Saturday, August 29, 2015

In answer to the hard questions


An acquaintance asked me yesterday if the stroke has fed my writing or if it drains the reserve. I told him I have more material for memoir than I ever wanted. As for the act of writing, I think about it frequently, and sometimes I jot a few lines before I fall asleep from exhaustion each night. Today, I opened my blog just after 9 a.m. Perhaps I'll get this post up before I leave to take my husband to the temple.

I'm a week into Fall 2015 at the University of Humble Pie, taking a single three-credit class in academic writing, toying with what must necessarily be done to make up the three remaining uncompleted courses from spring, and sitting in on a religious philosophy course with Mr. PNU as guests of his colleague, Dr. Brian Birch. On Fridays I also help my husband attend a behavioral science think tank hosted by Dr. Matthew Draper. Somewhere in all of this I have three children at home; B— in fourth grade, L— in her first year of high school, and E— working part-time at a downtown sandwich shop while he prepares for college. My oldest daughter, M—, is living with her boyfriend's family on the upper east bench across town, struggling to figure out the world of adulthood and a sixteen-credit load in academia. I worry about her constantly. Mr. PNU's daughter, C—, is working full time at a movie theater, and continues to live with her mother. She rarely comes to visit anymore. 

Our finances are worse than I've ever known. The LDS Church is helping a great deal and I am grateful. But still, we owe several thousand in debts which cannot be forgiven, and for which there is no money for repayment. I'm hopeful Mr. PNU's school loans can be discharged; the necessary paperwork is on my to-do list. The trust holding donations meant for my husband's therapy is about to dry up. He puts in two to three hours in the physical therapy gym each day. It costs $45 for each fifteen minutes. July cost us just over $9000. I enrolled him in a non-profit physical therapy program specializing in paralysis recovery located 30 miles north of our home. We have two-hour sessions twice a week priced at $80 a visit. I traded in my little Mazda for a Kia Soul with a $6,000 downpayment from the trust. This facilitates Mr. PNU's transportation to and from the nursing home. 

In the last three weeks we've become skilled at transfers from bed to wheelchair, from wheelchair to the car, from wheelchair to toilet, and so on. These make possible our extended outings from the skilled nursing facility. Extended outings help to combat Mr. PNU's deep depression. 

The same acquaintance who asked about how the stroke affects my writing also said it's hard for him to tell who takes the bigger blow from a stroke; the survivor or the spouse. I told him I refuse to think about it that way. While my husband is the victim of stroke, we are both survivors and similarly both on the recovery road. It's a team effort. As soon as one of us thinks selfishly about the weight required to move through the journey, we lose the joint cadence which supports the balance of the load. 

I do think about it, however. When faced with managing his continued therapy, his thick depression, and our monetary shortage, I wonder if I am capable of the work it will take to bring him home where I know he will be happier. Living under the same roof might lessen the constant geographic struggle of my responsibilities, but it would mean uprooting again, moving to wheelchair accessible housing, relearning routine, and another set of unsettled circumstances under tremendous workload. 

A couple of days ago I told my husband how grateful I am that I've combatted affective disorder for so many years. If I didn't understand the give and take in regular fight for balance, this challenge might have knocked my feet from beneath me months ago. There is endless need to accept grace. I try to teach each of my children that when problems arise we must give all we can in a day. When office doors close on our efforts, and telephone operators stop answering before a day is through, we must necessarily close our own windows of anxiety and call the work enough. There is so much uncertainty at sundown. Rest and forgiveness of self are crucial. A daily Sabbath.

The weeks fly by. Nineteen of them now.

I lay in bed with my prayers at night; both pleading and angry. I demand much of God, and as I look behind us at the trail we are cutting I see these prayers are heard, but that realization only comes with retrospect. My husband begs simply to feel comfort. I don't know what portion he gets. Ahead there is just enough light to continue wandering this uncleared path. And so I go, pushing a wheelchair into the next day, grateful it has a passenger, grateful he hasn't given up either.

And sometimes, when morning breaks and I can see a few more steps ahead, whether I have anything worthy to say, I take a few minutes to write. 

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