those enough hints? Did you already know that I'm writing about The Donald, father of a Georgetown classmate or two of Big Cuter, possible candidate for the presidency of these United States of America.

Is this really happening? 

The man has been married three times and is looking to be embraced by the family values crowd. 

He's lost more money in more real estate deals than we'll all make in our collective lifetimes and he wants us to put him in charge of the federal budget.

I thought it was strange here in Arizona, but maybe the rest of you ought to sit up and take a look at what's happening out there.  Or maybe you have already noticed, and I've been too self-absorbed to realize it.  But self-absorption brings us right back to Donald Trump, doesn't it.

Watching the talking heads this afternoon - and yes, it is nice to be doing something normal for a change - I was struck by the tone of the comments.  Chris Matthews was a guest at one of the weddings.  He's bemused by his friend's antics.  There is none of his usual ranting and raving.  A reporter from Time laughed at himself - the interview was shameless self-promotion but he enjoyed it nonetheless. 

Trump is a clown, a man who made a mockery of himself on television and doesn't know it.  I can't imagine a genuine business person taking him seriously.  He's putting second-tier formerly famous people through their paces and he wants me to elect him to the presidency? 

I'm more than bemused.  I'm outraged.

Is this what it has come to?  A centrist Democrat holds an open air forum and takes a bullet to her brain.  A woman from middle America tests the presidential waters while momentarily mis-placing Lexington and Concord.  Our president plays rope-a-dope with the budget while the elderly and their children wonder if Tea Party zealots have aging parents, too.  And The Donald wants to be President.

What has been going on since I've left you people in charge? 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Christina-Taylor

She was a ball of fire.  She was the twinkle in your eye.  She was curious and passionate and thoughtful.  She was respectful.  She loved her parents and her brother and her large and wonderful extended family.  She played well to children and grown-ups.

She understood the nuances of getting elected, promising a chicken in every pot and winning with style.  She sang and danced and swam.  She gave back and paid things forward.  There wasn't a hostile bone in her body, at least not one that I could find.

She was always up for an adventure, always saying "YES!" to something new.  She took her responsibilities seriously, and treated every venture with the respect it deserved.  My plants never looked better than when she was taking care of them.

She was a little girl and a bullet took her from us.

More than that, it took her from her family, the people who loved her the most.  The Crayolas have been trying to heal in a private manner, as the media has stormed the barricades and begged to intrude.  ESPN scored big time yesterday when e60, their feature news magazine, shared the story of CTG and baseball.

Don't watch this without a box of tissues and someone to hug.  It's exactly wonderfully delightfully heartbreakingly true.  This is who she was to those of us who knew and loved her in person.  Her parents are the bravest, strongest, most thoughtful people we know.  This video captures them perfectly.

Rest In Peace, little one.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What They Remember

Drove myself over to visit G'ma today.  The pod-castle is in the midst of a management shake-up and there were Care Plans to be approved and releases to be signed.  My presence was requested.

Being nothing if not compliant in my rehabilitation, I was weeks overdue for this meeting.  But G'ma's blood work (and hence, her medications) have been stable for months and she doesn't remember that I haven't been by to see her, so I couldn't really feel rushed. 

And, honestly, it was hard for me to tell my story over and over again, especially on days (like today) when she manages to remember not only my piece but Christina's, too.  She's not a hard-hearted woman, my mother, and she tears up just a little bit each time she repeats the story to me aloud. 

That's what she does.  She tells the story aloud, with a question mark at the end of her recitation, and looks outward for verification.  The staff deals with her in the here and now; she's fine with those conversations.   Seeing me triggers another part of her brain, I suppose, and suddenly she has access to some memories. 

The things she remembers are emotionally laden.  "Little Cuter and SIR aren't married yet, are they?" "You got shot... in the ass!" (cue rueful giggles and a sigh).  And then, without fail, comes this: "There was a little girl with you, wasn't there?  She died didn't she?"

Yes, she did.


Usually she forgets that she'd remembered and I'm able to distract her with other topics.  This afternoon's meeting was more structured, there were questions to be answered, and G'ma had some time to look around.  And she saw the walker.  And she remembered.

I know it will be better when I am less encumbered.  I just hate to make her sad. 

