What a day! What a weekend! Where to start?
I feel I should start this post with some kind of disclaimer about my emotional state. What a Ball of Feelings I am today! I’m all over the place…
First off, I had a perfect getaway weekend in Seattle. The weather was so warm and sunny, I kept wondering if I was indeed in Washington—it just didn’t feel right to my sensory-memory for this time of year. But no complaints, it was great to walk around without a jacket and still feel the crisp in the air and see the turning leaves.
My sister’s family is always a pleasure to be around. Cambria and Shon are the quintessential hosts and consistently grill the best salmon I’ve ever had. And my nephews are growing way too fast. How cute are these little guys?
Though I don’t have the big-camera pictures at the moment to prove it, I had a very special time with my high school chums, Lucy and Cindy. It had been about 15 years since we had all been in one space together, and it was as if no time had passed. I’m glad I was able to get up there alone, free of responsibility. We had a lot of catching up to do, after all, so we had to make the most of our time, even if that required my character talking-a-mile-a-minute (on Seattle coffee to boot!)
The best thing about longtime friends is that when you are with them, you remember who you have always been. They will remind you, because that will always be how they see you. I find it brings a wonderful kind of perspective. A rare gift to look in that kind of mirror and to hold that mirror up for another. To know you are loved still the same way you were once. No matter how much you think you have changed, you realize you still have your ‘sameness’ intact. I think it takes the Longtimers to help one remember that sometimes.
But I’m afraid my getaway was too short. I was away JUST long enough (three days) to start to relax and remember what its like to be fancy-free. Although I missed the children and couldn’t wait to see them, it felt too soon to get on the airplane yesterday.
I had a window seat and was treated to browning views the whole way home. But it was when the pilot flew us over Catalina that the inevitable began to sink in. I was nearly home. Back to reality.
By the time we hovered over Huntington Beach, that was it. I started to weep…as quietly and hopefully, snotlessly, as possible.
Why? I’d had such a fantastic weekend, so full of laughter and love. In Seattle, I had felt happy in the moments. Now I was realizing I’d left my survival-mode for the first time in over four months. The way I’d learned to do life on an hour-by-hour level. And I didn’t want to go back to it. Until now, on the ground, it had been fine; it was my “new-normal”—totally do-able with just a little help from my friends. NOW from a new vantage point (literally) it looked depressing and overwhelming. My complicated future stretched out before me: one-sided visits to a comatose Vernon, pretending I could tutor Maki in 8th-grade algebra, looming dental appointments, moving house again, etc, etc. By the time we landed, I had pretty-much decided my next big project would be to become a kidney-donor to my husband. Needless to say now, I had a full case of the blues…
…which (although I loved seeing the kids and giving them their travel-presents and catching up on our three-way weekend together again) lasted through the night and morning and was still with me as I drove in a broken air-conditioner through record October-heat to the hospital today. (I am not actually looking for sympathy here; I am trying to set the stage. You’ll see…)
Vernon was still at St. Jude’s. I had received a call over the weekend that a bed had indeed been secured for him at Kindred, but that he had been given some hefty antibiotic just that morning that the doctors felt they should watch closely over the weekend. So the plans for his transfer were dashed once again.
I was still wiping tears away when I reached his ward today. The poor nurse, Ivy, tried to console me before I went in. I’d never seen her before, but she was sweet enough to rub my back and offer a hug. I said: “Forgive me. I really am stronger than this most days. But it would be great if you could get him a speaking valve, please just have some heart. It feels he’s gone completely backwards, and I’ve got a lot going at home. I would love to hear my husband talk for a change. He’s been so quiet since he’s been here.”
She looked at me closer then. “No. He’s talking. He doesn’t need a valve. Go in and see him.”
Ivy was right. He was talking up a storm WITHOUT a Passy-Muir contraption. I could hear him. And if I told him that I couldn’t understand him, he would speak louder until I could. It broke my heart in two to feel so sorry for myself and be so surprised by his speech at the same time. I can’t exactly explain it except to liken the experience of communicating with him to discovering a frozen specimen of a man from another time, someone trying to find his bearings, someone trying to direct us to make him as comfortable as possible in this strange world. When I showed the videos to Maki later, he put it in the best words: someone “independent.” Someone able to express himself even if he doesn’t know where he is or what he is doing there.
And so it continued. Lots of talk about Norway, especially. The weekend nurses had wondered if he was indeed Norwegian before I explained. He seemed to want to know the name of every new person entering the room and would repeat it again and again so he wouldn’t forget. When I asked what kind of food he would want if I could get him some (he’s still not ready for food, by the way) Vernon clearly said: “Dairy Cream from Norway.” We deduced that this was some kind of ice cream (though Synnove, when I asked her later, had no specific idea of what he meant.) He may be totally confused with various memories coming up through his speech at once, but suddenly he is COMMUNICATING! When we complimented him on this, he said: “I have to. Because you don’t understand me.”
Needless to say, on my way home, I was still tearing up. The air conditioner wasn’t working, I had a list of unfinished things to get back to, I longed for another holiday, but this time, my sad tears were mixed with wonder and humor and joy. What a marvelous journey today has been. I have something exciting to look forward to again!