A Shiny New Normal # 9

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.

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