Gradually getting my life back
“Healing only comes from that which leads the patient beyond himself and beyond his entanglements with ego.”
-- C.G. Jung
And that is where I found myself when I came home from the hospital. So tired and weary that nothing mattered to me but me. My whole ego was wrapped around my body. Never in my life had I felt so entangled with myself. Everything was me- me- me.
Luckily my animal companions made sure I was extravagantly loved and comforted and then demanded their share of attention in return. I could not shower for two more weeks after I got home; I had to rinse off in the kitchen sink and wash my hair in the same place. It kind of reminded me of my childhood on Bridge Street -- no shower at all, and everyone washed their hair in the sink.
Boy, times changed enormously in 50-plus years. I remember sleeping in two armchairs pushed together and my parents taping newspaper to the door jambs so the lights wouldn’t enter my room. I remember well that small flat at 909 Bridge St. and then our subsequent move to the corner of Avenue A and Seneca Street, where I would hold court in a rollaway cot on the front porch. I had many years of issues with walking and weakness.
All this resurfaced now in my pillow-strewn bed with a cat on my chest and a dog lying with his head on my hip. Two weeks of just laying on my back, and me a side sleeper from babyhood on. Trying to read at night with a makeshift miner's light contraption on my head. Because, you see, I could not sleep next to the wall where my reading light is. And here it is one month since my surgery and I am still sleeping on the outside edge. It took me weeks to learn the proper post-surgical way to get in bed. No leg or hip crossing allowed. My left leg enormously swollen and looking exactly like a big blue log in the woods. My walker parked next to my bed within arm's reach with its plastic bag tied to the frame, a portable garbage bag. And the meds! I just slept, and slept, and slept, and when I couldn’t sleep I worried, worried, and worried.
“I want to realize brotherhood or identity not merely with the beings called human, but I want to realize identity with all life, even with such things as crawl upon earth.”
-- Mohandas K. Gandhi
And then arriving at 8 AM every morning smiling, cheerful and tough as nails, pushing, pushing and pushing some more “Oh, good you got up to 10x on those exercises! Let’s try for 12-15-20-.” "Let’s walk to the front door using a cane … Oh good lets go outside and see how well you can get off the front porch. Walk to the curb, turn around, go back in.”
And then, “Do you really need that walker? Let’s go up the stairs to the second floor; well let's try 10 stairs today -- now come back down. OK, 14 stairs today, all right you are ready to go all the way up.” And so we progressed inch by inch. Now the back outside deck stairs all the way to the car, practiced getting in and out of the car.
I went for a two-week check-up to the doctor, first time using just my cane for any extended walking. Listen, at this point walking in from the parking lot and making it to the second floor of the building was serious walking for me.
Doctor X-rayed hip, laid down rules that needed to stay in place -- EVERYONE! –- But wait -- I could now take a shower!! Nurse came in took out my staples and then said, “No baths, no swimming, NO-NO-NO. But shower.” Oh “Gloriosky.”
Next morning, P.T. comes, we practice with a purpose. Up the stairs -- step into the tub -- which had a brand new grab bar, step out of the tub and back down the stairs. That night -- HEAVEN! I take a hot shower, I make hubby wait at the bottom of the stairs, I go down, I go right to bed, I do not pass go, I do not collect $200, but I am clean albeit exhausted.
The next day P.T. shows me how to sleep on my side with a huge pillow tucked between my legs from ankle to thigh. This is almost more than I can handle. Walker put away -- shower -- and sleeping on my side. Driving myself to work, I can not go in yet, too many stairs and rather shaky railings. But I sit in my car like the Queen of the May and the kids gather round and they get in and let me tell you this feels absolutely wonderful.
I make my first visit to the supermarket; oh boy, I come out like a limp dish rag but I tell myself, “Next week will be better, easier.”
I begin making plans for a foray to the cellar. New railing goes up and I practice going down with P.T. I should have known better. Dirty clothes everywhere -- wet clothes -- mildew. I become seriously depressed but I rally and the washing brigade of one springs into action. All right, a little exaggeration there, nevertheless. I did 6 loads of wash in two days and suffered mightily for it.
