I had my first grand day out today. I slipped an old maxie skirt up to my rib cage, carefully tucking the tubes that lead to my drains into the folds of it, pulled Gary’s Hawaiian shirt over the top of my special post surgical camisole, and covered my face in a heavy layer of sunscreen. Stepping out in to the day, wearing sunglasses for the first time in a week, there was this rush of joy wrapped around my lumpy getup as I climbed into the car. We went through the bank drive through. We stopped at a store and Gary handed me the car keys while he ran in. I had to chuckle as I sat there. We are such creatures of habit. Handing the keys to our passenger as we run in is almost a universal act. The sun reached in through the sunroof. Its warm tendrils touching my checks. Me in the passenger seat with my empty pain ball in a pouch with its tubes still neatly sewn into my abdomen, as useless as an appendix but still permanently attached until I visit the doctor on Tuesday. The clock ticks down on the need for the three drains tidily clipped to my clothing. Ever mindful of keeping my right arm low and rested, I stared at those keys in my hand. I could do nothing with them. I couldn’t even open the car door. And yet they whispered of what is to be. That soon, I will be able to do all of that. Open the door, drive the car, look at my body without seeing all the medical accoutrements hanging off it. But right at that moment, none of that mattered as much as the simple pleasure of me sitting in a car on a cool sunny morning.
When I moved to Salisbury, there was a shrine in the form of a recliner that belonged to Gary’s father in the corner of the living room. I added to it the quilt that laid over Keith’s bed for his last days. Thursday at 4:00 am, I woke up to the first real experience of pain I have ever had in my life. Real pain. The kind that stops you from wanting to move or breath or talk. That pain ball had run out at the same time that I chose to cut back on the Oxycontin I was taking before bed. So that afternoon, Gary moved the recliner out front and center of the living room. I climbed in and rested. My head pressed into Keith’s quilt. My feet propped up where his father’s once did. Swallowed the pills and closed my eyes until the pain finally faded away.
So I seem to have gone from the ultimate pain to the ultimate pleasure in just 3 days. How do I explain how I feel any more? This once emotionally unflappable woman finds herself drifting from one moment of joy, or laughter, or lighthearted spirits to the next one full of fear, or anger, or sorrow. My mother stayed with me in the hospital. It was one of my greatest comforts and yet, I was like her toddler daughter all over again. NO! I would say – I can do that myself! as I mentally stomped my feet and crossed my arms. I couldn’t of course. And when my son stopped in to visit, I tried so hard to make light of the state I was in and all I really wanted to do was pull him to me as if he was still my baby and hold him, for my own comfort. Then when I arrived home, Gary found himself stuck with a girlfriend encouraging him to go out and have fun only to get hit with her whiny complaints about being home alone a short time later.
But in a strange way, I have walked this path before. I’m just seeing it through my husband’s eyes now. So many times, he’d do just as I am doing now. Enjoying the rare warm winter daylight flowing into the sunroom as he rested on the couch. Telling me to go out and catch that band I wanted to see only to text me with his complaints. Refusing to let me cook dinner until I pulled a chair into the kitchen so he could sit there and instruct me. Over and over again, Keith would ask our friends if I knew how much he loved me. Yes, I always knew. I know even more now. I know it with every stroke of mom brushing my hair and each wash cloth she ran across my face. I know it with each time I looked at Zach quietly strolling into the room. I know it with each time Gary reaches out his arm to help me stand up, with each meal he cooks for me, each time he reminds me to rest that arm, take my medicine, take a nap. It is a reciprocal unconditional love. Its the kind of love you feel when someone hands you the car keys while they run in the store.