Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dreaming of a . . .

Nope, I'm not dreaming of a white Christmas!  I'm dreaming of a "pain free" Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.  Before I got old and unbalanced, and tripped over my own feet. (Or over a bin of boxes I put in the kitchen!)

December 20 ~ I'm on vacation!  Both daughters are home!  We have four days to get last minute presents made, and wrapped and be ready for Christmas festivities!  Jess and I have been sitting in the family room, chatting and entertained by watching Kailyn's kitten.  Kailyn's out on a date; David has been in bed asleep for hours. I pick up one of the beautiful poinsettia plants in the family room and carry it to the kitchen for a dose of water.

Suddenly, I am falling, the plant goes flying and SPLAT goes my body, onto the kitchen floor. At first, I just laid there, cursing, while Jess picked up the plant, scooping the dirt back into the pot.  The obviously indestructible Fiesta ware saucer doesn't have a crack in it, although I'm fairly sure my ribs do.

I am so mad at myself.  I'm the one who put a plastic bin of boxes in that spot a few hours previously, ready to be used for gift wrapping. How on earth did I trip over what I knew was there?  It wasn't even in the doorway; I almost had to go out of my way to find it with my left foot!

After I managed to get upright, I hobbled to the couch in the family room and Nurse Jess brought me ice packs for my chest and knees. (At that point I didn't know what hurt worse, so we covered all areas of impact)  Fortunately I had leftover pain pills from an earlier shoulder injury (which I'm still doing physical therapy for) and I got to bed around midnight.  Not a happy place to be I discovered.  There was no comfortable position.

The next morning I called the doctor and made an appointment to come in for x-rays   I found it was easier to sit upright, or stand, than to lay down, so I puttered in my sewing room for much of the day while I awaited my appointment time, guiding Jess as she made her first pair of pajama pants. (She did an excellent job!)

Just as I was getting ready to leave, I received a phone call telling me my doctor was delivering a baby and I'd need to reschedule for the next morning!  I was told I could go to urgent care to get x-rays if I wished, but since I didn't really want to get in the car anyway, I decided it wouldn't make much difference either way.  I found that the pain pills weren't doing a lot for the pain, but helped my disposition, so I took another one!

It was hard to believe, but the second night was even worse for sleeping, so I was grateful for the morning appointment.  My husband drove me to the doctor, and after x-rays showed I had no broken ribs, I was given a different prescription pain reliever and told I would likely feel worse the next day, but that I would see improvement (SLOWLY) over the next several weeks.  The doctor said that treatment is basically the same, with or without broken ribs, and that it's the bruised muscles that are causing the pain. I was told to be sure and take deep breaths at least once an hour, as pneumonia was a concern with this type of injury. Merry Christmas to me!

We headed over to my Dad's to pick him up for the l-o-n-g drive to my brother's house for the family Christmas party, which was scheduled for noon that day.  Arriving at my Dad's, he told us he preferred taking his van, and driving, as it was most comfortable for him (he is healing from a broken hip!) and I figured it wasn't going to matter much for me, so we let him drive.  My brother lives in a gorgeous home, on top of a mountain, outside of Woodland, Washington, complete with hairpin curves the seven miles up from the main road.  Despite a pain pill and later two extra strength Tylenol, I was in misery, and not a little cranky.  Once at my brother's, I stood and tried to be sociable, (no easy task!) until it was mercifully time to go home. Everyone was solicitous and no one hugged me hard, so I wasn't any worse off when we left.

Christmas Eve we drove to my husband's sister's house for another family gathering.  By that morning, I was feeling like there was a light at the end of the tunnel (hmm, sounds like my last post . . .) and I was even able to sit awhile in almost comfort while we were there.  When it was time to go, we all went around for our good bye hugs, and my brother-in-law, whom I love, gave me a bear hug that literally brought tears to me eyes.  (In his defense, he knew nothing of my recent fall, as we hadn't told anyone there.)

When we got to the car I told my family about the hug, and we all kind of laughed about it, as that's just Uncle Guy, known for his bear hugs, and I didn't think much more about it.

