As your story unfolds, I am constantly amazed at the heart lifting twists that it takes. The human inter-connectiveness emerges every day to reveal another little bit of the beautifully intricate spun web that connects us all.
You are looking forward to tomorrow. You want to cuddle but you were a little messy today with breakfast so I started to clean you up. Your nurse popped her head around the curtain with a brief “Who are you and what are doing to my patient” look. Once I explained that I was me and you were ok with me giving you a sponge bath – she smiled and let me get it done.
Physio came early today. You were up and dressed and ready to go, so they seized the moment. Today is the big day. Today, you are performing your two newest feats: A lying to sit maneuver with the minimal help of one person. This you do quite well. And an assisted sitting to standing maneuver with only two people to assist you. You stand and put your head back and tuck in your butt ... You are standing! It only lasted for a few seconds but your body is reworking the pathways – it takes time. The clonus (tremors in your left leg), which has plagued you in the past, didn’t even appear today.
You acknowledge that the physio team does not cut you any slack. “It’s first thing in the morning, so I expect lots.” She said. She is still glowing about your T-spine extension from the other week. You jokingly mimic her and say “Yeah, but what have you done for me lately?”
After the physio, we get you in the chair and we tour the east wing with the OT. When we go into the dining/ TV room, we meet a couple who have been visiting the woman’s mother. Lorraine recognizes us from the QE2 days. Her mother had broken a hip and is still very ill and awaiting a bed in a long-term care facility. She is amazed at the progress she has seen with you.
Sadly, she has no reason to hope of the same progress for her 90-year-old mother. It’s clearly a difficult time for her and we talk about death of loved ones and how sometimes we are kinder to the pets in our lives then we can be to the people we love. To see your parent slowly fade away is very difficult … sometimes death is welcomed.
As we tour the halls for exercise, your OT says that she will be leaving for another hospital in a few months. You have asked her repeatedly to come for Christmas dinner, but her family is in Halifax. I explained that December 25th is your half birthday. “We will be having a big bash on Chris’ next birthday. You will have to come to that and see how Chris is doing.” She accepts our invite. You are happy. That is the first RSVP for your 46th party on June 25th!
On our way back to the room, we meet Leigh and Nancy, who you know from the church. You greet Leigh like she is long lost friend. Leigh and her mother, Nancy, saw you last when you were in the QE2 at the beginning of October. There is a big difference. Leigh is pregnant with her second child and due in three months. You ask “Let me know when you are in labour, I can cut the cord for you.”
Fonda visits too. She had been to see you last week but it was a short visit because your bodily functions got in the way. She’s back to share an inspired thought or two. Fonda was my friend first. One of the few friends, that we share, who started out as mine first. Our friendship goes back to high school. Our life journeys crisscrossed a few times until she came back to Truro with her family.
Fonda has always challenged my mind to work in ways it’s not used to. Like exerting an underused muscle. Sometimes, my brain would hurt, just trying to keep up to her. I can honestly say that with our every meeting, I have always come away a little richer in the ‘inspired thoughts’ bank account.
Today is no different. We talk about the inter-connectiveness of people and how it’s crucial to being a person. Biologically, we may be individual Homo sapiens, but in another dimension, the interconnectiveness makes us a bigger biological organism … a people. Maybe the inter-connectiveness is the result of each of us seeking a key to unlock the doors to the special gifts that we are all given. God played a trick on us. Rather then giving us the keys to our gifts, we were given the keys to other people’s locked doors. When we make connections to each other, we unlock each other’s special gifts.
You will probably tell me to give my head a shake right now. But I can’t – because somewhere in all that has happened - there is a message, a big message. I am compelled to keep searching for keys to unlock my gifts and help other unlock other people’s gifts.
Today at lunch, a gentleman came into your room. I had seen him many times in the past six weeks in the hallways. He always has a smile and a few happy words to share. He is employed at the hospital as a maintenance worker. As he checks your room’s curtains for stains, he starts up conversation. He has noticed your progress over the past six weeks too. He is very upbeat and shares with us some of his life.
He has defied death on a few occasions. He had open-heart surgery as a baby and about 15 years ago, he dad a significant part of his right side was damaged in a fight with a pickup truck. He is lucky to be alive. “You’ve heard of the 6 million dollar man, will once they put me back together, I’m the six dollar man.” I would have to disagree with his assessment. I would call him the ‘priceless man’. Recognizing a strong sense of survival, you ask “Are you a runner?” “No” he replies, “My wife used to run but now she has MS and is unable to run. “Make her laugh everyday. It’s important to laugh.” He said. I think, his wife thinks that he is a ‘priceless man’ too. I think he has unlocked a lot of his special gifts.
