Saturday, November 24, 2012
A la Recherche du Temps Perdu
(Looking for Lost Time, the title of a Marcel Proust work)
Most of what I remember from the stroke that I had recently was my single-minded notion that hard work would fix me. I would tell anyone who was interested that I had "laser focus" at the task at hand — that being, rehabbing and getting better. It was really hard work but it was very much worth it, as I could measure my progress every single day. I could always do something that I couldn't do the previous day, which seemed to make the effort worth it. It was satisfying and fulfilling, which I guess is why I remember it most vividly.
But I was listening to Tootsie recounting her remembrances, especially the first couple of days, when things looked so bleak. I was reading Very Josie's blog where she described me as quote "in pain on his right side and can't move his left very much." That's not exaggeration; the first couple of days especially, things were that bad. Seeing me in the ICU, with tubes going in and tubes going out, difficult to understand, my left side in spasm, and loopy on morphine, could not have been easy, especially for my wife, my mother, and my best friend.
More to the point it made me remember just how scared I really was. I mean, for all I knew, this was going to be life from now on. I couldn't dare to imagine a life of normalcy or anything close to it at the time. I was pissing into one tube and being fed through another, hoping that they weren't just switching bottles. And when the morphine allowed me a moment of clarity so that I could assemble my thoughts in a coherent way, all I could think of was how stupid I was to allow myself to be in such poor health that I stroked out at 44. Because it was all my fault. I ignored my skyrocketing blood pressure, I was taking double handfuls of Advil to dull the pain because I refused to go to the dentist, and I thought that giving up sugared soda was all I needed to do to stem the tide of the various garbage that I threw into my body.
I put myself into the situation, and I wouldn't let myself forget. And sometimes that was a little too much to take.
I was really, REALLY scared. And the fact that I had no one to blame but myself meant that I couldn't turn that fright into anger at anyone or anything.
Of course, small signs of progress would eventually come. I remember the day they stopped monitoring my heart. The day that they removed my Foley catheter. When they removed the IV. I never thought I'd be happy to be taken off the morphine drip, but there it is. I still couldn't move worth shit, but I had a guess that was coming. The very worst days were behind me now.
I guess this is what women go through when they have a baby: one hears tales that they "forget" the pain of childbirth so that they can consider a second child with a clear head. I reckon I forgot just how scared I was, how scared my family was, how scared my friends were. But now, in the fullness of time, I remember. Oh dear God do I remember. And now, I wish I could forget.