But I am just weak and keep getting leg cramps and each day is better. Now my task master of a P.T. brings in elastic bands to work legs with and I am humbled anew. Back to 8 reps now and I am up to 10; 20 seems a long way to go and we are getting to a point that will allow me to leave my P.T. Actually that is phrased incorrectly; she will be leaving me; my next hurdle will be climbing to the attic but I think I can manage that soon enough. I am trying to walk correctly -- heel down first and no more wedding march stepping.
I have my new glasses and my new 8-year driver’s license. Next is passport renewal. I am ready to move. Oh I still depend on a cane, I am still as weak as an infant, but I am definitely moving forward. Traveling down life’s highway and looking forward to doing things I haven’t done in years. I feel as if I have missed 2 years of living and I have to get rolling to catch up. I want to walk my crazy dog, I want to be able to walk into the ocean and jump in the waves, I might even try to ride my bike. I want to weed my garden and plant my flowers. I want to be able to stride when I walk, not hobble. I’m ready to restart my yoga, enter QUEST, have a Christmas party, roast a turkey. This seems like a small miracle and feel so blessed and lucky. Always, always appreciate the small things because you will never know how much they matter until you can no longer do them.
“It is eternity now. I am in the midst of it. It is about me in the sunshine; I am in it as the butterfly in the light laden air. Nothing has to come; it is now. Now is eternity; now is the immortal life.”
-- Richard Jeffries
On nurses' assistants and Mexican Radio
After my diatribe about C.N.A.’s, I am adding an explanation. Too many C.N.A.’s -- they are a glut on the market. Full time jobs are a long way off, there is a line of people already doing part time work at part time wages. New C.N.A.’s have to step to the back of the line and wait their turn. No one tells them this. They think they are going to finish their training and a job will be waiting. Maybe this is why the job counselor never called C. back. There simply are no jobs. Oh there is a job for him, and the teachers and the administrators of the program. But nothing for the graduates. It is a self perpetuating disaster. And it is a crying shame.
And then there is Mexican Radio. What is going on here? $3 billion dollars. This is what a shabby, tiny restaurant is going to invest in Schenectady? No parking lot, no place for outside dining. And not the best business site downtown. I used to shop in that store as a teenager. “The Imperial," it was called. Two floors of clothes I could not afford but could drool over. The best of the best. An enormous building with a grand central staircase.
You could fit both of Mexican Radio’s tiny establishments inside and hold a large party in the space leftover. And, oh, yes, third floor for business rental! Really! Talk about glut on the market, there are already acres of business rentals available, pricey as all hell, downtown with no takers. This is a fantasy, I hope you prove me wrong. I love Mexican food every Friday night; until it closed, I used to go to Mike’s on upper State Street and wait in line for a table. Actually Mike’s was very similar to Mexican Radio’s Hudson site.
Where is the retail? Where are the other forms of entertainment? Small venues with folk singers, comedy clubs, karaoke. Does everything have to happen at Proctors? I should hope not. Yes I know we have S.L.O.C. but it’s really off the beaten track. What about Jay Street, slowly sliding away? Why does everyone say, “Oh good, a place to eat before or after Proctors?” Where are the jazz clubs? I am leaving this argument on the table, cause I really want to know. Putting all your eggs in one basket is called a monopoly and has never been a good long term investment. There was a time when QUEST wished to buy the old channel 16 building and was flatly told “No” -- they would not sell to us. I guessed they didn’t want our little group in the downtown area.
And then later on, a prominent Schenectady woman stated, when asked why all downtown revitalization ended at Nott Terrace, “Because the people in that area never bonded together to make a cohesive group who could push that particular envelope,” paraphrased as, “They don’t vote!”
And then there’s the statement, “QUEST has no friends in Schenectady!” I guess they mean no friends in high places, people that carry clout. Who speaks for QUEST? A tough, tough question. Could you help me with that---please.
“My trade and art is to live.”
P.S. On Thursday Nov. 8, we will be holding a Schenectady Survivor’s Suicide and Homicide night from 6p.m.-8p.m. Share memories, wear your shirts, bring photos, Refreshments will be provided.
For more info call Judy at (518)527-1784.