I am up at 5:30 am, can’t sleep and finally drift off for a brief awhile so I could have a bad dream about loosing the children somewhere. I don’t remember the details but I bet it was inspired by leaving Tara alone in the corn maze in the dark to go find her friends. I didn’t like doing it even though Tara wanted to go in the maze by herself. Quinn was really worried and in tears as we drove off, convinced that he wouldn’t see her again.
I journal for about two hours, pouring my frustrations into the keyboard. Purging. It’s felt good to write. When I read back in the pages, I realize that if I want to keep up the pace with you, I have to stop saying yes to everything for the children. I’m only human and I can’t do-it-all all the time. I have to find other ways to un-stress – but what? I have my work that I love to do; I have great outside support for the children; I have, happily, abandoned all cooking duties and most housekeeping duties and yet still eat well and live in a clean house; I have a weekly schedule – which I find comforting; I am getting seven hours of sleep a night and I feel love and support from family and friends and now I feel your love ... My life should be pretty good. Why do I feel stressed?
I think that I have accepted that I can’t control your outcome from this marathon. That lesson came during the MRSA scare. But I am frustrated that my usual ‘can do’ attitude is being challenged and tested. Tested a lot on days like yesterday. Maybe I need to do something to fix the ‘can do’ attitude. Maybe more exercise. Maybe something radical …mediation maybe.
A client, Gloria, a retired lady, who lives in Canada during the summer and the USA in the winter, told me on my first day back from work but her winter reading. She may be retired but she did not retire her mind. She told me her winter reading, last year, was on the brain. She got a stack of books and tired to learn more about how the noggin works and what are some of the powers that are trapped inside. She had read the ‘My Stroke of Insight’ and ‘How the Brain Heals Itself’ among many others.
She is self-admitted strong left brain thinker. Logic and reason are her friends. (Like me) After all the research she did, she settled on mediation as an area to explore in more detail. Her daughter got her a machine that connects to the computer that helps train one’s mind to mediate.
I’ve tried mediation before. I don’t mediate - I fall asleep or solve problems in my head while assuming a meditative outside appearance. Most of the time, I would just give up and go find something to do. Things like work in the garden and move huge rocks around and wreck my back. I came to the conclusion that I am too left-brain to mediate. Yet my left brain says to me if I can’t find peace in my over-active left – maybe I can find it in my right.
When I get to the hospital room you are dressed and awake. I’m impressed. Heather and Serena are your nurses and I noticed that the floor was short staffed. Usually there are eight nurses covering the floor full of patients but today there are only six. “I don’t mind it being busy, it makes the time fly by” Serena says.
You are quite awake. You are using your normal voice most of the time, although, it sounds like you are overcoming a very bad case of laryngitis. Your voice is rough. It pops and cracks but it is a low normal volume most of the time. I hug you and you hug me – it feels good. I tell you about our last real hug in the kitchen on Aug 29 (57 days ago – our longest hug break ever). I told you how I thought I would never feel your hug again. We both cried.
Serena comes in. She is very capable with a ‘can do’ attitude. She has an easy going way about her. As she catheterizes you she says that she can only do it right handed. She said “The only thing I do with my left, is catch ball.” Turns out she played competitive baseball and was on the provincial team. She doesn’t play now. I mentioned that you played ball – shortstop – she’s impressed.
I noticed that you had some teachers visit yesterday. The teacher’s provincial conference was in Halifax. With your volunteer work at the school, you know a lot of teachers. I’m glad that you had company yesterday. I think it will help define the days better for you.
I have always found it easier to retrieve memories from the hard drive if there was something non-routine about that day. In fact a few days before your stroke, I was sharing that concept with you in reference to family vacations. I had told you that it didn’t matter what we do on a family vacation, as long as it’s something out of the ordinary.
This summer, we didn’t do anything elaborate for vacation time, but we did do some small road trips. Trips like hiking to the river behind out old house looking of fossils. We all have memories of it and those memories will stick in our heads longer then if we have stayed home and mowed the lawn and played in the garden. I felt that a good family vacation is about making lasting feel-good memories.
You tell me that you donated some blood today. – Probably some routine tests. I tell you that I will donate some blood soon too - the next blood donor clinic is next month. You reply that you “are going to sign up for a lot of things.” I said “Things like what”, “Oh blood donor and tongue donor” you reply. I ask what does that mean - tongue donor – Your answer suggests to me you have not lost your twisted sense of humor, which sometimes lives on the edge of, what I think, is good taste. You made me smile and laugh.
I tell you about the PEI Marathon and Half Marathon. Our friend, Edwin placed 7th. I tell you that it was a personal best time for him but he was disappointed with it. With your stronger voice, you want to call him and talk to him. We call Edwin so you could hear first hand his half marathon last weekend why the downer personal best. You are always there to be supportive to other runners. Apparently, that will not stop.