The conversation around the table at lunch, for example, did not center on my injuries.  With devices safely tucked away and out of sight, we were four grey haired ladies wondering why we were eating spaghetti for a mid-day meal, or as an entree, and where were the meatballs, anyway?  They were all pretty excited about the vanilla ice cream with crumbled chocolate cookies and fudge sauce,  and G'ma remembered exactly why I was willing to share my toppings with her. 

She didn't have to say it aloud.  She smiled her G'ma smile at me as I smiled back and shook my head in agreement.  Nope, I don't like chocolate. Even the pediatrician's German pastry chef couldn't get me to like chocolate.


Some memories, on the other hand, make us smile.

 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mei-Mei's MoyaToyas

Mei-Mei and I have been friends since we were 12 and in the 7th grade.  She convinced me to take the bus to Sunrise Shopping Center, the first really big mall on Long Island, and G'ma let me do it.  Just the two of us, $20 for clothes in my pocket, and public transportation.  I was used to the LIRR and commuters; for errands we took the car.  But there we were, surrounded by people who needed the bus to get around town, who were on their way home from the store, bags puddles at their feet.

I do believe it was the first time I realized that everyone didn't live as I did.  I'm sure I didn't share that thought with Mei-Mei.  I was busy pretending that this was something I did every day.

The years and then we reconnected at our 40th high school reunion. We were the two little ones giggling, loudly.  She looks the same as she did in 1969; the travails of the intervening decades made no mark on her.  Her life hasn't been smooth and easy, though she deserved it to be so.  A caregiver and a caretaker and a worrier and a daughter par excellence, Mei-Mei didn't spend much time studying the lint in her navel.  There was always a project of some sort, professional or personal, and always there was her art.

Her work was distinctive.  Bright and cheery and simply elegant.  Always with a smile hiding right behind the stellar craftsmanship, her pieces tickle the funny bone and warm the cockles of your heart.  Just like she does.

Paying bills and maintaining her insurance, she's employed in a soul-sucking environment, a place that nags rather than nurtures.  She's a happy soul in spite of it all.

And there's more, denizens.  Isn't there always?  Mei-Mei has moyamoya.  It's alliterative.  That's about all that can be said in its favor.  It causes headaches and strokes and all sorts of other nasties but out in Palo Alto they're doing cutting edge research and it was there that Mei-Mei traveled, with Bass-Boy in tow, last year.  Stanford cut and Mei-Mei healed and then they sent her home to recuperate.  Aches and pains, immobility, medications with weird side effects -  she and I could trade stories of our recoveries and not feel that we were inviting the un-affected to our pity party. She was a welcome port in my storm.

She's back at work and getting along nicely, thank you for asking.  Her energy is low (like me, this is a new experience for her and takes some getting used to) and she has to ask for more help than she's happy about, but she's here to smell the hyacinths and that's all that matters.  We're in this good attitude boat together.

While she was mending back at home in New York, she put her busy fingers to work and these are what happened:

MoyaToyas by Mei-Mei

I told you she had style, didn't I?  Did you figure out what she used as the basic raw materials?  Yes, ma'am, she re-purposed those silly rubber-on-the-bottom hospital socks they give you so you don't slip on your way to x-ray.  Those socks that made such an impression on Big Cuter when CNN broadcast me in the memorial garden outside University Medical Center 8 days after the shooting.  Mine were bright yellow.

Mei-Mei turned them into kid-friendly bearers of smiles and love.  She donated the first batch to Louise Packard Children's Hospital out there at Stanford.  But there are many more sick kids and too few hospital socks for Mei-Mei to play with.  This is where you come in, denizens.

Do you have some of those socks in your dresser drawer?  Does your dad have some from when he went in for his last prostate surgery?  Is your mom hiding them from her hip replacement?  How about the ones you got when your last child entered this world?

When was the last time you wore them?  If the answer is "last night' you have my permission to skip the rest of this post and come back to The Burrow in the morning.  If the answer is "Who knows?" then I have a favor.  Would you send Mei-Mei an email at moyatoyas@gmail.com and let her give you directions on how and where to send them.

It's win-win:  your drawer is just a little bit emptier and her fingers are just a little bit busier and everyone's heart is a lot fuller.

