Almost three years ago I wrote a posting titled Musings- Life And Lemons. About a month ago, life served me a big lemon. I should be used to lemons by now, you’d think. I mean life is a big mixture of lemons and strawberries – or bananas, or mangos, or whatever other fruit is your current sweet-flavored favorite. But somehow, I guess, there’s a subconscious part of me that thinks I should be exempt from lemons, despite the fact that they keep appearing on my plate, and so they tend to side-swipe me when they happen.
So what’s the latest and greatest in the lemon orchard you’re wondering. It may or may not help to understand why I think this latest event on the road that is my life is a lemon, a big lemon. I’m sixty-eight years old. So, OK, technically I was only sixty-seven when this lemon appeared on my radar. But that’s another reason it was a big lemon – it messed up my birthday!!
On Friday 27 April, I headed down to Winter Park to participate in the last-but-one class of the second year of my Audire course. Ruth, my friend who has just completed her third and final year of Audire, drove us down in her truck/van/SUV (not sure which label fits her vehicle; suffice to say it’s big enough and strong enough to haul a good sized trailer). We always go down on the Friday night before class so we can get a good night’s sleep and avoid having to get on the road at o’dark thirty to be at San Pedro retreat center by 8.30am on Saturday morning.
As always, I met up with my dear friend Bickley to enjoy a superb dinner. The dinners with Bickley are always wonderful because we choose a different ethnic restaurant each month so that we can delight our palates. She and I are food aficionados and most of her other local friends are “plain-American-fare” eaters, so she doesn’t get to indulge her more exotic taste buds very often. We had a great Cuban meal that Friday evening and enjoyed even more wonderful friendship time as we caught up with each other since the previous month – which had actually been two months because of the strange class schedule we had this year.
After dinner, Bickley dropped me back to San Pedro and I settled in for the night. Before getting ready for bed, I called my husband, Richard, to tell him about my enjoyable evening with Bickley and to say goodnight. Everything normal so far; not even the hint of a lemon. I prepared myself for the night and got into bed and, out of nowhere, I started experiencing some serious abdominal pains. My immediate thought was “oh no, food poisoning!”. I got out of bed and made a mint tea (good for digestion) and made sure I had a large container of water beside the bed. The pains continued and I resigned myself to “waiting it out”, flushing my system with the tea and lots of water.
By midnight I was worried. The pain hadn’t eased up so I called Ruth who was in the room next to mine. I could tell that she had been deep in sleep. What I couldn’t know was this was the first night she had been able to get to sleep fairly early after two very stress-filled weeks and lots of disturbed nights. I explained what was going on and asked her if she thought I should “call someone”. Ruth sleepily agreed that it sounded like food poisoning and said that there wouldn’t be anything anyone could do and that I would just have to wait for it to “go through my system”. She did however suggest that I lie down quietly and gently massage my tummy and think happy thoughts.
At 3am I was a little mentally hysterical. It occurred to me that the pain hadn’t diminished and it had not even begun to “move through my system”. It was a steady low-burning pain in both my upper and lower abdomen and there wasn’t a single sign of a rumble, a gurgle, a grumble anywhere in my intestines. It was at this point that I made a decision to call 911 and get help. I called Ruth and let her know and she said to open my door so she and the paramedics could get in.
At this point I will make a long story short. A shot of morphine, a 4-mile ambulance drive, a three-hour ER stay, and one cat scan later, the ER doctor informed me that I had an acutely inflamed appendix. Now I ask you, isn’t appendicitis a “kid thing”? Or at very least, a “teen thing”? When was the last time you heard of a sixty-seven year old having acute appendicitis? So what was I to do? “That can’t be”, I firmly told the ER doctor. (Fortunately my husband hadn’t quite arrived at the hospital by then so was spared the embarrassment of that moment.) Hopefully the ER doctor made allowances for the fact that I was under the influence of morphine.
