Perspectives: A Review of 2014
by Jan Baughman
(Swans - December 31, 2014) It's hard to look back, even from a distance that spans a mere 700 words, on a year you'd simply prefer to forget. A year that forced you to take a non-elective course in suicide and its aftermath, and a refresher class in Parkinson's Disease in which the final answer is pseudo, not primary, with more questions than answers. There's the primer in ferritin and potassium levels and the crash course in navigating the home health care system and learning the languages of O.T. and P.T. and becoming a certified and certifiable R.N. and Pharm. D. yourself.
Then introduce Everything You Wanted To Know About Phenobarbital But Were Afraid To Ask, when your 10-year-old dog, Mestor, starts having daily seizures, which in a 10-year-old dog most likely means a brain tumor. You know you're not going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on dog MRIs and dog brain surgery, so you hope to stop the brain damage and delay the inevitable, and appreciate every last day you have with your best friend.
All the while, of course, you have to hold down your day job -- though your boss of 17 years is retiring -- while holding down the fort, doing everything possible to preserve your own sanity, with all the help you can get. Now you find yourself a member of the suicide survivor club, or the caregiver stress club, this recovery group or that; you don't know which to turn to.
You find yourself thrust into a world that was previously unbeknownst to you before you spoke the languages; a world in which you drag yourself out to buy milk and everyone else is out shopping for their Thanksgiving feast and Christmas decorations and you ask, "How can they do this when my brother has done that, and my husband is suffering this?" Yet it occurs to you that you are not the only member of the club and you scan the faces and wonder which one's brother has done this and which one's husband is suffering that... You could be one of them and they could be one of you, each putting on their best face and suffering in silence.
But you can't look back with honesty on the year and not see the jewels you discovered as you walked down the rocky path. The consolidation and simplification of your lives in a lovely house in a quiet neighborhood with a fine yard and new deck. There is Alvin, whom you stumbled upon while searching for a home aide, who arrived at your house in a virtual Superman suit, Mestor sitting peacefully and trustingly glued to him like he'd done with no other visitor: No references required. There was the December day on which in between rain storms the skies parted when the three of you went out to sea to scatter the ashes of three of your family members along with three bouquets of flowers, and the 20-foot waves that churned the sea the day before left the water like glass that morning and it all was good and appropriate and peaceful closure. As the ashes and flowers drifted away in unison with the slow-moving tide, you were reminded of your connectedness to this earth, and your infinitesimally small place in it.
And as the year came to an end, you did not expect -- nor believe in -- miracles, but on Christmas Day, your husband, who looked you in the eyes the Eve before with despair and asked, "Will I ever walk again?", is walking with no cane, no walker, no wheelchair -- nothing but a smile on his face, and the next thing you know the two of you are hanging art and organizing the house you moved into 11 months prior; you're writing and publishing again; you're enjoying your time together; and you're reminded that there's a bigger world out there and maybe you can't change it, but it sure can change you, and you want to be a part of the process again, wherever it leads you.
You glance over your shoulder, and with the few words you have remaining you think, "I survived this year; surely I will survive the next."
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