I promise to post more pictures with the treasures she creates.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Routine

It was just another Sunday morning.  I straightened up the kitchen, picked up a few things at the grocery store, made brownies for TBG and Big Cuter and Amster's kids, read a novel and watched some sports on tv.  I checked my email in the late afternoon, e-chatted a bit, and came to tell you all about it before I dice up the chicken for dinner.  I'm at ease in my heart and soul.

Today is the 13th Sunday since January 8th. I just counted them out to be sure.  Running my finger down the Saturdays, zipping through January and then a little slower through February and even slower through March, stopping here in the 2nd week of April.  All those weeks, all those Sundays, all that time.  It wasn't wasted or unproductive time, especially if you bought into the notion that my only job was to heal.

It was, however, a long time.

I came back to the house after the store, stuck things on the shelves I can reach, wobbled about the kitchen melting butter and chocolate squares, listening to the radio and smiling.

I managed to get the pan into the oven and the dishes into the dishwasher.  By the time TBG came home from the gym, I was grinning from ear to ear.

It was just another Sunday morning.  Nothing special about it at all.  We have foodstuffs for a simple dinner and a new six-pack of Sam Adams Noble Pils, one bottle of which will fuel the dinner preparations.  My dinner preparations.  I'll need some help, but this meal always requires 4 hands at the final stages.  Like I said, it's just another Sunday.

Except that this is the first Sunday in 13 weeks which held all these possibilities.  I can balance, I can stand for extended periods of time. I have enough stamina to create the mess that I can now nearly almost not quite but soon bend over and clean up. 

I'm slower than I will be, but that's okay, too.  It gave me time to laugh as I thought of Little Cuter's Cartman* imitation while whipping up a low-fat lemon chiffon piiiiiiiiiiie.

And then I collapsed on the couch.  My aches were the tired kind, not the I've-been-stapled-together-and-I-hurt kind.  I had been productive and independent. 

I love how the simple things make me happy these days.


*I tried to embed a South Park video that wouldn't offend women, children, feminists or the elderly and that still showed Cartman saying "piiiiiiiiiiie". I failed to find such an item. If you're interested, find a 20-something and ask for a demonstration.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Attitude

...... to sort out attitude from emotional range.

Nance left that as part of her comment yesterday.  As usual, she is exactly right, nuances and all.  

And so, today more than ever, I'm going to bore you with more of my self-indulgent crap, my thoughts on my thoughts.  I'm kinda sorta tired of it myself, truth be told.  But that's part of the story, so read on if you're interested.  If not, I understand.  Really, I do. 

I'm not sure how it happened, but it seems that I was under the impression that I'd be walking by now.  Striding out.  Covering some territory.  Taking the Recycling Container out to the street.... or at accompanying TBG as he lugged the thing out there .... I'd be taking a picture for you right now.  That, it seems, was my plan.

I never said it out loud.  I'm not sure I said it to myself.  I was never tempted to put weight on Dr. Boaz's hip because I'd been instructed not to do so.  I was compliant, even over those last long 48 hours when I asked everyone and anyone if it could possibly be true that my bones knew if it was 12 weeks exactly or 11 weeks and 5 days since my hip was repaired.  No one told me to disobey the doctor.  I didn't.

Somehow, though, I seem to have turned that into a fantasy : only needing the walker for balance for a few days, then, perhaps, a quad-cane - the kind with the four feet on a plate at the bottom- for a few days, and by next Monday morning I'd be strolling through Costco without a care in the world.

Definitely a fantasy.  

My hip flexors are in open revolt.  Having been nicely tucked away in a sitting or bent position for 3 months, they are unwilling to unravel themselves.  If I could type to you while standing up I would stretch them out right now.  As it is, in order to read a book or go on-line or do a crossword puzzle or Sudoku I have to sit.  And those tendons and ligaments just shrink right back up.  

I wish I were more tired.  Sleeping would be great for stretching them out.

But I'm not tired, I'm full of energy and I'm longing to get out in the car and go.  Someplace.  Anyplace.  All by myself.  The only problem is that my right leg is really an important part of the whole driving scenario and my right leg is exhausted by the time I get myself into The Schnozz.  I drive a mile, make three turns, and I'm ready for a nap.  

I'd hoped to be able to take G'ma out for lunch this week, but who will get our walkers into the car for us?

I ache, I'm disappointed, I am weak, I miss my Mommy and I'm just a little bit blue.  I haven't been this way since the hospital, when I couldn't get comfortable and it seemed that I never would.  Ever.  

