Move. Please move. God help me, I don’t want to have to do this again. Alice, for the love of all that is holy, be quiet! I’m trying to get my brain to cooperate with my body.
I try not to show the frustration and pain. It isn’t her fault. Truth be told, she is the first caregiver I’ve had that has also become a friend and I told her as much, but at the moment her relentless cheeriness is not helpful. Left leg forward. Left leg forward. Come on, body! Work!
“Maybe you should sit down and we can start again?”, Alice suggests.
“NO!” The word is sharper than I intended and I see the flash of surprise cross her face. Damn.
“Ok! Well, I’ve got you and the chair is right here. You aren’t going to fall so take your time. We’ve GOT this!” She really does understand as much as someone who hasn’t had a stroke in the prime of her life can possibly understand. I keep that in mind.
It has been a rough few days for me. I’ve made my peace with living in pain but lately the level of it has really taken its toll. My pain meds don’t even take the edge off. I hate taking them. They do little to ease the suffering and I’m groggy all day. Last night, I took all three. Left leg forward. LEFT LEG FORWARD!
Finally, my rebellious leg inches up and I am able to turn enough for Alice to slide the chair under me. I relax the grip on my cane. Success. I’ll take it in whatever form it comes nowadays.
“WINNING!”, Alice shouts. I can’t help but smile. Her enthusiasm is contagious. Irritating at times, but contagious.
“I’m sorry I snapped at you.” She smiles and tells me to think nothing of it. She says I am brave. She says she knew it was a rough night when she saw all three pain pills gone and that I am perseverance personified. She says I have so many more good days ahead. She says…suddenly I feel my tears well up.
My granddaughter’s fifteenth birthday is later this week. She has no memories of me before the stroke. I can’t do all the things I want to with her. I can’t take her camping. I can’t go hiking with her. I can barely walk. In this moment, I feel so broken and powerless. So ANGRY. I sit in my wheelchair and the words spill out of me as quickly as the storm of tears. Alice sits quietly on the edge of my bed and listens. She knows it isn’t her to whom I am speaking. It is God.
I grew up on a farm with nine brothers and sisters. I worked and scraped side by side with my husband as we built a business from the ground up. I raised two girls and never strayed away from God. I thought I was past asking why this happened to me. I thought I had accepted this. I do not waste time on self-pity, but the combination of pain, lack of sleep and residual effects of my medicine have me feeling useless and vulnerable and I am suffering from an acute case of the “why me’s”.
Finally, my tears run out. It feels like hours but when I look at the clock, only ten minutes have passed. Time is funny like that. I feel a gentle pressure on my hand and look up at Alice. There is no judgement in her eyes. Only admiration. She takes a deep breath and pauses for a moment, as if to gather her thoughts.
“I don’t have the answers to your questions. I wish I did. I wish I could make that part easier for you. As much as I like to think I know it all, those questions are much bigger than I am. I do know this, though: your physical challenges make you no less of a person, much less a grandma. You can’t take her camping but you do so much more than that. You show everyone every day that obstacles, pain, and struggle need not define you. You show us all what strength, humor and faith can do. It’s been a tough week. I know that but look what you’ve accomplished for TWENTY years! Your situation would have destroyed a lesser woman, but not YOU. You live with joy and humor despite incredible difficulties. That is the definition of success. So you can’t take your granddaughter hiking…by your very example, she will learn how to live because YOU are a survivor!”
I can see she meant every word of that. Alice can be a bit of a mess, but a lack of sincerity is not one of her flaws. To my surprise, I actually feel much better after getting that out. I feel ready to face the day, good or bad.
“Ok, Alice. I don’t know about you but I could use a cup of coffee.”