So at about 2pm on Saturday 28 April 2012, I was surgically separated from my appendix. As I waited for surgery, I remember feeling irritated that I was missing class, especially as it was a class that I had been particularly looking forward to. I also remember being frustrated because our next class was in just two weeks and I had to prepare an end-of-year integration paper as well as other homework and I wasn’t going to be in the best of shape for the next few weeks. I found myself thinking that it was my birthday in a few days and how was I supposed to celebrate if my head was still full of anesthetic and narcotic pain-killers, and my body was still weak from the whole surgery thing. This was a very bitter lemon indeed.
Thank God I got out of that kind of thinking pretty quickly! I cannot remember if I got there myself or if it was Richard who spoke it into reality, but I do remember at some point being grateful that the acute appendectomy was happening now and not closer to our trip to Italy at the end of June; even more grateful that it didn’t happen during that trip! I remember suddenly being grateful that I was being taken care of and receiving good medical attention (the staff at Memorial Hospital, Winter Park, FL were all wonderful!). And I remember also feeling grateful that I had decent medical insurance that covered this care. I got to making lemonade fairly quickly, especially once I got my pain meds!
I went home just a little over twenty four hours after being taken to OR, thanks to the wonders of laparoscopic surgery, and I experienced gratitude on a whole other level. I was truly grateful that Richard is retired now and is always at home (didn’t think I would be saying that so very sincerely!), and for the very intimate and personal care that he gave me as I made my recovery from this whole event. I was grateful for all the prayers and cards that friends sent my way and the telephone calls that showed how much they cared.
Another lesson in gratitude learned. Another lesson in being flexible and to expect the unexpected. I got my integration paper done in time despite having a befuddled brain for a few weeks (anesthetic can really mess you up mentally as well as take your knees out from under you physically), and I was well enough to attend my class two weeks later. My birthday celebration was low-key and a little delayed but it was still a celebration. In fact it was more of a celebration (internally at least) because I was still around to celebrate. So, even though I’m a slow learner, I am still teachable and I am learning to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.
Once again I have been on a writing hiatus. It has led me to realize that I am unable to multi-task on many levels. I have always understood “multi-tasking” to mean the ability to do more than one specific task at a time. I am sure I have already mentioned in previous postings that this is very difficult for me to do. My brain and my body just don’t function well in multi-tasking mode.
I am always so amazed when I walk by my husband when he is working at his computer. I really should say “computers” – plural, because, although he has one computer (on his main desk – I’ll explain in a minute!), he has two screens and sometimes he is multi-tasking between the two and sometimes he is also multi-tasking on each screen. My brain just cannot hold that! It’s way too mind-boggling for me.
Apart from his main desk, he also has a secondary desk which holds another computer and recording equipment which he uses to create his “podcasts”. When he is all set up to record in that space, it looks rather like an old-fashioned radio show. He wears headphones and has a microphone in front of him and I almost expect him to break out into acapella singing. Since he has been indulging in this activity, which is all linked to his web page work, (www.windowsobserver.com), I sometimes think of the computer room/office as a recording studio too.
The lessons I have learned about myself in the last couple of months are myriad. I have lost three friends in that time frame. Two were “expected”. Is death ever expected? The two people, although unconnected in any other way, had actually been struggling with the same lung disease over several years. The third friend’s death came out of left field and left me, and many other common friends as well as his wife, completely mind- and heart-slammed. The first friend, died on 26th October 2011, the second friend died about mid-November, and the third friend died 16 December.
In other words, just as I was absorbing the news of one death the second occurred, and so it was for the third. In the meantime, as death was occurring, life was going on. Normal everyday events, commitments, and activities continued on despite what was going on in heart and mind. Meetings were attended, friends were attended to, school and its accompanying homework had to be dealt with, volunteer commitments were kept, I participated in a retreat, Thanksgiving came and went as did Christmas, and on and off, in the back of my mind, was the little nagging voice that said “I need to write”.