But TBG assures me that this will get better, and I know he's right.  This will heal.  The sun will come up tomorrow and I will be here to greet it and it will be a good day.  And this takes us right back to Nance and sorting out attitude from emotional range.

I'm trying to approach my bad mood with a positive attitude.  Does that make sense?  I feel sorry for myself and I'm just a little bit whiny, but the sun is out and I'm going to walk in the pool and see if that doesn't alert these muscles to the fact that there's a new sheriff in town and it's time to get moving.

I'm going to allow myself the opportunity to have a bad day*.  I'm going to wallow in it for as long as it takes me to put on my swimsuit.  And then, it's Off with her head! and time to go forward.  It's impossible to be sad in the late afternoon in Tucson in April.

The depths are so profound. I am only beginning to dip my toe into the mire.  This is a much better way to be, for now.  I'm not denying the sorrow; I'm approaching it with caution. 

Today was a tough day.  Tomorrow will be better.


*Heidi gets credit for that idea.  She's as brilliant in person as she is on AMC's Heavy

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Listen to Rocky

When you reach a certain age, it seems to me that things just start to go wrong.

For some people, that age is 12.  Adolescence, filled with acne and addled senses, makes every day a lousy day.  Some people never manage to get past those years.  Stuck in their sad sack soup, there's not a lot of room for sunshine and smiles.  When you leave your teen years with a chip on your shoulder, a chip reinforced by the daily hurts and slights of middle school and high school, you develop a protective covering.  That carapace keeps others at bay while keeping you safe within your "no expectations = no disappointments" zone.

It's a lonely way to live.

For some people, it starts when their athletic career is over, when there is no frisson of excitement as they walk into a room.  Suddenly those aches and pains which were just a part of the game are now just a regular part of their regular lives.  Machismo meets the mundane, and mountains become molehills.

Some of us manage to get through college and young adulthood miraculously untouched by trauma or treacly sentiment (I'm really working hard on these alliterations...).  We've watched from the outside as others lost parents and jobs and children and opportunities and we wondered how they did it, how they survived, how they coped..... all those same questions which are being lobbed my way these days.

Old age comes upon us like this, I think.  One day all your parts are in fine working order, ship-shape, able to withstand a heavy rain or a doctor's appointment.  The next, you are on your way to an MRI for an ailment which was discovered during the treatment of another misfortune which was only diagnosed when you went in for your annual check up and your blood work was unusual. 

Once things start to go downhill, it's hard to turn them around.  It's not the broken hip which does you in, it's the pneumonia from lying around because moving hurts more than you can bear and where would you go anyhow? One day everyone in the diner stands up and applauds when you open the door, the next you are slinking into a back booth, ashamed that you've fallen so far.

The events are out of your control.  Life sucks.

And this is where Rocky comes in.  Rocky, who's had a hard time these last few decades.  Rocky, who's always got an ear for a friend's troubles and then, abashedly, begins to share her own woes.  Our woes overlap sometimes, and it's good to have an old friend around to listen to the gunk which sometimes just has to pour out.  She listens to me.  I listen to her.  I'm better at some things, she at others.  On this one she is spot on :
Attitude is the ONLY thing you can control.
I couldn't help myself; I put her on speaker-phone (did you see the one in The Good Wife last night?) and typed her words as she spoke them:
You have a choice every morning when you wake up.  That's a gift.
Look around you - you don't usually have a choice.
You can be pissy - you have every right to be - it's your choice.
But remember, it's your choice.
Would that I had had that tattooed on my forehead during the Cuters' formative years.

She's relinquishing control over the most basic aspect of another's life -- attitude.  She's recognizing our inability to control much of anything, and giving us a tool to provide us with control over something.  And the end result is so much more pleasant.

When people ask me how I stay so cheery, I think it's because my attitude is the only thing that I can control.  I couldn't control the shooter.  I couldn't control the fates which brought Christina and me and him to the same corner on the same sunny Saturday.  I coudln't control how fast my hip heals nor how quickly my scars fade, though I could help them along just a little bit.  I couldn't control my comings and goings, nor my body's ability to move through space.

