Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Let me tell you something...

(said in my very best Fire Marshall Bill voice): I just don't know what to tell you.

My head is full of so many things it is like a buzzing, humming swirling hive of activity. There isn't any space unoccupied by some new terror or old enemy or flashing through like lightening bolts or scrolling through like a news crawl - "This just in: You are Still Hurting! And reports are coming in of even more affected areas - Devastation spreads! Stay tuned to this channel for further developments."
Basically, the inside of my head is on overload, and that makes it kind of difficult to weed out enough (logical, legible & un-loopy enough ) bits and pieces to write something. Anything. Anything at all that doesn't wind up reading like the inside of my head - a lot of words and letters that are seemingly unconnected and yet make entirely too much sense.

So that's where my head is at. My body, at present, is camping on the Pull Out Couch of Death (tm) at my grandmother's house. Again. As I was laying on it in the dark last night, I was thinking back: I didn't have a lot of sleepovers here as a child (probably because our houses were about 3 minutes apart from each other), but occasionally, when my dad was on leave from the Navy, my brother and I would stay for a night or a weekend. We must have slept on this very same pull out couch, because there's no way this thing is less than 30 years old, although the one we slept in seemed huge to me then, and this thing feels like a postage stamp now, compared to my queen sized cloud of awesome at home.

I can remember laying on this very same bed, in the almost total dark - my brother beside me, his foot twitching back and forth as it does every time he goes to sleep; the street light shining in through the cracks in the shades, just enough light to keep it from being pitch dark; an intense and eerie quiet all around that never seemed to happen at my house no matter what time it was - and being petrified of the odd shadows, the different creaks and groans of the house, the ticking of the clock.

I must have been under ten (maybe even more like 5 or 6), but the memory came back to me so clearly last night - just the feeling of absolute, frozen, "I can't go to sleep because I might never wake up" terror. I was sometimes (ok, maybe most of the time) anxious as a child, and once my brain latched on to something - even if I knew it was ridiculous, outlandish, and totally improbable - I just couldn't let it go. It would swirl around in there like a tornado, picking up bits and pieces of other worries and wishes and whatevers as it spun ever faster and grew bigger until I thought I would explode from it. (This is not that different from how I am now, come to think of it: I guess we don't grow out of as many things as we would like to believe we do.)

The fears of my ten year old self seemed laughable last night - the creaks of an old house are nothing compared to the strains of an older life.

I have been staying here for four days, as the sibling switching that occurs at my house has required a new paint job in one particular room, and I don't know how much longer I'll stay. My grandmother has been in the hospital for all of those four days, and we don't know how much longer she'll stay there, either.

On Friday night, my uncle heard a thump upstairs in her room, and he went up to check on her, and found her on the floor, tangled in her blankets. When he got to her, he realized he couldn't understand what she was saying, so he got down on the floor and took a good look at her face, and saw that the left side was drooping. I think everybody recognizes that symptom as what it turned out to be - my Grandmother had had a stroke.

As it turns out, she had what is (apparently) the best kind of stroke - a mini-stroke, a temporary stroke, a Transient Ischemic Attack. At the hospital, they were able to treat her quickly, and she has since recovered to about 85% of her normal self - her speech returned quickly, the drooping went away, she is able to breathe and swallow and sit up and stand all on her own. The only physical signs of her stroke are a large bruise - which takes up a quarter of her face - she got when she fell out of bed, and some lingering weakness and swelling in her left leg, that the doctors are pretty sure will go down on its own.

She is bored and frustrated by her lack of control at the hospital (I come by it naturally, see?), and she's tired because "the people who work here have no respect for night time hours," and she's a little bit embarrassed and scared, I think, too, which she has shown by being pissed at my uncle for making the call to the ambulance in the first place. But she's herself, and she's ready to come home, and she doesn't understand what's taking them so long to let her go.

She's alright, is what I'm saying: She's doing a lot better than the doctors said she would be doing, and excellent as far as I'm concerned. But here's the thing - my brain just can't shut it off. It's got this worry wrapped up in the tornado now, this huge "She's 93 years old" funnel cloud full of "But what if"s and "I'll stay here forever if you need me to" and "I can't handle this" and "God I hate hospitals, even if her room is better than most hotel rooms I've stayed in, why the hell does it have a fake fireplace" and "Holy shit, I really can't do this again" and a million more swirling swishing sounds and sights and memories and realities and fears.

It makes me long for the worries of ten year old me, that's for sure.

In the meantime I try to be helpful: try to answer the phone and pass out the updates to the family scattered around the country; try to convince UJ that I can make dinner for myself - and for him - and that if he needs to stay at the hospital all day, I'll be fine; try to make the doctors who come into her room speak louder because she doesn't have her hearing aids in and she needs them for a reason; try to ask questions and think of solutions (the rugs at home can all come up, if that's what we need to do/the pull out couch needs a much better mattress if she's thinking of sleeping on it long term) to all the little issues that are popping up; try to rub lotion on her back because I also come by my sensitive skin naturally, and whatever they wash the sheets in has given her a rash (even though the lotion she uses to soothe her sensitive skin leaves my sensitive skin raw, red and burning); try to do something - ANYTHING - to make myself of use, and to give me something else to focus on, a stopper to keep that tornado from spinning so fast that it carries me away with it.


Crazed Nitwit said...

If one must have a stroke that's the best kind to have. Small comfort I know. Being sick is taking away enough power and then the freakin' hospital makes that 1000 times worse. I hope she has a truly compassionate nurse or two. I hear tell they still exist but you couldn't prove it by me.

Gentle hugs.

The Goldfish said...

Thinking of you and yours, NTE. Hope you're Grandmother is home, healing and more comfortable soon. And hope you are a lot more comfortable soon too.

The only thing I've found that helps with realistic fears - things that could actually happen - is that, rather than trying to shut those thoughts from your mind, realise that if they did happen, sad and stressful as they would be, you would be able to cope. And you would probably be able to cope better than you imagine, as would other people around you. And you guys would help each other cope - as you are doing now.