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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!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Every Step You Take

It's been more than two weeks since I wrote the last post about our new life. You settle into a routine, it seems, no matter how foreign, and the days go by. That's true for us, but I think it's fair to say routine does not necessarily translate into comfort. The challenges seem to keep coming, and the less sleep you get, they more challenging they can be. There are days when I think if only we could get enough rest, we would be so much better at this. I'm beginning to wonder if, when everything takes so much longer, so much more effort and energy, there will ever be enough rest.

Don't get me wrong. We're doing okay. If fact, we've made great strides. I'm writing again, and promoting, and generally trying to revitalize my writing life. John is getting better at doing everything in a seated position. (Try it sometime and see just how quickly you want to stand up!) Most significantly, we overcame the onset of what I can only call "Nurse/mommy Syndrome." I suppose it's inevitable, given the odd assortment of roles one takes on as primary caregiver to one's spouse, that normal relationship dynamics get a little bit confused. Off and on, (well, more on than off, really) I struggled with a distinct lack of husbandly  presence and an overwhelming expectation of service. To be fair, I probably laid a good bit of the expectation part on myself. I tend to do that, require more of myself than anyone else does. But the lack of affection, the loss of conjugal attention, and the typical regression to childlike behavior from any ailing husband really got me down. I'm happy to report that's subsided. I've always been grateful that John can eventually untangle my mixed messages and wavering moods. He may not articulate the problem, but he makes the necessary adjustments to set things right.

We've spent more time together during our marriage than most couples. For a number of years, we both worked at home. We learned to give one another space and come together during breaks in the workday to enjoy time together. We don't mind being under each other's feet at all. Now, however, we're closer than I could ever have imagined. We literally take every step together.

The doctor's orders upon discharge from the hospital were "transfer with assistance." The rehab discharge was something similar, "ambulate with walker and assistance." What that means in practical terms is every move from point A to point B, every single step John takes, requires another person holding securely to an accessory known as a "gait belt." This woven strap with an adjustable buckle becomes the primary point of contact between the patient and the "assistant." In our case, this means that when we walk together, rather than hand in hand or arm in arm, as we have always done, John leans on the walker and hops on one foot, while I hold onto the belt and walk, very, very slowly and carefully, along behind him. It means that when he wants to get in or out of the chair, or on or off the bed, I grasp that belt and together we manage, not always gracefully, to make the move. It also means that if he needs to do the most private things we all mastered with pride by the age of two or three, I must be there with him, holding on to the belt. Togetherness becomes an entirely different kind of intimacy.

Romance, which we have succeeded in keeping alive and healthy during twenty-odd years of marriage, has been lost in the shuffle, as my grandmother used to say. Affection, I'm happy to report, has slowly found its way into the routine. It's enough for now. As much essential contact as we have in the course of an ordinary day, a loving touch or a kiss on the forehead is greatly to be treasured.

Tonight when you watch your significant other going through their evening routine, take a moment to appreciate the ease with which they change their clothes. Admire the strength of their stride as they cross the room. Return their absentminded goodnight hug with all the intention you can muster. Imagine that tomorrow, everything might be changed. Remind yourself that if it is, what bound you to them before will still be there with you, every step you take together.

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