As I look back, I realize that I was actually multi-tasking in general across the board of all these events. Just to be able to deal with everyday life as well as grieve, and support others who were grieving, was a huge multi-tasking effort of its own, and I am so grateful for my relationship with God and my strong support network of spiritual friends who help me to get through tough times such as these and still stay sane.
But to hold all this together and allow the Muse of creativity to come forward is, for me, an impossible task. I have to put great energy into honoring and dealing with difficult situations and emotions such as death and grief, and there is little energy left for anything else. And I need to honor myself and where I’m at in all of that and allow the various processes to sweep through me. It is all important to my personal and spiritual growth.
So now, as I sit here and look out my window (no working on the lanai today, we had a near-freeze last night!), I feel some of the tension surrounding these recent events slipping away. Even though it is too cold to sit outside right now, the sun is shining brilliantly, the sky is that crisp, clean, light cerulean blue that only winter can bring forth, and I am breathing deeply and easily as I notice the hawks circling above the pine trees, the other birds swooping across and into the garden, and the squirrels frolicking on the backyard fence. Muse is creeping slowly back into my heart, honoring and respecting where I have been and gently inviting my fingers to once again play across the keyboard and put the words on the screen.
In my previous posting God’s Creation-Minnesota, I mentioned that through the trees on Greg and Sherry’s property you could barely make out two other houses – their neighbors. Connie and Joe live in the closest house, while Deb and Crystal live in the other house along with Deb’s Mom, Mary, and Deb’s younger sister Paula. Deb and Crystal live in the main part of the house while Mary and Paula share a delightful apartment on the lower level which, because the whole structure is built on a slope, is also on a ground level of its own.
We got to meet all the neighbors because on one of the evenings that we were there we participated in a “travelling dinner”. I’ll share details of that event in another posting. Here I want to talk about Paula who is somewhat mentally challenged and is quite a delightful character. She is actually forty-five years old, I believe, but looks like a teenager.
When we entered the kitchen at Deb and Crystal’s, Paula was seated at a table on the far side of the room of the room next to her Mom, Mary. Paula is not very tall, maybe not even five foot. She has rich auburn, curly hair that she wore pulled back from her face that day. Her face is very round and when she smiles her eyes crinkle up, Chinese-style, and she looks like a mischievous pixie!
Richard had stopped at the kitchen island to pick at some appetizers, while I walked around it and went over to be introduced to Paula. She did not look up at me immediately, but then Deb said, “Look at this Paula”, and pointed to my hair. At that, Paula looked up at me and her face lit up in pure delight. She clapped her hands together like a little child and exclaimed, “It’s purple, it’s purple, my favorite color!” Looking into that innocent, beaming face, I felt as though someone had given me an exquisite gift. My heart lurched and I fell in love with Paula right then and there.
She continued to smile up at me and I pointed over to Richard and said, “And that’s my husband, Richard.” Without skipping a beat, Paula looked in Richard’s direction and once again clapped her hands together. Her smile widened and, in such genuine innocence, she exclaimed, “Oh, he’s so cute!” And she chuckled. The whole room seemed to light up and people laughed, not at her, but right along with her, joining in her delight at the situation. And I fell in love all over again with Paula.
Later on in the evening, Paula brought me a piece of cake. I thanked her and kissed her cheek. A dazed look came over her and she slowly put her hand up to her cheek in wonder. As she returned into the kitchen, I heard her say to someone, “I’ll never wash my face again.” The person asked her why and she responded, “Because Margo kissed me.” I felt my throat constrict and my heart welled up with love.
There are moments that I recognize as pure God moments. I know I experienced the love of God in that sweet pixie of a person, Paula. I have often heard people question “why” about many things that happen on this earthly journey, including the “why” of people like Paula. My answer: they help us to experience a special kind of love – if we are open to it. I will remember Paula with great affection and I hope I get the opportunity to see her again.