For three weeks I slept. Except for a few now-and-then spoonfuls of soup or jell-o, I slept — sometimes quietly, sometimes with the small sounds of one in discomfort falling over the bridge of my lips. Prescription pain medications gave me horrid bed spins. My only help was a couple of Extra Strength Tylenol every few hours.
Then on a Wednesday morning, three weeks to the day after my surgery, I woke up. Not the dreamy half-awake I’d been in, but rather, a vibrant awake that shook me with its awareness.
I. Was. AWAKE.
I could hear a bird outside my window. I could see sunlight without wishing for it to be dark. With my new post-surgery slurry words and diminished volume, I called for my helper. “Get me into my wheelchair,” I said. “I want to go outside. The garden. Please. A bird.”
Twenty minutes later, we emerged into the morning. My apartment overlooked the pool area with its carefully-maintained flower garden. With some effort, we bumped my wheelchair down the stairs and out to the garden area. I looked up. Toni’s apartment was in the building next to mine, also over the garden. It was in that garden and across our balconies that we had become friends.
“Toni,” I called from below her balcony. “Look at me. I’m awake. Hey, Toni Baloney. Look — I’m awake!”
It was Wednesday morning. Toni was at work, but I called out anyway.
When it was clear that I was getting nowhere yelling up into Toni’s balcony, I switched to a different thought. “Take me around the complex,” I said. “I want to take a walk.”
“You’re sure? It’s hot.” It was evident from her turned-down mouth that my helper was uncomfortable with my behavior and “hot” was a good excuse to take me back to the relative obscurity of my apartment.
“I’m sure. Take me around. Please.”
With a shrug of resignation, my helper wheeled me through the winding corridors of the apartment complex. There I was — bald with a Frankenstein scar running from ear to ear across the top of my skull. Although I had feeling in my legs, the connection between brain and leg had been misplaced. Further, the connection for clear, distinct speech was also missing. I was a garish little bald woman with a horrid scar being wheeled through an apartment complex, yelling gibberish out to anyone who might be within earshot — a magnificent smile plastered to my face.
I. Was. Awake.
The following day, my helper quit.