We catch Ed on the road, driving his two youngest girls, Erica and Jessica, to a cross-country race. I think they had planned to run with the number 29 on their shirts. You talk to Edwin and I hold the phone – the call is cell phone to cell phone – the conversation is a bit static-ity and with your cracking voice – a little hard for Edwin to hear you. He does most of the talking and you end the conversation, just like you would with any conversation you had in the past, with “It’s been good talking to you.”
If phone conversations are going to be a common thing, which I think they will with your parents and Steve in Ottawa, then we need a better setup. I am going to look into getting a calling card so we can use the hospital phone.
News of your call traveled fast. Within ten minutes Janice called and is thrilled to talk to you. You don’t have to strain your voice with Janice, she is a extraordinary phone talker. She tells you she feels useless and wishes there was more she can do.
I don’t know what she hopes to do, but I think she has helped a lot so far. Currently, she writes you letters at least every second day - currently we have a binder filling with letters. Every letter she signs off “Never Doubt”.
She ends her monologue with the information that Jaimee is coming to Halifax and will visit you. You ask “Does Jaimee feel useless too?” then you add that she wants to help, she could “smuggle a can of coke in your pants…. with ice.” Janice and I laugh – you are being you – it’s so good to hear.
Steve and Laura arrive as we finish the phone call. Their plane was delayed yesterday. Steve came bearing presents; baseball hat for the Angels Division Champions 2009 and a Dallas Cowboy hat – another favorite team of yours.
You tease Laura, just as you always have, about not being here with Steve when you first had your stroke. You try to guilt her into signing up for a leg in the Cabot Trail Relay team.
You amaze me, you haven’t missed a beat. You were always trying to interest people into running a leg of the race and here you are today, encouraging Edwin with his racing and trying to get Laura started. I am impressed.
We talk a little of the new workshop that you and Jeff (another running friend) built last fall. Our September project was to winterize it and organ-size it and so you could use it this winter. You always like making things. The ideas would be slow to come on initially every fall, but as the leaves fell so did so did the ideas – you would rake them up and by the time Christmas would arrive you would be in full production … like Santa’s workshop. The last few years, you didn’t get to do this – our family demands were getting too time consuming. You didn’t complain, but I think you missed this creative outlet.
Jaimee arrives. You are happy to see her. She is in town to watch a rugby game. She is not playing rugby this year, Janice has convinced her that the broken finger and broken leg is enough of a sacrifice to make to the game. I wonder what your advise would be to Tara is that happened to her. I wonder if she would listen to you. You tire to recruit her for the Cabot Trail Relay Tidal Boars team next May.
You keep this up there will have to be two Cabot Trail Relay races – just to accommodate all the people you are trying to recruit.
Jaimee reminds you of the jewelry bow you made you her and one for each of her sisters. She cherishes it – it got to go to Acadia University with her. She also mentioned all the wooden Christmas trees you made that don their fireplace mantle each year. Trees of all sizes and styles. Every year you would come up with a new way to make a Christmas tree on the lathe.
Once the workshop is insulated and organized, I hope that it will be a place of healing for you. A place where you can exercise your right brain and the left side of your body. A place for you to create treasures. I think it will be a place that could help you heal.
As Jaimee leaves, you look very serious for a moment and say “Don’t do drugs.” I think she took it as a joke. Because I think that’s how you intended it … I think – I still can’t tell most of the time whether you are pulling my leg or serious … even after 22 years.
I re-read the letter from Terri and her day trip to Cooperstown on Setember 29 – I hoped that would trigger a memory for you with your parents two weeks ago. I show you some pictures but I don’t know if you can see then very well. You have asked about your parents, and expressed concern for them.
You are sleeping when we get back but you awake easily to greet us. You are not as bright as this AM and I think you are a little overwhelmed with all the people in your room. It is difficult to hear you – I think we wore you out this morning.
A lot of visitors do wear you out, as the volume in the room increases, you withdraw into your own world. I think it’s too stimulating for you. Sadly this is especially true when the children are here. It gets hard to hear you when the noise level increases.
I put on the Notre Dame against Boston College football game. You are a Notre Dame fan – ‘Play Like Champions Today’ is their motto that you wear on your wrist but today, you are also wearing a Boston shirt. I didn’t point that out to you – You wouldn’t have like the contradiction.
We all say good night and head out to let you rest. Quinn and Tara head to the hotel that Steve and Laura are staying. I go out to search for cheap swim suits – find them and head to the hotel. Laura and the children play happily in the pool for 30 minutes throwing beach balls at each other. Steve and I talk. He is impressed with how far you have come since the ICU days.
Eventually, Laura and the children browbeat Steve into the pool. I watch and think how you would have been right in the middle of the action with balls flying everywhere.
The Angels game cancelled until tomorrow.
Tara is itchy again – I can’t believe there are still lice. I treated her last Sunday. To keep her happy … and me at ease about these parasites I promise to treat her again Sunday night.
It’s a late bedtime. Tara and Quinn eat a bedtime snack. Tara fades off to sleep immediately. Quinn tries to settle to sleep, he reviews his weekly routine after school. It as if he is trying it on for size. I think that is part of his anxiety.