My absence from this blog has been unintentional yet mandatory. Writing is part of who I am but I haven’t been who I am lately…
The phone rang like mad at two in the morning. I mechanically answered. The line went dead. Caller ID showed an unrecognizable out-of-area code. Half-asleep and semi-annoyed I went back to my oblivion. A few seconds later – at least that’s what it felt like – blinding lights came on. Mil-second adrenaline driven fear and a herculean effort to wake up and react before I realized it was my son who had just walked in. Was I processing? He lives half an hour away – what on earth was he doing here red-eyed, choking up, silent back tears, words refusing to come out?
“It’s dad,” he mumbled. I held him or he held me – I don’t remember. It’s heart wrenching to see your child cry – even harder when he is a grown up, strong, powerful, deceptively invincible and on the top of the world – his world. Replaying the scene is sketchy. My wounded memory fades in and out and the words have by now lost all meaning. The phone line at my son’s end had not gone dead. His father got through to him. Thousands of miles away, in Southeast Asia, he suddenly stopped feeling his legs and called seconds before he lost consciousness. He said he loved all three of us – my daughter being in yet another continent – and that this was good bye…
I don’t remember if I said anything. I know I hugged my son; I dialed his father’s cell phone number – but the phone was off. I kept on dialing like a maniac – it was the only thing I could think of doing. Two people sitting in the middle of the night – in the absence of news, hypotheses, fear, shock, anguish and the absolute silence of a phone gone dead – but how about the person at the other end of the line?
Uncertainty, silence, darkness, disease, loss, possibilities and impossibilities, the certainty that this was a mistake, a sick joke, something that really wasn’t. Things and people you take for granted are never really yours to keep. So, what is there to keep you going when life pulls a fast one on you?
It’s now three and a half months later. I stopped feeling, thinking, working, writing, doing the things I used to do before all this happened.
George is paralyzed from the waist down. They performed emergency surgery on his spine in Vietnam and in spite of all odds, he pulled through. His only job was to fight for his life; my first job was to get him back home “safe” – but what was safe really?
Two weeks later, a private air ambulance brought him home to Stanford. The logistics, negotiations and arm twisting that it took to get him home – herculean tasks that now seem so ridiculously simple. They weren’t but it is now irrelevant. Two more months in a Rehabilitation Center following near death stints in the ICU and the impact of human tragedy living inside you – all the time.
Pain, anguish, fear, mourning, denial, anger – tons of emotions that twist and choke the bloodline of hope.
But somehow life never waits for you to recover. You either make it or you don’t. Deal with it and rest later – maybe. But, as you are faced with a whole new reality and as you adjust to a life that is no longer the same, your core is shaken.
I stopped being who I was before. I had to become someone else to deal with George’s trauma and pain. In the last three months, I have done things I never thought possible. My strong personality aside, I faint at the sight of blood. I hate hospitals and all things medical – and I’ve been known to become squeamish with some ugly stuff. Yet, here and now, I have had no choice.
I saw, heard, smelled and touched things, concepts and feelings I did not know existed. Courage/cowardice, compassion/obligation, love/co-dependency – opposite sides to the same coins – a series of complicated emotional reactions to a life-altering injury that has changed our family’s life forever.
“Rehabilitation,’ ‘caregiver,’ ‘spinal cord injury,’ ‘wheelchair,’ ‘paraplegia,’ ‘custodial care,’ ‘occupational therapy,’ ‘handicapped ramp” – words not really part of our vocabulary and now they have become part of our life.
The injury is way too fresh for things to be considered semi-normal. The recovery and adjustment are slow yet steady and every day is different and fluid – some things you conquer, some things you lose. Some people surprise you with their kindness, some with their immaturity, some with their betrayal and abandonment, some with their selflessness and compassion.
The journey is long and tiresome. Some days feel lonely and desperate and some are full of light and hope – and writing this I realize that in reality this is the only way they can be. It’s only human. But, I do listen to my heart and no, I may have temporarily stopped blogging but I will always try – even though this time I hesitated. Promise…