Recovering

I’m going to do something today which I don’t normally do: write spontaneously.

Because I want to capture this moment, today, which doesn’t happen all the time. It’s a day where, yes, the sun is shining, the sky is blue, I was sweet as soon as I got up, and I’m feeling like I can actually walk someday soon. Soon may still be 3 months away but somehow today – magic today – 3 months feels like it’s around the corner.

I don’t always feel this way. In the last 3 weeks that I’ve been bedridden I’ve swung from one extreme personality to another, usually in the space of just days. Seeing my son jump over my bad leg instead of saying ‘excuse me’ will have me snapping at him for the rest of the evening. Hearing a friend tell me that the time will fly can bring me to tears. Those days – like just 18 hours ago – are days where the road to walking seems impossibly long. And I’ll tell myself that I have never experienced physical hardship, and I don’t know if I have what it takes to be this patient, to push my atrophied leg and foot to move beyond an inch, let alone ever walk like a normal human being again.

Today was good because school opening was delayed and we didn’t have to rush in the morning. Today Fred “slept in” until 7:05 and scampered downstairs to read. Not turn on Cartoon Network or a videogame but actually read (and then proceed to clip his nails).

Grooming becomes a chore when you’ve got an anvil dragging on your leg. But today I took a shower. I took a shower! Used conditioner! Put my contact lenses in. Got out of my pajamas. Let my past-shoulder length hair cascade out of my usual ratty pony tail holder. A few minutes before all this took place I had woken up to an email from my friend Kathryn who told me (from having seen recent Facebook uploads) I was PRETTY – caps by Kathryn – and this told her I seemed well. Who even tells a friend that any more, especially when she’s in her 40s? Mostly I feel gross these days, and my mummy-like leg doesn’t help one bit, but this sweet message, and getting rid of that pony tail holder, helped.

And since I finished my work early, I moved to the couch to write and opened the door to our veranda. We never do this, paranoid about mosquitoes and flies and bees as we are, but Max said he wouldn’t mind, even after an unidentifiable bug flew in. From where I’m typing I can see blue and green and smell and hear a beautiful early fall (yes, now I can hear seasons) that is just out of reach for me right now…but not completely taken away.

And after this I’m going to get myself a snack – something with sugar and heavy in carbohydrates – and I’m going to continue with part 2 of Gone Girl. (Has anyone read this??)

Then there’s school pick up (I will tag along), an evening meeting at school (I will attend), dinner (I will eat), homework nagging (or not, if my day continues on its current roll), and my now daily good night hugs and kisses done downstairs, before everyone turns off the lights and marches up and away to their bedrooms on a separate floor.

And finally sleep. Fitful sleep, sleep where I sometimes wake up with an all-over pin and needle feeling from not having moved all night, or from dreams where I have use of both legs and yet can barely move. The IKEA sofa bed in our dark home office will forever remind me of the taste of pain killers and filtered water, my isolation from my family at night, and the excruciation of minutes and hours that no longer pass quickly enough.

And I will wake up – 5 or 6 hours later – and start another day again…wondering to which heights I will fly or to which depths I will plumment this time.

How do you make it through difficult times?

Lying to Mom

The phone rang Sunday morning, and I asked Fred to check the caller ID. It’s Grandma, he said, looking at me. I told him I will call her back later in the day when I felt better. Without batting an eye he set the phone down, still ringing, and went back to what he was doing.

The thing is, I haven’t told my mother about what happened to my leg, and having just come out of surgery, I was too uncomfortable at that point to have pulled off a normal conversation.

It had been a no brainer for me to just keep this from her when I was in a cast; I figured, it’s temporary, and I am going to heal. Then when I learned I needed to have surgery, I was no longer so sure about keeping this mum, but at that point I’d already gotten in too deep…

It is quite possible, in the complex world that I inhabit with my mother, for me to be simultaneously intimate and dishonest with her. And then I remember reading somewhere recently that something like 92% of all teenagers lie to their parents about something, at some time. It got me thinking about why we lie and when we lie, and to whom we do it.

Last spring I was out of town to take care of my mother after her own surgery. Max and Fred had returned home earlier, and I called one night to check in.

“So what are you doing?” I asked my 8 year old.

“We’re, uh, what? [apparently off line to Dad]. Uh, we’re at, at China Kingdom.”

“What are you eating?”

“Uh…”

“Your favorite fish dish?”

“Uh…”

I started to grow impatient. Then I heard Fred’s little hand cover the mouthpiece as he hissed not softly enough, “Daddy! She’s asking me what we’re eating!”

“Fred! What is going on?! What are you eating??”

“Uh…crust…” I could see him cowering on the other line.

“You’re eating crust…at China Kingdom??”

And so I put 2 and 2 together and figured out they were at Chuck E. Cheese eating that horrible pizza. For dinner.

And so we all laughed and thought, isn’t that cute, ha ha, let me put this on Facebook. Until it dawned on me that it’s actually not funny to lie to Mom.

And why did they lie? Because they know how I get about fast food, and Chuck E. Cheese. I know pizza (of course) isn’t poison and Chuck E. Cheese isn’t a drug house. But I get it – if you’re not doing anything bad, why rattle Mom when you don’t need to?

I still consider myself close to my mom. Our weekly phone calls are always over an hour long. I share a lot, but I’ve also learned to keep away from her information that may excessively worry her. Like so many mothers – like myself – she finds her children’s pains so difficult to bear. When something happens to me my stress is doubled as I feel not only my pain but the pain that she feels. She’s tried hard to shield me from hardship, and on my last trip home she once even tried to carry my bags for me. We’ve always conflicted because I get insulted by her overprotectiveness. I ask her why she can’t see strength in me; she gets upset that I can’t see how she loves me.

The biggest lie I have ever had to keep from her was Max’s past. When it became clear that we were going to get married, I was suddenly tormented as to how or if or when I was ever going to tell her that Max had been married before and already had a child. She was coming from a very conservative culture and generation, and she would not understand what divorce meant or what it would mean for me to marry someone who had been divorced.

But keeping something so huge from her about her future son-in-law was more than I could bear. As many people do (I’d come to realize), I went to my father first, because it was easier. The way I interpreted love, my father loves me but sees strength and competence in me, and he has never seen me as an extension of himself. His calm centered me and he advised me on how to break the news to my mom.

Though I was right to tell my mother, it was the single most painful experience of my life. In her shock and fear of the unknown, she told me to call off the wedding. I was as outraged at her small-mindedness as I was at myself for having failed to make her happy.

It’s been over ten years now, and my mother’s come to ease up a bit on her worrying, especially seeing how I had thrived overseas on my own for nearly a decade, and now understanding how strong my marriage is. However, I can tell she remains vigilant about whether or not I’m being well cared for by Max. And I still dread the moments when she detects hoarseness in my voice or a lingering cough. I have imagined how I might tell her about my leg, but ultimately the idea of having to string together the words “I” and “broke” and “can’t walk” and “surgery” in a long distance phone call to her is too much. I might be underestimating her, but I worry that it will be too much for her…or maybe for me.

The last two weeks with my broken leg have been up and down. I have so far only allowed myself to cry in front of Max. Sunday, two days post-op, was one of those more down times. After leaving a message on our landline, my mother tried my cell phone. I turned and looked at it for a long while as “Mom and Dad” pulsated on the screen. I blinked away tears before deciding, finally, to let the phone continue to ring.