MEMORIES WE SHARE – Part 11
A quart of hot coffee, creamer and two ice cubes fly out of your hand and thankfully past you and onto the table, chair and carpet with only a few drops on you and your shirt.
The lidded cup was no match for the force with which your arm, in another spasm, slammed the cup to the floor. I grab a towel and wipe your face and arms and try to skinny you out of your shirt but you don’t want a new shirt. I grab another, older towel and throw it on the floor, stepping it down into pools of liquid and realize this is going to require the carpet cleaner. Thank God we have one. Everything can be fixed – most everything anyway.
You sit, perched at the edge of your lift chair with the wrong end of your unlit cigarette poking and jabbing it toward your face and miss completely. It seems to keep you satisfied so I wheel in the carpet cleaner and start shampooing. The noise seems to make you restless and you open your eyes and yell that you need coffee. You hurl yourself from your chair and walk half bent over toward the kitchen so I follow to make sure you don’t burn yourself on the coffee pot but these spasms from Hell allow you time to pour another full cup and I argue you into putting on the lid and straw. You seem pleased as you take your seat again, reaching for yet another cigarette and raise it to your lips, filter end out, so I go about trying to get most of the coffee rinsed and sucked up by the machine that you now do not seem to hear. Your eyes are closed and you sit quietly for a little while allowing me time to go dump the mess down the kitchen sink and put rinse water into the tank but as I come back into the living room I find you have the lighter now and are determined to get a light. Your spasms have returned and you look at me with that desperate, “I’m sorry, I’m afraid and ashamed” look and I shut off the shampooer and put the tv tray in front of you, get an ashtray and light your cigarette. I show you how to bend into the table and suck your coffee through the straw so you don’t have to lift the cup. You don’t like this but after trying to pick it up and dumping tray, ashtray and all, you reluctantly take a few sips. This time I caught the cup and the lid stayed on. Your cigarette dances across the room, thrown by an arm you no longer control and I retrieve it and find there have been other lit missiles that landed in that area when I wasn’t paying attention or was in another room … or asleep.
Four times now, from four different Hospice staff, I have asked if the doctor plans to see you and find out what is causing the spasms. They all write it down dutifully and promise me an answer soon. SOON. What is that? I’m not sure what day it is any longer and if I nap it is hard to know if it is day or night. With this unheard of heat wave we’re having I have all of the shades down and curtains drawn to keep out the sun and keep in the small amount of cold air our one window air conditioner is able to pump out. I’ve shut off the room that used to be our bedroom and hung a blanket to block off the kitchen and bathroom so we live in these two rooms and stay cooler – in the 80’s with less humidity. I want to charge another air conditioner but I look at the bill and decide we are cool enough. Your body no longer circulates blood properly so your skin is cool to the touch and when you allow me to take you temperature it is always below normal so I know you are at least comfortable in this sense.
Just two days ago you were alert enough to go and have coffee at the Scoop, your favorite hang out, trading jokes with Mary, the owner, and the other bored residents of this tiny town. You took cash with you and lost it so you wrote out a check for cash at the grocery, something I didn’t know and we are going to bounce another check by Monday unless I borrow more money from the home owner’s line of credit. The bank has done this for us three times this month and it covered checks as they came in for fulfillment against the balance you had written, a balance over four hundred dollars off. Thankfully you had a few moments of clarity and agreed to have me start paying the bills again and even more thankfully we had the credit to use. This has been a bail out for us as the cost of living goes up and our disability checks no longer cover the monthly bills. We’ve had to even charge groceries toward the end of the month and then ended up paying off the card with another loan on the house. And it has been there for emergencies when the mower stopped working and the washer and dryer too. I think we have paid off the mortgage three times now, maybe two. The cigarettes are not something that should even be in the budget, but they are and for a while we bought nasty vile cigar type cigarettes that were one fourth the price and twenty times stronger. The only advantage, other than price, was that they went out while you were smoking them if you didn’t keep the draw going so they were harmless if dropped or hurled across the room.
I’ve had a few bad moments when the clarity of our situation has come crashing through but I’ve noticed that if one is kept busy enough with one little emergency after another, reality fades quickly. Living in the moment has now taken on a new meaning as this journey changes once again. Just a short while ago it meant enjoying each others company while we can and appreciating this time we have together. Lately it seems to mean surviving one accident or over dose of medication or a financial fiasco. I did stand in front of your chair last night and hold you, rubbing your back and smoothing your hair back as the spasms shook your entire body. You put your arms around my waist and held on, hugging me close or holding on for dear life, it doesn’t matter which. We connected and that is all that is important. I miss hugs.
The weekends seem odd now with no one showing up unannounced or planned, but forgotten. People just walk into our home now, coming and going as if it is a work space. I suppose it is and the way it is designed people seem to think the enclosed porch is an entry way to the front door and if it happens to be open too then they can just enter. I’d lock them both but then we might miss the nurse with your medication or a delivery of Ensure or Boost that I now depend on to get nourishment into your deprived body on days when you don’t want to eat. So I’ve adjusted from an absolute recluse to having no privacy, no secrets, no false pride. Maybe this is part of God’s refining process for me, to cleanse me of anxiety about being around people and always feeling things are not good enough, I have not done enough. That is really old baggage that I thought I’d dropped off along the line but apparently I’ve been covertly dragging it along. I no longer worry about appearances, mine, or our home's. If you are clean, comfortable, fed and on the right amount of medication then I have done enough. If I happen to get a shower that consists of more than a good rinse off with soap and have on clean clothes it’s a bonus. If there is not pet hair on the carpet, it means you’ve been sleeping for several hours.
This saving grace for me, the computer, located in the den that adjoins the living room by French doors gives me full view to where you are. I can escape into cyberspace where life is anything I want it to be and usually just a few keystrokes away. And to think, our Hospice social worker wanted me to learn relaxation therapy that involved breathing exercises. She likes to give the air a color and imagine inhaling something pleasant to her and exhaling black or brown air out of her body along with the tension and worries. I’m happy for her that she finds it helpful. It makes me think of smoking and I crave a cigarette when I do it. I need a more physical release. Pounding on the keys, seeing words and ideas appear that are churning around inside of my head are released and exposed for what they are. They lose power to harm me because I control where they live.
The carpet is drying, you are asleep with your legs propped and body reclined and medicated, though not fed and I have just dumped toxic stress. All is right again in our world.