Thursday, April 21, 2011

April, Come She Will

I've read, and others who understand have told me, that anniversaries can be hard. I know Jim's birthday back in January felt OK for most of the day but when I got nailed at a dinner party it nailed me hard. This grief shit is so unpredictable, sporadic at times and tough stuff.

I'm coming up on an anniversary and I'm getting nailed already. I was out at my mothers house to see my younger sister and her family who had come down from Bangor. The surf was huge, bigger then I can remember in a very long time; wild, surging, pounding and gorgeous. We had a wonderful day, I stayed for lunch and later in the afternoon the grand nieces all showed up and went to fly a kite out in the field. I couldn't join them. I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I was so incredibly tired that I felt a tremendous weight on me and an inertia that was sucking me down. My family was saying "Mary looks like she's going to fall asleep!", or "Mary, God you look so tired". And I was, so tired!

Rather then join in the fun of kite flying on a gorgeous afternoon I just got up saying "I gotta go home." I kissed my mom and then just waved a hand to the other family members in the kitchen at that time. No going around to give everyone the normal good bye hugs ... just a quick "bye" and I was out the door and heading home. For some reason I did not want any physical contact with anyone. What was that about?

That night, as I laid in bed, I got hit by one of those huge breakers I'd seen roll in to crash against the rocks earlier in the day; it crashed against me so hard that I had to curl into the fetal position and hang on. What the heck is going on? It's still more than two weeks to the actual one-year mark.

Ah, but it's April. When I scrolled down to my 2010 posts and then to the month of April here on this blog (yes, you can do it too.) I see that starting on April 26, 2010 all the big shit began to hit the fan for us. This was the beginning to the end; the ER visits, the hospital, the Hospice.

You know, it almost feels like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). I work with war veterans doing acupuncture for them to help ease their PTSD and all the symptoms that are associated with this syndrome. I can't imagine what these folks have lived through but I hear of the flashbacks, the insomnia, the emotional swings and sudden angry outbursts. I am experiencing some of this now; all that pain, fear, weariness and unfathomable grief is resurfacing from all the memories in my cells.

As the Maple trees are coming into flower with those pretty little firecrackers of red and yellow explosions at the end of the branches and the crocuses are powering out of a still cold earth, and snowdrops wave their pretty white heads ... April in Maine still remains very cold and bleak for me.

"April, come she will"

Loving you all back,

Friday, April 15, 2011

Is this a movie?

I watched the movie "127 Hours" the other night. I was told by one friend "it gets tedious". I was told by another friend "it's good, it's all in the Canyonlands too, Mary" - an area dear to my heart. I knew the actor had won an Oscar nomination for the role. I figured if Tom Hanks could talk to a soccer ball for an entire movie then this kid could probably offer some interesting thoughts while stuck in a canyon with his arm smashed between a boulder and the canyon wall.

Here's the true story of Aron Ralston; a young man who does most of his adventure traveling alone, takes off for some fun in his beloved Canyonlands, which he seems to know like the back of his hand. He tells no one where he is or where he's going. A bit of a free spirit. I've been guilty of going for hikes alone with my dog, Ella, and not informing anybody of my plans. Although I've always gotten home safe I have questioned the intelligence of such a move on my part. Well, this kid never questioned it until he sudddenly finds himself in the worst of the worst scenarios. While running he stumbles down a tiny canyon, dislodges a boulder that falls down after him and pins his arm as the boulder lodges into the walls of this small crevice. His arm is literally trapping him in a canyon miles from anywhere, he's running out of food, has very little water and nobody knows where he is. As he says to himself "this is really bad doo-doo".

You can see the reality of the situation hit him over time after the accident occurs. And this is where the movie began to hit me like a ton of bricks .... in the past I would watch a movie like this and wonder what it might be like to have that kind of reality hit. What it would it feel like to suddenly realize the situation you were in is dire and you're facing life and death.
What goes through your mind as it sinks in that this is really happening to you! While watching this movie I found myself understanding exactly what this feels like. I realize that this is something I feel almost daily .... still ... that feeling of "are you serious? This is my life? This is happening to ME?" Whenever I see a picture of Jim's handsome face I get hit with this reality again.

I feel like a bomb has gone off in my life. When that bomb dropped on us, those first few months after Jim was diagnosed, it was the cover your head and try to survive mode. It was a whirlwind of doctors, treatment procedures, medicines and twirling in circles while being told which direction to move once the spinning stopped. Like the movie, this was the part where we were falling into the crevice and didn't know that boulder was coming down with us to smash us against the wall and alter our lives forever.

The first few minutes, after Aron gets trapped, you could see he had hope that he could move that boulder. He struggled like a trapped animal but he still believed that he'd get himself out of that little problem. But, as the reality set in, Aron would tell himself to "stay calm, don't lose it man". While Jim and I realized that those brain tumors had trapped us we never gave up hope that Jim would be able to beat it. If we stopped to get hit by the reality of our situation then the fear could be devastating and panic would set in. You never want to panic because then you lose your ability to move and think rationally and possibly save yourself. So I would take one step at a time, and I would tell myself to "stay calm woman, don't lose it".

Aron Ralston, as you may know, ends up cutting his own arm off after being trapped in that canyon for 127 hours. And everyone who knows this story asks themselves, "could I do that?" "Would I do that?" With Jim, the left brain tumors severely affected his right side. But when he had hydrocephalus he lost even more control of his right arm and leg and he couldn't walk by himself at all. He refused to use a wheelchair, which would be admitting defeat. So I had to physically get him up and hold him from behind with my arms supporting his arms and my legs supporting his legs. Using my legs as a shadow to his I would push his right leg forward to force that leg to take a step. Jim would then step with his left leg as I completely supported him. In this manner of push the right leg, step, push the right leg, step - we would "walk" to where he needed to be. How could I find the strength to do this? I felt it from Jim. I felt it in me. I felt both of our incredible determination to take that next step. And I never stopped to question whether I could do it or not; I just did it. I just did whatever had to be done. I would indeed have cut my arm off if I thought it could have saved Jim from those tumors.

Aron Ralston is now one-armed, but alive, and still living a wonderful adventurous life. I still have both my arms but feel my heart has been cut out and wonder if I can ever get that adventurous life back; can I ever get that sparkle and laughter I had with Jim again?

This is not a movie ... this is my life now.

Loving you all back,
PS - I haven't figured out how to put a by-line on the photos when I upload them. The picture on this blog is of Jim's sister, Donna, me and Jim in the town of Moab - just outside the Canyonlands National Park.