I'm most recently a writer. In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot. As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades. An unwilling transplant from the South, twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US. Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect. When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do. Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
That Unanticipated Bend in the Road
I've decided, after six decades, that much of life is journeying through the unfamiliar toward we're never certain exactly where. It's the anticipation of eventual arrival, the company along the way, and the satisfaction of the miles we've covered at the end of each day that brings joy to the life of the travelers. But every traveler rounds an unanticipated bend at times and finds himself lost, without a clue how it happened or how to get back on track. In a sense, that's where I've been these last few months, in a shadowed valley trying to find the road up and out. No map, no roadsigns, and no one to assure me I'll eventually find myself on the sunny high road again.
I don't mean to sound hopeless or despondent. I'm not really alone here. I'm stranded with the love of my life at my side, and this place is inhabited with plenty of other souls similarly waylaid. We commiserate about our circumstances, but each of us is so occupied with our individual burdens, we have little time to do more than offer an encouraging word.
What the heck is she going on about, you may be asking if you've made it this far. It's a pretty simple story, really. Last October, on a routine walk in our neighborhood, my husband stubbed his toe and fell. No major injuries, other than a possible broken toe. A few days later, he fell again, momentarily dislocating his shoulder, but escaping anything more serious. Several years ago, he had a successful knee replacement, and we were thanking our lucky stars he hadn't done any damage to that right knee. Two weeks later, his right leg began to hurt, enough so that even a stoic such as he decided to see a doctor. We were referred back to the orthopedic surgeon at that point. No visible damage to the joint, but still plenty of pain. We got through the holidays fully anticipating improvement. On January 14, our daughter's birthday, we were getting in the car when he somehow fell backwards and ended up on the ground with his legs bent beneath the car. He hasn't been able to bear weight on his right leg since. At that point, we had to acknowledge life had changed.
He's had months of physical therapy, three epidurals, and more falls. Now we're told he needs to see a spine specialist. In the meantime, he's confined to the first floor of our house. This may not sound so bad, but his books and music--a lifetime of study--are on the second floor in a room designed especially for his enjoyment. For the first time in his nearly eight decades of life, he's learning to cope with constant pain and inactivity. One by one, he's reluctantly let go of much anticipated commitments to sing and preach. It's impossible for him to leave the house without someone stronger than myself to help him. Just going from one room to the other can be an adventure of the kind no one wants. Even with a walker, when that leg gives way, or won't move, he's likely to go down. Getting up requires calling that stronger someone to come to the rescue.
My husband is not easily discouraged. He may not be the fastest moving man, but he's always kept moving, independently doing the necessary along with the things he most enjoyed at a steady, determined pace. In the past six months, life for him, and therefore for me, has rounded that unanticipated bend. We're trying to navigate this valley with patience and grace, but I'm willing to admit we'd both prefer to see that high road again very soon.
Now you may be saying this is just the natural order of things. We get older, life changes. I'm willing to accept that, but I'm not willing to let go of all expectation for improvement. I'm not willing to see my husband give up things he loves, even excels at, without fighting for a solution to the problem. I'm not willing to do that myself, either, if it comes right down to it. We're not ready to stop contributing. We're not ready to sit down or step aside. Quality of life should not be determined by the quantity already lived.
Years ago, I worked in a nursing home. My job included advocating for the highest quality of life a resident could achieve. I found myself harassing doctors, encouraging family members, banging on closed doors, and feeling generally disillusioned with society at times. Damned if right now I don't find myself in that same position, but this time the fight is personal.
Time, in the best of times, moves too rapidly. Time spent waiting and watching, hoping and praying for something good, or at least for nothing worse, still seems to pass too quickly, but the days are far less satisfying. Our focus has narrowed from looking forward to simply getting through each day, one at a time. Small things, meals, errands, getting dressed in the morning and preparing for bed, what to watch on TV, consume the hours with an importance we never gave them before. While we both acknowledge there are many in far worse straits, we're not willing to let this become our new normal.
I'll try to keep posting on what I fully expect to be our progress. We've always prided ourselves on being adaptable, and we have found some things to help us cope--some quite unexpected. More on that next time.