Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fresh Air

"Breathe...reeeeelax...let it go." I used to chant to one of my soccer kids sprawled on the ground contorted in agony and fear.

"Breeeeeathe," I used to say to my own little kids sucking on a pinched finger or vomiting into the toilet bowl in the middle of the night.

"Easy for you to say," they can sulk today, "You never get sick."

It used to be true. Or if I did, I did my best to act like I was fine, as if by pretending to be normal, I would be. Symptoms disappeared if I gave them no attention. Standing straight and tall made my breath much more full and my back ache go away. A simple smile can cure so many ailments.

So just days out of the hospital, I asked a friend to drive me to the venue and I mustered all of the energy I could to sing one song, following through on my commitment to participate in the contest I had waited a year to enter (I did not win, nor even made the finals). As quickly as I could, I dropped the splint off my wrist and scribbled words until the ache screamed, then scribbled some more after a rest.

This past week, I have been grumpy and ornery, wanting to do more, alternately optimistic and discouraged. My intention to regain normality in my life is constantly thwarted by the reality of a daunting fatigue and the irritating pinch from the catheters. I feel like I can do so much and just as soon as I try, I have to collapse on the couch no matter the will to continue.

"What's the matter with me?" I wonder, watching out my window as everyone else goes to work.

The week started with Kip'n'Co playing two hours in a club to a tiny audience, but streamed across the internet by a local entrepreneur, the music reached hundreds of people around the world (the program kept track of number and location). My elation to feel so stimulated by the good sound was tempered by a long rest the next day, but not drained enough to cancel a rehearsal and audition to add another lead player.

Each morning, I perused the classifieds, imagining many different ways my varied construction management, book-keeping, and counseling skills could be translated to a different sort of work. I sent out resumes with excitement, intoxicated to think I could recharge my life in a completely different context than by wearing a nailbelt.

Expecting to have one catheter removed at our appointment, however, the doctor decided another two weeks with both would maximize the opportunity for healing without further surgery. My best friend doctor buddy came with me to ask pertinent questions and we got a sobering picture that while I will continue to recover, it will be long and slow, even without the surgery that looms as fifty percent likely.

Amazingly, he predicts I can ski soon (even with the one catheter still in my belly), says I am free to drive now and could return to carpentry whenever I want. I just have to be careful, moderate my energy and rest whenever tired. All that seems pretty far-fetched to me today, But I will myself to trust him.

The assessment hit me hard. Despite the fact I know people who have not, or will not, recover from their particular challenges, my own story seemed bound for the happily-ever ending. The Kool Kat was determined not to lose his slick demeanor, but this news finally brought on the depression I have feared since the scaffold collapsed. I wallowed on my couch in a stupor, talked miserably and full of self-pity to friends on the phone and Facebook. I understood at last with tears in my throat how people could feel the best was all behind them.

Looking in the mirror, my skin has grown flabby and stretched limp, dried and scaley. My hair is unkempt, half the time my cheeks are scratchy. I am afraid this is the event that people say makes a man suddenly grow old. One day I was playing soccer against 20 year olds (hardly bothered by five stitches), anticipating for the first time in 20 years a winter full of skiing, and the next I am supine in misery on my couch, making a slow effort just to wash dishes or get up the bank to my little rumbling redster.

And then I drank more Jack Daniels than I had in college days when I thought (mistakenly) that it would be fun.

Thirty-six hours (and one hang-over) later, I sit writing these words from the seat of my car halfway out onto a beach in Massachussets. The seat is pushed back and bolstered with a cushion. My window is open to breathe fresh air. The sun shines warmly and bright into my little red cocoon. An expanse of Boston Bay shimmers before me, crowded with long boats and stroking oars.

I have brought my son to a rowing regatta, the beach pulsing with the shrill energy of high school students competing. His team is doing very well, a fine example of synchronistic behavior well focused. Parents roam about proudly.

I am surrounded by life and loving it!

Alternately, I put down this pen to rest my aching wrist. I wrap myself under my heavy suede jacket, like a calf against his mother, closing my eyes as comfortably as if I sit at home on my couch or am still buried under the heated blankets and cushioned by pillows in the hospital, tended by a soothing nurse's hand.

Only here the view is much more inspirational. As easily, I dial my phone and connect with friends and family around the country, weighing my energy and considering options for the next few days of this Thanksgiving adventure and how far I might have the strength and stamina to wander before returning to Vermont to recover in the isolation of my home.

"Breathe," I keep chanting to myself, "Breeeeathe!"

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1 comment:

Laurie said...

Kip, You are doing great! To venture out and participate in life is huge. While you may feel a bit aged now, once your body recovers, you'll slide back into your ol' self, ready to hit the slopes and tackle life again. Perseverance is key and you, my friend, are perseverant! Hang in there Kip. You have what it takes to recover and jump back into the game!