That was a spiral I was determined to avoid.  What started out as a flippant answer to an oft asked question became a mantra for my recovery
The sun came up this morning and I am here to see it.  By definition, it's a good day.
Because isn't that better than listening to me sigh?  If I sigh then you'll sigh and pretty soon we're all stuck in the muck, weighted down with the finality of it all.

If I'm determined to be upbeat about what is without question the most awful thing that has ever happened to me, if I am determined to remember that Christina-Taylor would be totally peeved if she knew that I were sulking and moping around, if I am determined to bring some good out of this horrible sequence of events, then I have to start at home, right here, with me/myself/I.

I really was a snarky New York heathen before this all happened to me.  A happy snarky heathen, but a snarky one all the same.  Along with 6 units of blood, my snarkiness seems to have been left behind on January 8th.

Like Rocky says, I have a choice.

I choose to smile.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Listen To Rocky's Wisdom

Coming tomorrow in this space.  Blogger just couldn't resist posting it today. Grrrr.

Being Bossy

Imelda wondered this afternoon, amidst giggles, what will happen in a couple of months, when my celebrity light has dimmed, and I try to boss people around.

OK, those of you who know me can stop laughing now.

Really.  I mean it.  Stop laughing.

See.... I'm even doing it now.  Because this is who I am.  I boss people around.


 Someone must have reinforced it when I was young.  Imelda was admiring my baby picture... at least I thought she was admiring it until I listened more closely and found that she was laughing at my sense of annoyance, of being interrupted while performing very important chewing.  Uh, people.... I'm busy here!


She marveled that my parents chose this particular shot, one with so much attitude, instead of a more traditional portrait.  She thinks it says a lot about them.  I'd never considered that before.  I do know that I still have that handset.

But I digress.

When we played house in elementary school, I was always the dad.  Imagine us, 6 and 7 and 8 years old, outlining the walls of our family's home with the fallen leaves on the asphalt playground... on the girls' side. Only the kindergarten kids had co-ed recess; 1958 was such a different world.  

While the boys played ball games we created leafy domesticity.  Aunts, cousins, sisters, babies, grandmothers, mothers and one dad - me.  I used to think that they were being mean, not letting me be female, separating me from themselves because I was younger and had skipped a grade and joined their class 8 days into 1st grade. 

In retrospect, from Imelda's perspective, perhaps it was just obvious to them that I was the dad.  I'd been bossing people around my whole life, and so did the Dad in their life.  

If teenagers are idiots, maybe it's just because they have had more time to refine the inanity of elementary school.  It certainly seems true in my case.

I'm a terrible board member - just ask anyone who has ever served on one with me.  I'm too bossy.  I'm a good parliamentarian, a good presiding officer, but otherwise you really don't want to have me sitting next to you around the table.  Policies and procedures are your friends is my board mantra; if I can't be in charge then just follow the rules, please.

TBG tells me that I was bossing the nurses and techs and doctors from the moment I was fully conscious.  Truth be told, he tells people that he knew his wife was back from the brink when he heard me giving orders.

Now, I didn't think they were orders.  I just wanted to be sure that what needed to be done was done, and done right the first time so that there didn't have to be a second time.  I was just asking for what I needed, and, as Imelda and I agreed this afternoon, the world would run a lot more smoothly if everyone was honest about what they needed.

And if that isn't the most positive take on bossiness you've ever read then I want to know what is.

(There I go again......)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Can Walk !!



 
Yes, it's in German, but it doesn't really matter.

The first clip (2:20 minutes) is all you need to watch.

I can walk!
I can walk!

I am permitted to walk and I can do it.

I was worried about both of those things as we drove to see Dr. Boaz this morning.  We were 5 minutes late, which never happens with us.  There were no examining rooms available.  That was unusual, too.

We waited next to the neighbor of another patient - she'd answered the door to find the patient, new to the area, asking for the phone number of a cab company.  Where are you heading? turned into Oh, dear, of course I'll drive you there.  She didn't recognize me until TBG gave me up; suddenly I was awash in blessings and smiles.  

Is there any wonder that we love Tucson and Tucsonans?  We care about one another, friend and stranger and new neighbor alike.

My x-rays were taken and reviewed and brought up on the monitor in the exam room where TBG and I could study them until the doctor arrived.  There is a lot of hardware inside me, denizens.  A lot of hardware.
I have screws from pelvis to pubis.  I have plates held in with what look like garden stakes, those curved ones you use to hold the irrigation tubing in place.  I have flat spots on the right side where the left side has curves.  We saw no crazing, no cracking, no obvious imperfections and then Dr. Boaz joined us and pronounced me fit to walk.

