Friday, November 30, 2012
It's been almost three weeks. A short lifetime of culture shock and new experiences I never expected to have. Not one bit of this time has been horrible, and most of it has held gifts that break my heart open wide at every turn.
Everything about the morning of November 12 was calm. I gave information and followed directions. I said "right hip" repeatedly. I laughed at silly comments meant to ease stress. I didn't smack the overweight, overtired, over-it nurse who couldn't get my IV port in, although Walt looked like he was considering it. I marveled at how many different people I was handed off to in such a short amount of time.
I remember thinking how huge the operating room looked and how medieval some of the tools seemed. There were masked people moving around quietly with clear purpose. I scooted onto a narrow table, swung my legs around to sit as the nurse directed, and saw the anesthesiologist out of the corner of my eye shoot something into the IV port.
The next thing I remember was being asked if I wanted water, if I'd like to get a clean gown, if I could move my feet. It wasn't noon yet. I was snaky with tubes and sticky with I-didn't-know-what and the space between my hip and knee felt like someone had implanted a two-by-four.
For the next two and a half days I lived in a world of diminishment. Diminished freedom. Diminished abilities. Diminished mental capacity. For a while it was also a world of no pain. And when the pain made itself known, the thing I'd worried about most, it was not the devouring monster I'd feared. It certainly was no worse than what I'd been living with. Narcotics helped - given freely and often.
From the beginning I knew that all of it was temporary. Which made the catheter easier to tolerate, and the moaning patient in the room next door, and the absolute weirdness of the whole situation. I'd been telling myself for weeks that every part of the surgical process and all of the accommodations would only be with me for a short time. And in that I decided I could bear anything.
I was right about the temporary part. And very wrong about my decision to bear the experience. There has been nothing to bear. It's all been interesting and freeing. Every minute of every day brings new movement, new healing, new awareness that more has changed for me than a new hip.
Not all has been perfect for sure. There was the night, as I tried unsuccessfully to swing my legs into bed, I fell over nearly in tears with the frustration of not being able to make my body move. There were a couple of days when I overdid (taking my walker for longer walks than I was ready for) and worried that I'd set myself back. And there was the whole detox experience after quitting the oxycodone which caught me by surprise.
But, in what seems to be a new normal for me, the good has far outweighed the not-so-good.
I have traveled these weeks in the most amazing company imaginable. Friends visiting me in the hospital - who knew that would be so fun, so delightful? Flowers. Text messages. Cards. Phone calls. Meals dropped off. Lovely and loving women sitting on my couch visiting, or bringing me a hamburger in the hospital, or baking bread in my kitchen. Brothers reaching out, each in their own way, taking my breath away with their generosity and prayers and attention. Walt doing laundry, cleaning the litter box, cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Walt bringing me little gifts that made me smile and reminded me how lucky I am that he's in my life.
Acts of kindness and thoughtfulness given in grace and without expectation for anything in return. I'm humbled, and so happy to know that this is the life I've earned.
Emma and Toby are my constant companions. Toby is tickled to have me home, but doesn't understand how it's possible that I'm going walking without him. Emma has taken full advantage of the new lap opportunities. I study them, and marvel at the miracle of their presence in my life.
Toby at five is mellow and sweet and affectionate. I look at him and know we're probably halfway through his life, and always feel the smallest pinch of sadness, but even more feel so grateful for his grand company.
Emma at twenty and some months is my North Star through this time. I know for certain that her days are numbered. She's mostly deaf, having a hard time jumping, her coat is lumpy and stringy, and she wobbles when she walks after sleeping for a while. Her beautiful tabby face often has the pinched look of an old cat, something I haven't seen until recently. She still demands attention, food, a faucet turned on. She still purrs. She sits on my chest as I do my physical therapy.
These days at home allowing my body to heal and my self to return contain the surprise gift of extra time with Emma. And in that I've gained this most amazing insight that there is nothing beyond love that is not temporary. I stroke her fur, rub noses, take in her yeasty breath, knowing that soon all I'll have left of her is memories and the love I've learned with her in our time together. So everything can be lived with, and every minute should be treasured, even the hard ones, because nothing lasts.
Nothing lasts. Not pain. Not constraints. Not even grief. It all changes, expands, diffuses with each passing moment.
Only love. And that clearly has the power to make everything else shrink into the shadows with the brilliance of its confident and perfect light.
I'm headed out into the cold gray of this first day of December. I'll walk until my leg says no, enjoying each smooth and rolling step, not limping, and knowing tomorrow I will probably walk a little farther, a little easier - knowing soon my walking companion will be Toby again, and not my walker. I claim all that this day offers with gratitude, knowing tomorrow will be a whole new adventure in itself.