Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Saturday February 20 – Laundry Angels

I was right. The morning was better. Your tone shifted from feeling like a joke to feeling like a good person who wants to make sacrifices for the children and me. “The stroke was completely out of my control …” Your thinking is shifting from feeling punished to being a victim of a random event.

Quinn brought, with him this weekend, a magic show kit that he got for Christmas. While I make breakfast, you help Quinn figure out a trick using a fake thumb. You are quite capable to problem solve with the children. I over hear your conversation from the kitchen. When I stick my head around the corner, Quinn quickly defers to me to help. I realize that if I make a point to stand back then they will go to you to get help. If I can do this, then your relationships the children will regain the strength that it had with time.

I can see other benefits to this strategy. The children will force you to try things and experiment and learn new things or at least learn new ways of doing old things. The children will be your motivators.

Your new leg brace is a pretty turquoise with the number 29 on it in several spots. There is definitely a learning curve to putting it on. I have not mastered it yet. There is a lot of grunting … and some swearing involved when I attempt it. When I finally get it on you, I realize that this appliance will be something that you will need help to put it on.

I felt a bit overwhelmed yesterday while packing up your things for the weekend. There was a week’s worth of laundry to do in your closet. I packed it up into your bag yesterday and dragged it back to Lenore’s apartment. I had thought that I would do the laundry there over the weekend. When I went to start the laundry, I noticed that the machines aren’t normal coin machines. No, that would be too easy - these machines need ‘smart cards’ – great what am I supposed to do now? I think to myself. I picture us spending the afternoon at the NSRC doing laundry because that’s the only place I will be able to find a machine.

I refused to give up hope. I waited until the apartment office was open. I asked how I could get a card. No cards are available the two ladies who work in the office say. “Are there any laundromats handy to here where I can take laundry?” I ask. I explain briefly about the mountain of laundry and that we are staying at a friend’s apartment. One of the ladies remembered me from last fall when I came by to get the keys to the apartment. She asks how you are doing and I let it all out … again to two complete strangers. It seems easy to unload to strangers. I don’t feel like I’m dumping a burden on a stranger compared to how I feel when I vent to a friend or family member or you.

I tell the ladies, tearfully, about your stroke and how you are on your first weekend pass from the NSRC. I tell them how there are lots of challenges for us in the future and that I’m scared. When they see that I’m a basket case, they ask how you were emotionally. I tell them that I believe that you are stuck in the anger and depression stage. Your have a lot of despair and worries about being a burden. You don’t know if you can be a good father.

Ironically, they both grew up with fathers who were physically challenged in some way. Both of their Dads were angry men who never seemed to get past their anger. One was in a wheelchair before ‘wheelchair accessibility’ was a buzz word. He had lots of reasons to be angry. I mentioned how my ability to cope was very intimately involved with your ability to cope. When you are down, I’m down. I can’t seem to control my feelings any more then you can control yours.

They supplied me with a seat, a box of Kleenex, a drink of water and some very sound heart felt advice. “Don’t worry.” They said, “Children are very resilient. They will over come this and they will be more empathetic people because your husband is in their lives. You are important too. You will give the children balance to Chris’ feelings. They will learn from both of you.” With that said, they set me up with a smart card for the laundry machines and sent me on my way.

Who would have thought that one could meet angels while trying to do laundry? These marvelous ladies came into my life at the right time with the right message.

While making lunch, you get sad and start on the negative talk again. “It is an injustice – I should have died.” You sob. I don’t want to hear this but you need to say it. It’s part of the healing process. I tell you that there will be something good that is going to come from all this. We just have to believe it. “I wish I could look in on our lives in five years” You said “I need to know that will be all worthwhile.”

I know you will make it worthwhile. Your marathon man mind is still waking up and hasn’t kicked into gear yet. I know that once that spirit wakes up then the possibilities are only limited by our imagination – You will make it all worthwhile.

