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.
I am totally forcing myself through a dark grey cloud at this moment, making my fingers push across the keys on my laptop. Unfortunately the weather isn’t helping. It’s grey and miserable out there and has been since yesterday.
There’s a voice in my head that belongs to perky Ms. Cheerleader (one of the many “committee members” who inhabit my brain!!), saying over and over, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. A snarling voice that belongs to another committee member, Mr. Censor, throws back at her, “what if I don’t want to make lemonade!!!”.
If what I am feeling right now is akin to depression I really empathize with those suffering from that disease. I have cried at least a dozen times since yesterday evening. I have absolutely no energy or enthusiasm whatsoever. So what bought this on, you are wondering? Here goes.
You remember I got stung by a wasp (we’re now thinking possibly a hornet) twelve days ago? This was Lemon #1, and that story is in a blog I wrote about eight days ago. Well I was put on antibiotics for that and they have a “depressing” effect on my system. Not too bad, but I wasn’t my usual happy-go-lucky self. Had to work at being upbeat. Lemon #2.
Last weekend was a busy, fun filled time: gardening, attending a parish picnic, and riding to St. Augustine on our beloved Harley. However, by Sunday I noticed that my right index finger was a little tender around the lower and left nail area. I saw that I had a “hang nail”, dropped a little alcohol on it, and got on with my day. By Monday morning it was reddish and a little swollen. So I applied more alcohol and decided if it got worse I would see my doctor. I did not know that this was Lemon #3 developing.
Serendipity came that evening in the form of my second pottery class. The three pieces I had created two weeks prior were nicely dried and ready for glazing. I already wrote a blog about this on Monday evening. What I didn’t write in there was that my husband was packing for a business trip that evening and the “gods” were conspiring against him and consequently creating some aggravation and irritation between us – rather like “pre-deployment bitching”. But that’s a whole other story (and Lemon #4!); I’m just painting background here!
On Tuesday morning The Finger is throbbing. After having kissed and made up, Richard left for the airport and I left for a cat scan. It was to be “with contrast” and so entailed the need for an IV. I am not going into details. Just accept that my left hand was “butchered” in an attempt to get an IV in – I almost came off the table and I was screaming through clenched teeth! Lemon #5.
Having got through that trauma, I went and sat in Starbucks for about two hours drinking green tea, breathing, and reading a book. I had a lunch date with a girlfriend that was the most God-ordered thing that happened to me that day. Everything about lunch with Sue was totally serendipitous and allowed me to forget The Finger for a while.
As I drove home I became very aware of the increased throbbing in The Finger. It also looked rather like a small light bulb, glowing red and radiating heat. I prayed that it would explode so that whatever was going on inside would get outside! I went straight to my doctor’s office, and he tried very hard for twenty minutes to gently cause the prayed for explosion, but to no avail.
He decided that even though I was already on antibiotics for the sting, I needed something more potent. After ascertaining that I was headed straight home, he administered a “level three” antibiotic, made sure I had some pain killers, made an appointment to check on it in two days time, and sent me home. I crawled in the front door just before someone threw a switch and sucked out every ounce of energy and enthusiasm that lived inside my body. Lemon #6.
For the next twenty four hours I felt like a grey blob. I cried a lot. I felt as though someone or something was jut pushing down on me, suppressing any joy that I might feel. I was grateful that I had lunch scheduled with Kathi next day and that I had a massage on the books that afternoon. By the time I came out I felt somewhat better – thank you my massage-angel Michael!
I woke on Thursday (yesterday) feeling as though I had been allowed back into my “normal” body, although I was aware that maybe that level three shot had blown my defenses and I was manifesting a yeast infection! Lemon #7. However I felt ready for the day and had at least two ideas for articles that I was going to write when I got home after the doctor’s appointment. But, when he saw my finger Dr. W. wasn’t totally happy and said, yes it was making progress but he wanted to zap me with another level three. Lemon #8.
I crawled home after my appointment having stopped off to get my yeast infection meds and getting trapped in the store by an ungodly storm. I felt the energy and enthusiasm draining out of me again, and I crashed for three and a half hours on the couch. I cried a lot again last night, and some more this morning. Then I made a command decision: this depression, even though temporary, was not going to have a hold of me any more!
So, even though I don’t feel like making lemonade with all those lemons, I am writing. I will not allow it to rob me of that joy. And even though I don’t want to make lemonade, I can at least see that there were some serendipitous moments granted me in the mix, and for those I am truly grateful. They gave me the intermittent strength to make it from one lemon to the next!!