When you settle for your nap, I slip out to pick up your electrical lift and sling. That went quickly and so I stopped by the Mira to see Dad. He was resting quietly and I didn’t disturb him. I just sat there and thought about life and all the interconnections that exist between us. Is this the purpose of life? I cringe to think that I thought that getting through each day and ‘accomplishing’ things was the purpose. I wonder if Dad opened his all his special gifts. The nurses at the Mira say he hasn’t much time left.
I think that I have found several unlocked boxes over the past four months. The keys were given to me by many of the very people who have made your recovery possible. These unlocked boxes have given me a slightly heightened sense of awareness and purpose.
This afternoon, the staff from the church holds a small Christmas staff party in your room. They thought of everything! Marvelous hot apple cider, sandwiches and sweets. You even got a couple of Christmas presents. One was all the makings for a movie-in night or two … more. The other is a penguin cookie jar that Jay had painted. It reminded me of the Emperor penguin, which I think is a great example of how the males of a species can be great fathers. A very fitting present for you.
Tonight we are going to get a Christmas tree. I pick up Neeson and Erik from Juanita’s and head out to pick up Tara and Quinn. As we drive in the car, Neeson wonders, aloud, about (my) Dad’s room. He had just realized that in a long-term care facility, a bed opens up only when a resident dies. I wonder who would get Grandpa’s room” he said half to himself. I think of Lorraine and her 90-year-old mother and wonder that too.
We get up to your room and Juanita and Wayne are there to visit. Juanita gives you a special rock that she carried around for a few years. It has the word ‘Believe’ engraved on it. She carried it with her when she was really working hard to lose weight so her health would improve. She lost weight, enough weight to have two beautiful health babies. This rock gave her two miracles. She wanted you to have it so you can believe in yourself.
The four kids, you, Wayne and me walk and wheel over to the tree lot across from the hospital. I explain to the gentleman, that we have a family tradition that we started last year. We want to give a good home to an ‘ugly’ tree. Tradition may be a strong word to use here but, the children so loved the thought of doing this we started calling it a tradition the day after we started it last year. One year, before it became a tradition to get an imperfect tree, we got a lopsided tree that had a gift of a beautifully intact bird’s nest. I don’t think there are really any ugly trees, but some trees are un-naturally perfect and they seem a little out of place in the real world.
The gentleman smiles and shows us a few trees that are crooked or flat on one side. He even showed us a ‘Charlie Brown’ tree. Tara was quite keen on it. “It’s the type of tree your Dad would have cut down when you were a kid.” He said. He was right. I remember many straggly and slightly crooked trees in my childhood. The thought put a smile in my mind. I pictured my Dad going into the woods with the family to get the tree.
We settle on a tree that is rather crooked but the right size. You are getting cold. It would have to be the coldest day so far this season. When I tried to pay for the tree, the gentleman refused to take anything for it. He identified himself as Amanda’s father. I know Amanda from the animal hospital. She has a good way with animals. Now I know where she got her kind nature.
Tara is upset when we get back to your room. She has noticed that when she is with Neeson and Erik, she feels like she is demoted being one of the youngest. She does not like this feeling. I wouldn’t let her push you across the busy street in the wheel chair. I let Neeson do it. You recognized that she’s upset before I did. You ask if you can spend a minute with her. You talk with her and tell her how proud you are of her and how much she has grown up in the past four months. She beams and hugs you.
Tonight, Richard, a childhood friend, called from Ottawa. He had been following your progress from a distance. Next week he and his family are travelling to Nova Scotia for the holidays. They will be here next week. You will be delighted to see him. He asked how I was doing. I said I think that things will be easy for me now, but your work is just starting. The only hard thing now, is to convince you that you can do it. To believe in yourself and believe that you deserve this gift.
As an adult you have been given the test – the ultimate test to believe in yourself. Perhaps your stroke was one of many keys that you need to open one of your special gifts. The gift of Belief.
There will be no blog tomorrow – I’m going to be busy cuddling with you in our house on our sofa watching a movie or two. I can’t wait …one more sleep.