Gloria

I’ve taken very few photos during the pandemic, as if I could dampen the strength of my memories of this time by avoiding my camera. Of course, this strategy did not succeed in its goal. Instead, I missed taking photos of people and places that I can no longer see physically in the present tense. A few buildings I meant to capture burned down or were demolished. Wind storms knocked over some trees or pruned them ruthless abandon. I also lost someone most dear to me, my mother.

I regret that I took hardly any pictures of family during the past year. If you are blessed to have still-living parents or grandparents, I recommend the habit of taking pictures of each of them on a regular basis. Better yet, record video and audio of them. I wish I had videos and audio of my mom. What I would give to have audio of her colorful commentary when she’d hate-watch her least favorite politicians!

While the pandemic is by no means over, I am ready to venture forth with camera in hand again. Today I took a few photos near downtown Lima, but my camera had lain idle for so long that its battery lost its charge early in the walk.

Speaking of the pandemic itself, I don’t have a job that can be done effectively from home, so I’ve been reporting to work as usual. During height my state’s stay-at-home order a year ago, there was the weirdness of near-empty streets on my way to work. Then we had a motley crew of workers who came and went, some who decided to take a gap year from college, others who seemed to have emerged from cocoons after unknown seasons of dormancy. My husband once told me that the greatest unused band name of all time is Scrotum. I think all of the future members of Scrotum were working around me last summer, including a young fellow who looked like a corn-fed Adam Clayton circa the October album. There was also a guy who looked like an equal fusion of Sammy Hagar and Gallagher, but he evaporated from the scene too quickly to acquaint himself with the future band members.

I will close this post with “Gloria” by U2:

Ruth and Edna

Here’s another early post from this blog. It reminds me that there are times when you yourself can be an unreliable narrator. I refer to events that unfolded in the wake of my friend’s death in January of 2016. There is one detail in this reblogged post that is not entirely accurate. I actually heard my friend’s voice shortly after I woke up from a “blessed” dream. At the time I didn’t feel that I should risk that disclosure.

Intensity Without Mastery

Some dreams are the opposite of a nightmare. I call them blessed dreams. My first blessed dream happened at the dusk of my teenage years. It was brief and involved my great aunts Ruth and Edna. This dream was exceptionally lucid, with a false awakening that made it seem even more real. While it is well established that very unusual things can be dreamed, their appearance was rare indeed. I have never met Ruth and Edna because they died in a car accident along with my great grandpa back in 1936, and I have only seen their death portraits.

In the dream, I walked into the long hallway of my parents’ house, and Ruth and Edna were bouncing a ball back and forth at the opposite end. The ball and their white dresses were embedded with an ethereal glitter. Seeing them provoked the most intense ambivalence I have ever felt, awake or asleep. I…

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Coming Around Again

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Thirteen days have passed since my spine surgery, which included L4/L5 decompression and fusion. My back has gained two rods, four screws and two 2.5 x 5 cm grafts of donor bone. I must not forget to write a thank you letter to the family of my donor, and the hospital provided me with a bar-coded form which will enable me to express my gratitude to this anonymous giver.

My recovery is progressing more quickly than I anticipated. While I need many rest periods daily and have been instructed to pick up no more than ten pounds at a time, I have worked up to walking 20 minutes straight and am driving again. My physical therapy goal was to start walking two minutes straight and add two minutes each day until I reached 20 minutes. Next I am to work toward walking a 20 minute mile.

I think all of the walking I ordinarily do at work optimized my chances for recovery. I am still weeks away from meeting the regular physical demands of my typical work day, but I am hopeful I will be primed to work again by the time my medical leave is slated to end.

When I saw my daughter after surgery, she first asked me a rather clinical question which had the odd effect of immediately lifting my spirits. She inquired, “have you had any hallucinations?”

I can only think that this was her sly way of letting me know that she has been reading my writing during the many times she paused to pat me on the shoulder as I’ve been writing seated on the living room couch. There have been several times when I’ve referenced hallucinations in my blog entries.

The day I arrived home from the hospital and settled to rest on that same couch, my husband was milling between our garage and the house to catch up on some small projects he’d let lie fallow during my hospital stay. Several times while my husband was out in the garage, I could hear my grandpa’s distinctive shuffle down the hallway. His walk had an unmistakable sound because he’d had six vertebrae fused in the aftermath of an accident he’d had working for the railroad. My grandpa passed away in 2012.

The next day I called my siblings and my mother about hearing Grandpa, and these were conversations that needed no I-might-be-crazy preface because to be related to my mother necessarily entails a bit of magical realism. While my grandpa I heard is my paternal grandpa, I tend to talk about such matters with my mother rather than my father. I figure that she is a better judge than I am on divulging these experiences to my dad.

Two days after my discharge from the hospital, I woke up in the morning from a dream that my mom had called me and told me that it was my day to visit Grandma. I woke up before I could explain to her that I was still too fragile to make the short trip across town for a visit.

I called Mom for real shortly after I woke up, and she let me know that the time was at hand. My grandma had passed away at the age of 88, after beating the odds time and again during her long life. She had survived a catastrophic wreck that had taken her sisters and her father. She was a 20+ year cancer survivor, and she had emerged from multiple bouts of sepsis in the past year.

From Grandma I learned that it is possible to rise time and again until God decides it is time for your life on this earth to end. Like my parents and the rest of my grandparents, she also taught me that there is no real love that is free of sacrifice.

I am grateful that as I get older, it feels like it is becoming easier to rise again, even after spinal fusion.