Comments from the Convalescent:
When I began this convalescence, I envisioned catching up on books I’ve been wanting to read in between naps. What I’ve learned, though, is that restoration is hard work. First come the sleepless nights when the anxiety of what might happen with my next breath overwhelms me. Then comes the depression in the midst of a flurry of calls to doctors and the insurance company A whole lotta hub-hub going on. Not to mention the three daily walks, fussing with cranky heart monitor electrodes, trying to get used to the weight of that contraption sliding around with me when I try to sleep. Mama, it’s hard to find a rhythm.
As the days go on and I approach the two-week anniversary of my stroke, I’m slowly feeling my way back to a routine that will work for me. I’m having to relearn how to spend my days, with my eye on returning to teaching next week. I’ve been watching and listening. Along the way, what feels right to me is that role of the observer that’s so familiar to the way I’ve always lived my life.
It’s Just Life Going on the Way It Does:
A man near me at my neurologist’s reception counter says, “I need to change my emergency contact. He’s going to jail.”
A young man smokes a cigarette while squatting on his heels outside the garage of the house where the night before I heard a woman screaming.
A boy’s bicycle has been along the curb on the main street into my subdivision overnight and all day.
My neurologist says to me, “I’m going to give you three words I want you to remember: “Tulip, “Umbrella,” “Fear.”
The speech therapist says to me in the hospital, “I’m going to give you three words I want you to remember: “Rose,” “Sweater,” “Hamburger.”
I wonder: Does every series of three words I’m to remember begin with a flower?
I tell my neighbor’s teenage daughter a joke: “Why did the groundhog cross the road?” “To show the chicken it was possible.”
My neighbor’s teenage daughter tells me a joke: “What did one waiter say to the other waiter?” “We’re both waiters.”
Love resides in the most unexpected places, even in corny jokes.
“What did Baby Corn say to Mama Corn?” “Where’s Pop Corn?”
My cousin brings me apples from the orchard: yellow delicious and pixie crunch. She tells me a story about how after her father died, my aunt said to her, “I don’t know what to do with these guns.” My aunt, the retired junior high teacher, tatter of lace, painter of landscapes, collector of music boxes. My uncle, former public relations man, gentle tender of bird feeders, congenial teller of jokes, gracious host. Who knew they’d been packing heat? My aunt’s rifle. My uncle’s pistol. Certainly not my cousin, who tells me the pistol was in a wooden box on a book shelf in her parents’ living room, lo these fifty-some years. I remember that handsome box. I always thought it was one of my aunt’s music boxes.
Surprises, surprises. When my uncle was dying, he came back to consciousness toward the end and said, “Peaches, peaches. There’s a hole in Santa’s breeches.” At another point, he asked my aunt, “Mildred, how to you spell orange?”
What were those three words? Either series.
I type them now from memory: “Tulip, Umbrella, Fear.” “Rose,” “Sweater,” “Hamburger.”
I don’t plan on forgetting. Six small words. I’ll never hear one of them again without remembering how when the neurologist and the speech therapist gave them to me, I held onto them as hard as I could. I held them as if they were my life.