March 16, 2022
The news reporting and the replies from Ukrainians have caused me to marvel at the field of linguistics. I’m sure there is some selection to find English-speaking individuals. Their abilities re-ignite my vow to learn another language and to actually try out those abilities with travel!
From last time, I wrote about the impact of stress upon one’s body. I am well into my fifties but had never really grasped its impact. I think in prior times, I absorbed the impact or compensated or misdirected. I ate, drank, didn’t sleep or adopted other horribly nonproductive behaviors.
And then it would be done. Right? I would get through it. Right?
This time I had puffed up. My body held each drop of water and food.
I had had stressors coming at me from a few different sources. The exact origin is unimportant. What is significant is my body’s natural reaction.
I sat in the waiting room, camped out with iPad, multiple smartphones and a cache of catalogs and calendars. Oh yes, I had notepaper too! A week later, the day feels like a distant memory.
I sat staring at the snowflakes, listening to warm echoes of conversations. I felt ill. My puffy body had picked up a slight head cold. My head, even with the knowledge of a time break, could not concentrate. I vowed to myself to write and to remember those moments.
“I will never let myself be in this condition again. I want to give myself better. I want to give myself the best I can.”
Every movement and every thought felt heavy, unnatural and incorrect. I felt out of place within myself.
“Watch the snowflakes for awhile, Steph.”
This day was like the first stop in a trip along the railroad lines. I didn’t realize that at the time. The procedure was supposed to take two to three hours. Of course part of the time allotment was the preparations and post operation recovery.
It’s amazing how the brain does not comprehend some details. My focus was two to three hours. At an hour and fifteen minutes, I glanced upward to see two men in blue grey scrubs approaching.
It was a fraction of time over an hour. In seconds the mind calculates and adjusts. I could feel my face remain emotionless. The doctors, though, are seasoned. As soon as etiquette would allow, they call out, “She did fine. We are all done. She did very well and is in recovery.”
With the beginning of tears, all I could utter was repetitive “thank you’s” flavored with “oh my goodness.” I sat heavier in my seat as if my body let go of whatever my cells had been grasping.
They smiled. I smiled. In a matter of moments they had improved lives. Lives had changed. And they granted my mother a chance at living.
Just as a forewarning, there is no bad ending to the day. Oh, family members had their usual inappropriate behaviors. I would like to say that is not a part of the story but it is.
Throughout the day, my body felt as though a dam had been instructed to open. Intervals of two to three hours would cause a rush to the bathroom. My mom had progressed with her recovery to her own room.
Of course, her health is the primary concern. But I really want to cover the impact of stress upon one’s body and mind. I totally discounted it and I know I always had. I had not handled or managed the stress throughout the years other than to give credence to my emotions.
Ok, Steph. So what?
She, my Wise One who sometimes speaks with a language of emotional acid, arrived to her hospital room just moments before I did. In those slim moments between, she had been visited by doctors and nurses, checking and double checking until she was in place. Her room was brighter than normal. It took me awhile to realize that the window side of her room, opposite the doorway, consisted of two very large series of windows. Even though the view was that of an exterior hospital courtyard, the natural light was soothing.
I looked at her, in her miraculous state. After we recounted events and compared experiences, she began to fall asleep. My bathroom trips were separated by a desire for napping. I could not stay awake.
We both slept until the nurse woke us for an evening meal. I laughed as we compared our desired foods.
“I really want a baked potato,” she stated flatly. “ I just want a baked potato and, oh! Pineapple juice,” she smiled.
We looked at the menu again to determine if maybe her appetite could be swayed by meatloaf or bacon or something?
“If that’s what you are hungry for, then stay with it,” I offered to her. “But are you sure you don’t want something else?”
“Maybe green beans. And apple sauce.”
She called her order to the kitchen while I left to grab my supper from the hospital cafeteria. Memories are a strange phenomenon. I had not thought too much about my father passing away in this hospital. His last days in ICU were just down the hall. A series of two right turns would take me there.
I had not realized the location until I began walking to the cafeteria. I realized I knew where to go without thinking twice. Of course there were direction markers throughout the hallways but I found that I could navigate quite easily without them.
I came to the hallway which leads to ICU. I indulged in standing for a moment longer than what felt socially acceptable. I just stood still, indulgent, as if reaching out to those memories.
I turned back to my course to the cafeteria with the feeling of my fathers nearness. My imagination brought him in proximity. I felt a renewal of purpose and of contentment.
Life was okay.
I paced a bit in the cafeteria lines. Tilapia or barbecues? Pizza?
No. Cafeteria baked beans. Cooked petite carrots. Mixed vegetable mix of cauliflower, broccoli and carrots.
“I would like a plate of those, please.” I asked with a gesture of a circle beyond the safety glass between me and food. The server smiled as if she regularly encountered customers who were half sleepy with weird appetites.
I eventually added vanilla yogurt and coffee. The smell was warmly intoxicating with basic kitchen smells of vegetables and a slight sweetness.
I returned to her room with my strange mixture of supper. The cafeteria server had generously piled allowances of entries into a plate. I was anxious to eat as was my Wise One.
Such urges are always a good sign in a hospital. We laughed and compared plates as I sliced her potato. Her arms were still weakened from the procedure. Our evening meal together was as if we were dining at a fine restaurant. Either that or as if we had been starving, stopped at a convenience store for sandwiches then ate them immediately in the car.
Two nurses arrived as we finished. Shifts were changing which politely signaled that I had exceeded visitation by two hours. I left the hospital as they returned to prepare her for the night.
Again I visited the restroom. In my slight tendencies of hypochondrias, I started to consider with increasing concern of what medical condition would be causing these bathroom breaks.
I had never felt worse. I looked at my reflection in the night lit car window. I was tired beyond tired and as I had written before, my soul felt beaten by exposure to family members behaviors. I felt at the intersection of the collisions of those behaviors. I had allowed it.
“Easy girl,” I whispered to myself. It has become my self-mantra. “You are ok. Easy girl.”
I turned on my broken Jeep radio to the static filled AM station which hits broadcasts of English and Eastern European (or so I can imagine). As I drove home, I cried with a strange emptied emotion. I gasped into the night as I replayed events of the months prior.
“Easy girl, easy.”
Easy, girl. Easy.
I slept late until I needed to revisit the restroom. In the mid-morning routine of preparing for the day, I discovered I felt better.
I looked at my hands, wiggled my fingers. They felt light. My shoulders felt movable. My head felt clear.
In one day, I had lost five pounds.
I wonder now at the memories. I slap into vivid recall mode at the realization of my proximity to the location of my fathers death. The wounds of words and conversations scrape open at the resurgence of circumstance. My body slips into stress prevention mode while my mind disguised itself from itself in a cloak of depression in order to save its soul.
What must the Ukrainians feel? What generation of wounds is engrained into the youth as they flee? As they witness death?
I need my three blankets each night. How about them?
Survival is one mode, but what of life?
I hope the kindness of the rest of the world overshadows the power of destruction. And not only once. I hope, to the people of the Ukraine – especially the children, that their lives will be rejuvenated over and over. That somehow, the power of all that the world can be, will be graced upon them.
After all, my mom and others have told me that it is nice to see my smile again.
Lots of love. And peace.