Ok, I just found my hairbrush in the refrigerator. And I'm not the slightest bit concerned.
It is definitely becoming increasingly difficult for Chico to stay in the hospital. It is still an interesting place for me while he's there. I am continuously (continually?) intrigued by the rythm of the hallways: people on the phone having just witnessed "her last breath," people headed in to give birth, bewildered people of all ages, children wondering, "But why is it called a 'bank'?" as they pass the blood bank, clergy looking cheerful, clergy looking severe, bewheelchaired riders headed out for a smoke, doctors in a huddle, single doctors avoiding eye contact, assorted familiar employees..."Hey, Susan." "Where he at now?" "Hello." "I found Martin! Yup! I visited him."
There are certain times of day when I love to walk in because staff are walking out to catch the shuttle and I see people I know from other parts of Chico's stay. Or I may be walking out when they are coming in...Shift changes. I see people who have been so briefly, so intimately and critically important to Chico and therefore to me. I feel a little thrill and I want them to know they matter. We all do matter to each other. I wish we could remember that in times without trauma.
I went to Chico's rehab session with him today. On weekends it is only 1/2 hour per patient rather than three hours. First I saw this woman who I have seen regularly over the past 6 weeks heading out or in on the ground floor. She is beautiful. She looks tough. I always want to engage her but she always looks ahead. Stoic. Her therapy wrangled her. When she got back to her chair she was exhausted, having put in a good effort. And she could barely speak, though she tried to. This part of her therapy involved walking a short loop. Eventually she recovered and chatted with sparking unpredictable encouragement to the other people in the room. She gave them energy; she was a bright light. I'd wanted to see that all these weeks, this is the engagment I had wanted without even knowing it.
In the gym all the patients line up in a row in their wheel chairs. On the weekend they have some individutalized work but there is not a one to one ratio of therapists to patients. In the room there was a strong feeling of comraderie. I don't think the patients know anything about each other's injuries or disabilities other than what they see in the gym. It is the only common place for them and there is no down time. In spite of their minimal relationships there was a swelling empathy.
Chico began with exercises in his chair. They sound easy. Try lifting your leg with the quads thirty times. It's harder than just sitting there. Then imagine doing it with a broken femer that has perforated the quad. Try thirty butt squeezes five seconds each. Not that easy. I found exercising along was a good use of time and muscle. As Chico completed his hopping lap with his walker, his therapist, IV stand and I were trailing behind, he reentered the room like a super star. They guy with the oversized red glasses who couldn't seem to lift his head smiled, the guy in a matching green tee and shorts set, and a neck brace (who is working on ankle crunches and can't seem to lift his hands) cheered and told Chico how awesome he is, the woman I see outside talked about how much better he did than she (true), the next guy just checked in more generally as he took the leg holders off his wheelchair. Chico's responses, "Hey!...This'll be you in no time...nah, nah...yeah, good to see you..." were warm and encouraging also. I was reminded of all the invisible worlds we have even in our own, familiar, regular, American world. It was moving. The whole scene was moving, not just the part about seeing Chico hop. He did it at a steady pace. Gritty.
Back home I had a consultation with Jim, a new dear friend (formerly an acquaintance for many years) and valuable resource who is six years past a head-on worse than Chico's. He sent a package to Chico which included an invitation to me to call him. Both Chico and I jumped at that chance and Jim came over as soon as I arrived home from Albany. Here are some salient points for the Little Missus (me) right now. He drove himself over in his truck, he walked to the house without a limp, climbed our five steps to the house, and twice we went upstairs to the second floor and back down the stairs. Phew! This could not have seemed more generous to me, nor been more thrilling and reassuring. I should have taken his picture to post! He gave me great advice about setting up our house, practical information of all kinds and a capacity to see that there is a future pulsing with hope. This man exudes life. It is a new life to him too.
As ever, I am filled with gratitude. And although the days are no picnic for Chico right now, he is comforted by your support and still manages to enjoy a laugh, a good conversation and engage positively with the staff, between long expanses of hospital time.
The count down to Bristol is in full force.