Just like that.  I see no reason why you shouldn't start to walk.  Over our hooting and hollering he smiled and continued to give me instructions: Use the walker at first.  Graduate to a cane in 2-3 weeks.   

After he examined me, moving my femur in my acetabula, I sat as he watched me move my leg from side to side and my foot up and down and left and right and pronounced me fit to drive.

Driving...... freedom..... independence......just thinking about it makes me smile.

And then he was gone, looking forward to seeing me in 5 weeks.  Gone.  Leaving me and my fears and the walker and TBG's face wreathed with joy and concern. It's a look he's perfected over the last 12 weeks.
Slowly, carefully, gently, I put my whole right foot on the ground.  I pushed off with the toe.  

My hip did not disconnect itself from anything.  I did not fall to the ground.  I didn't scream in agony.  I just pushed off with the toe and I was walking.  For the first time since January 8th I was bi-pedal.  

I cried.

TBG still brought the car to the entrance of the building for me.  He still put my walker in the trunk and watched to be sure that my injured leg got safely into the car.  I'm still not strong enough to lift the leg from the ground into the car without my hand or my left toe for assistance.  My glutes and hip flexors and quads and hamstrings are weaker than they need to be.  My aductors and abductors are still enjoying their vacation.  My body/brain connection is wondering what is going on.  

But I am using my leg. 

I have to remember to move carefully.  Dr. Boaz looked me right in the face as he repeated that fact.  I can ease into my mobility without jumping off a cliff on the very first day.  I'm trying to do what needs to be done and to do that well.  I am trying to avoid doing anything extra.  But it is nice to know that I can take better care of myself than I could yesterday.

I can lean over and pick up the remote control from the middle of the bed while I'm standing at the edge.  I can reach the toaster, sitting up there on the 2nd shelf.  No longer can I excuse throwing my clothes on the floor of my closet; I can walk over to the bar and hang things up without worrying about falling on my face.  

Best of all?  I'm driving myself to get a manicure this afternoon before watching the NCAA finals.  All by myself, I'm going out into the world.  

Of course, TBG is coming back from the gym to supervise my departure.  This independence thing is hard for both of us, it seems.

Monday, April 4, 2011

This Last Week

I've been reading a lot about myself this week, this last week of sitting and reflecting, this last week when appliances will define my abilities, this very odd week.
*******
I'm much faster and defter in maneuvering my wheelchair.  I laughed as AnnaFarkle shook her head, marveling at my quick turns.  GrandFarkle#3 and I exchanged sly grins as I gaily replied "It's really kind of fun!" ... because it is what it is so I smile and move on.

I like this new me, this able to smile instead of growl me.
*****
I guess it wasn't enough to have one pseudonym.  Now I need a name for who I was before January 8th.  Suzi is who you all know since TBG told the media that was my name.  I'm glad he did; Susan is much too formal. After all, we've been sharing stories about infirmities and blood loss and death and healing.  I think you qualify as friends after all this time.

But who was I before this?
*****
In amongst the search results I came across a blogger who took issue with a conversation I had with Christina-Taylor's older brother about 2 weeks after I was shot.  Texas was excited to hear that our 27 year old son would be visiting Tucson that weekend.  He was looking forward to a replay of last summer's fun-filled afternoon spent with Big Cuter and Christina-Taylor and every Super Soaker known to mankind.  The three kids spent 2 hours sending streams of water at one another as they raced over around under and through our pool.  It was joy uncontained.  If you are only as happy as your unhappiest child, that afternoon we four (dry) parents were ecstatic.  Completely filled with smiles. 

Big Cuter assumed the role of "large older friend" that afternoon.  He'd been C-T and Texas just a blink of an eye ago and yet there he was, being pelted by adoring little friends.... and loving it.... just as his big cousin had done at Muir Beach two decades ago.

The blogger in question took issue with my reference to water gun fights so soon after a gun had wreaked such havoc on us.   I can see his point, but he's missing mine.  Perhaps, without context, his oops is warranted.  But there is nothing but love and wonder in my heart when I remember that afternoon.  Two against three, the Crayola Kids against the world (aka my son), strategies and plans having been laid days in advance --- they weren't trying to hurt one another..... they were having fun.