After lunch, we get outside. Our first trip outside together as a family since the warm days in August. The sun actually shone for a little while. We wheeled down the street to the Freak Lunchbox. For me, the freak lunchbox holds no attraction. ‘Unless it’s chocolate, it’s not worth it’ is my motto. You are more nostalgic about the candy store. You are in search of ‘Bottlecaps’ … ideally rootbeer flavor. I felt like a parent to all three of you as Tara and Quinn ask to buy this and that. “Each person can have one thing.” I announce. You all looked a little disappointed but accepting of the decision.

As we try to navigate about the small and very crowded store with the wheel chair a little girl, about four years old, looked at you and asks me “What happened to him?” She was with her father and I think that she couldn’t imagine her Daddy being in a wheelchair. Her eyes were wide with wonder and innocence as she asked. “My husband had a stroke and his brain and body don’t work very well right now, but he is getting better everyday.” I reply.

You ask me what the little girl said. I told you. “What do I tell people who ask me what happened?” I tell you to say what you know. “You had a stroke, nearly died but you lived instead and you are going to keep living.”

With candy in hand and mouth, we set of down the street to the Discovery Center. I explain to you that this is an old haunt of the three of us Tara, Quinn and I spent many hours wondering about between visits to you on the seventh floor of the QE2 Halifax Infirmary. “They even had a special brain exhibit during the time that we visited. It helped pass the hours because at that time you slept a lot.” You have a hard time imagining what life was like for us then. I try to recall it but it seems like it was a lifetime ago.

On the third floor is a maze. It’s narrow and convoluted but it turned out to be great practice for wheel chair maneuvering. They should have this set up at the NSRC.

We make our way back to the apartment by way of Scotia Square where we stop to buy batteries for the electric cannon that you and Quinn want to assemble. Another Christmas gift.) The phone rings and its Martha!

Martha, your best friend, is in town for a few days to attend a nursing meeting and wants to met up to catch up. She says, “I was just up at the rehab hospital and learned that Chris had a weekend pass … so where are you?”

“We’re still in the city and staying at Lenore’s apartment. Where are you?” “Well” she says, “Right now, I’m in this mall by a Tim Hortons and there is a water fountain in the courtyard – I think it’s at the corner of Barrington and Duke Street.” She said. I laughed “We will meet you there in about 3 minutes!” We were just down the hall and around a corner at the bookstore when she had called!

Martha takes over the pep talks. She starts with your role as a parent. “You can talk the talk and you can walk the walk – both literally and figuratively.” “The walk won’t be pretty.” You say. “Nothing is pretty when you first learn it.” Martha says, “But you will show them that you can do it.” Everything is going to be hard work. But that’s parenting and that’s recovery.

We discuss the house and how to arrange the house to accommodate you and allow for a good recovery. She agrees with my thoughts. We want to make it safe for you but we don’t want to make it too easy. Challenges will force recovery. You suggest rip lines form one floor to the next! That might not be safe but it could be a lot of fun to have rip lines throughout the house.

As we walk back to the apartment, we stop at a little pizza place and make on order for dinner. You try to read the menu but you get stuck on the columns. The left margin eludes you and it is a frustration. A little later as we wait for the elevators you comment that it’s odd that both elevators are on the seventh floor.

I have a hard time understanding how you see. It seems very odd to me that you can’t distinguish columns that are millimeters apart but you acknowledge elevator lights that are 2 meters apart. The OT says that it all to do with ‘scanning’ and learning to scan your world with intent rather then rely on your peripheral vision. Right now you seem to need to be cued frequently to find things.

This observation brings up the ‘never drive again’ rant. At dinner, Tara and I discuss the value of the word ‘never’. She thinks that never is OK so that you don’t get disappointed. I point out that ‘never’ is a very discouraging word. To say “maybe some day” you can do this or that leaves you open to hope. Right now we all need to maintain hope that things will change.

One thing I know for sure is that things will change. Either you will get better or we all will learn to adapt to our new life. A change in your physical condition or a change in our emotional response. Either way – there will be changes.

At bedtime there is more late night talking. Negative talk. Finally I get you to go to sleep. I hope that this will stop soon. Emotionally, I can’t continue to absorb all the negativity from you at bedtime and get a good night’s rest.

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