Yesterday I went back to PT (for my shoulder) and told my therapist about my fall.  She was very cautious with me as we went through my routine, and I felt like I was doing alright until she asked me to lay on the bench.  As soon as my back hit the bench, I was in immediate pain.  She saw my eyes fill with tears and quickly helped me stand up. I asked why my back hurt so bad, when I landed on my front, and she explained the ways the muscles surround the body, and that back pain showed how deep my bruising was.

Last night I was carrying some recycling stuff to the garage and dropped it.  David heard me cussing and came to help me pick it up, saying, "I'll get it."

I told him, "I'm not mad about dropping it so much as I'm mad that it hurts so much to bend over and pick anything up.  I'm so tired of being in pain!"

I can see through the window that it isn't raining outside, so I am going to go through the misery of getting dressed and putting on my shoes, so I can enjoy some fresh air and a walk.  I'm sick of laying/sitting around, especially since I can't do much of either for longer than about an hour before I'm uncomfortable. 

It just occured to me that dreaming of a pain free existence isn't going to make it happen.  Movement will be a start . . . careful, paying close attention to my surroundings, movement . . . it's a start.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Let There Be Light

Kailyn and Cleo

I've been up for hours, read the paper, caught up on a few blogs, and it's still dark as I look out my kitchen window.  It is the time of darkness.  No wonder the Christian world decided it would be a good time to celebrate Christmas!  It makes perfect sense. We need a little light in this world.

For the past seven years, I've dreaded December doubly, with the darkness of grief commingling with the dreariness of winter. This year was no exception.  It started on December first, attending a memorial service for a friend's husband, sobbing in the pew as the painful memories pierced my heart, not only for myself, but so many of my friends who have lost their children too soon and especially those whose anniversaries are also in December.

It continued, building to a crescendo as the days marched on, dreading the coming of the anniversary of my son's death on December 16.  For some reason, this year seemed especially poignant. I cried frequently, with no warnings.  I was also battling a raging anger inside that I couldn't name, but was erupting with intensity and frankly, scaring the daylights out of me.  My counselor gave me a simple two sentence meditation that I latched onto and was repeating to myself endlessly, "May I be happy again.  May this pain pass."

And then the horror of Sandy Hook Elementary shook our world, rattled our sensibilities, and my own dance with grief was sidelined.  My broken heart wept with those newly broken hearted parents. As the news traveled across the school, as I met the red eyes of fellow teachers in the hallways, silently embracing, I was reminded of September 11, 2001.  When I could grasp the words from my spinning brain, I'd repeat my mantra from earlier in the week, no longer singular, but plural.  We got through the day, sending our unknowing students off for the weekend, perhaps giving more hugs than usual as they left our classrooms.

Time does not stop.  As I've written (and been interrupted by my dog and my husband) the day has lightened and the birds are feasting at the various feeders outside my window.  The fire is warming, the still fresh evergreen aroma of the Christmas tree fills my nostrils.  I look around at the chaos Christmas, and of both daughters home for the holidays, including my new baby grandkitty, Cleo!

Yesterday I celebrated 62 years of living. I was literally showered with love. My students gifts, cards and notes reassured me that I am right where I am supposed to be.  I was doubly blessed, as my birthday coincided with the last day of school before winter break. (Happy Birthday to me!) From the specially chosen and carefully wrapped green apple, to the hand knit (by one of my spitfire little guys!) purple scarf, to the boxes of candy, ornaments, mugs, nick knacks, stuffed bears and perfume (yes, perfume!) my aching heart healed a little more.

This day also brought the happy news that my oldest daughter, Jessica, was officially hired as a certificated substitute for the district I work for. (I will have a live-in sub; how cool is that?)  My youngest daughter, Kailyn was coming home, with baby Cleo, and my sister was hosting a family dinner in honor of my birthday. The day was long, but filled with laughter. Being encircled by so much love truly lifted my heart and soul.

Having lived through my own raw Christmas grief, I have firsthand experience with darkness during the season of light. I know that it will come back to haunt me, year after year, because it is right that I  miss my son; his presence in my life. But, I also know that though the tunnel of darkness can be long, and seemingly without end, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Let there be light for you, and for those you love.