Sometimes I think we let our rhetoric get us in more trouble than it's worth.  He's right... but he's oh so very very wrong.
*****
I am having a hard time convincing myself that my hip actually knows whether I stand on it now or in 16 hours.  But I hear you all screaming Don't be an idiot so I wait, patiently, kinda sorta calmly, for tomorrow at 11am.  That will be today, as you read this.  Come back, same time, same space, same station on Tuesday to hear the results.

There may even be pictures.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Looking for That Post??

Blogger decided that I didn't want to post it tomorrow at 6am.  Noooo, they decided to share it with you right then and there. 

But no one makes ME do what I don't want to do.  I deleted it and will share it tomorrow.  I will not be controlled!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Getting Dressed

For the first few weeks after January 8th, I really didn't think about my clothes.  Hospital gowns were fine for meeting the President and First Lady, fine for walks with the physical therapist through the hallways, fine for going to x-ray. 

The only time clothes became an issue was when I wanted to go out in front of the hospital and roll through the memorial garden.  The kind nurses found me scrubs and The Bride handed me the girls' sweatshirt and I was good to go.  When I returned to my room, my cell phone was ringing.  Big Cuter was laughing as he greeted me with "Nice yellow socks, Mom."  CNN had me on a continuous loop, my bright yellow hospital gripping socks attracting my son's attention more than my teary face. 

Clothes make the woman?  Let's hope not.

Once I was home, TBG's elastic waist gym clothes were my go-to outfits.  This plan was short lived, as the physical therapist didn't want me tripping over their length and TBG found himself without proper attire for his own life.  Those over-large waistbands were lovely, though.  I was so swollen and so stapled that there were very few places on which fabric was comfortable.  Too-Big was suddenly Just-Right.

Then the gifts started flowing in.  Cousin Victoria sent comfy more-than-pajamas.  My hiking buddies brought me flat waisted yoga pants.  Not only was I comfortable, I was wearing new clothes.  That brought a smile directly to my face.

Belt loops and snaps and zippers - my waist has issues with them all.  Sitting as I do for most of the day, I found that anything metallic made a permanent impression on my delicate skin.  Bending over was a nightmare, as poking and prodding from my pants added to the general discomfort I was feeling.  I went back to elastic waists.

Gym shorts work well when I'm not entertaining or leaving the house.  I'm just not comfortable pretending that I've come from lifting weights when it's so obvious that I haven't.  Two pairs of hiking pants are pull-ups and they've become staples in my current rotation.  I have a long black skirt and several full flowery skirts and a short khaki one that sits on my hips but, as I found out quite quickly this morning, is not something you want to wear when CNN is filming you.  (Watch for me tomorrow, sometime.)  59 year old thighs need more camouflage than that particular item was providing.  Even in shape 59 year old thighs.

Sigh.

Through it all, I've been in t-shirts on top.  I like them extra large, so that posture and underwear and general slovenliness is hidden behind lots of fabric.  I've gotten shirts from races and concerts and baseball games since January 8th.  I have oodles of oldies but goodies jammed into every nook and cranny of my closet.  I have shopping bags full of ones too hole-y to wear but too dear to throw away.  I have some that are scratchy and some that are softer than soft,  and I love them all.

But there's one which has risen to the top.  Martin sent it to me, all the way from the UK.  He asked me to wear it and wondered if I'd write about it and then I got shot and it sat on the shelf until I found it.  And put it on.  And took it off to shower but put it back on again.  I slept in it and it wasn't wrinkly when I woke up so I took another shower and put it on once more.  This all started last Sunday; here it is Thursday afternoon and I've managed to wear it for most or all of every day this week.  There are no stains or odors attached, there's just comfort and coverage and the relief of knowing that what's covering my upper body requires no thought or planning. 

I just grab Mr. Monkey and I'm good to go.

http://www.tshirtprinting.net/
Now, it is true that TBG thought that Mr. Monkey was a house with a chimney, but in his defense he was standing above and behind me and there was a wrinkle through Mr. M's mouth.  From my vantage point, though, he's a smiley yellow bundle of laughs, hugging me as I think about Christina and weep. 

She'd have liked this one, I'm sure.  I even have earrings that match

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