A Halcyon Time

I’m sitting here trying to think of an exciting opening sentence for this blog, but I can’t think of one, probably because my life itself is not exciting. I still have the external fixator attached to my arm, still can’t do much, am mostly homebound. I do get out to walk on nice days, though I find I’m still unsteady enough to need a trekking pole for balance.

The main difference is that my brain is clearing up. I hadn’t realized how fogged I’ve been, not just because of the trauma of the fall, or even the heavy pain medications I’ve been on, but also residuals from the anesthetics I was given during my operations. I’m not in as much pain now, so I’ve been cutting back on the pain pills, which is a very good thing. I don’t seem to be in any danger of becoming addicted — the drugs barely dull the pain, and whatever the pills do for other people to make them such a valued street drug, they don’t do for me. What I mostly get is a huge drain on my pocketbook. More than two dollars a pill! Still, I’m grateful for the relief they give me, even if they only take the edge off the pain.

I still spend most of my time by myself, though an occupational therapist comes a couple of times a week. She helps wash my hair; cuts up my apples and opens bottles; massages my fingers, elbow and shoulder; keeps the fixator sites clean; gives me exercises to strengthen wasting muscles. Mostly, though, she makes me feel cared for, which is something I have desperately needed (but didn’t know I needed) after all these years of taking care of others.

The therapist is taking care of her aged mother, so we have discussed the problems of grown women living with their parents (in her case, though, the parent is living with her). When I mentioned some of the things that have happened during the past 10 years — my mother’s death; Jeff’s illness, his death, and my long years of grief; taking care of my father until his death, and dealing with my mentally ill brother — she said, “So you’re used to dealing with trauma.” I laughed and said, “Compared to what I’ve gone through, this is nothing.” This, of course, meaning my arm. And it’s true — compared to all the traumas of the past decade, this is a mere blip in the road. Although there is a good chance I will have a deformity and will lose mobility in my wrist, fingers, and elbow, these are rather minor disabilities, all things considered.

When I was waiting for my prescription to be filled yesterday, the woman sitting next to me smiled and said, “At least you still have your thumb.” She showed me her right hand, which had been mangled in a car accident. Her fingers were badly deformed, and she was missing the thumb. We got to talking about how grateful we were because no matter how much we have lost, it could have been worse. She was grateful she still had one thumb, and she mentioned a man she met who had lost both thumbs to a freak accident. (The top section of the extension ladder he had been using disengaged and crashed down on his thumbs, smashing them beyond repair.)

Yep, my injury is a mere blip in the road.

I even have a hunch that in the coming years, once the memory of the pain and trauma has faded and the lesser mobility has become normal, I will look back on these few months as a halcyon time. No one to take care of but myself. No plans to make because I have no idea what’s going to happen or what I will still be able to do. Nowhere to go and no way to get there even if I did have a place to go. And mostly, someone to care.

Until then, of course, I have to deal with the reality, which is neither peaceful nor happy. Just life.



(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

18 Responses to “A Halcyon Time”

  1. Trev Brown Says:

    Good to hear your news Pat, thinking of you from England! (Good to see your latest creation as well!)

  2. LordBeariOfBow Says:

    Sounds like ‘Targin’ pain killers, I was weened off morphine by the use of them when I had my stomach chopped out in 2015, (cancer),
    These pills have a street value for addicts of $40+ each. I still have about 30, might be more. They came in doses of 20. The cost to me here in Australia? $5.80.!
    They never seemed to have any effect on me, just like yours don’t have on you, but I suppose they did some good. I stopped taking them early on, as I wasn’t in any pain, like expected after a total gastrectomy

  3. Wanda Hughes Says:

    I’m glad to see a posting from you. I’d begun to worry that something had happened to you, more than what you’re dealing with now, I mean. Bill and I talked about how you might come stay up here again when you’re able to do so. I know that’s in the future a ways but we hope you know we have a place for you whenever you need it. I’m glad your head is clearing. I believe there’s nothing worse than having a cloudy mind and it’s astonishing how cloudy one can become with drugs and pain and trauma.

    I’m so glad that your therapist is someone you can also talk to. It’s important to find someone who can understand what your’re going through. Good on you for taking up painting! A new creative outlet for you, couldn’t find a better therapy.

    I’m not being a very good friend, I confess. I’m never one for calling and chatting but I do think of you often(scant comfort since I know since I’m not following through) and I love you, my sister from another mother.
    Heal quickly, darn it. But while you’re healing enjoy this time, these halcyon days, when you’re being taken care of.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Wanda, I would love to visit you again! Sounds nice to have a place to go when I get healed. A writer’s retreat, a bit of hiking, good friends — who could ask for more. You are such a good sister from another mother. (I love how you phrased that.)

  4. Sue Says:

    I too am so glad to hear from you, been thinking of you the last couple of days as you had not blogged was a little concerned. I’ve had a couple of wobbles, feeling down and wondering that if this is my life now do l really want it, and I’ve cried most days, for me? For Jack? For the life we didn’t get to finish? But l realise there are two paths my grief for Jack path and my grief for the “me” path, which I must travel alone.slowly l must learn to live with myself, be comfortable with myself, enjoy my own company, be content to spend time with just me.
    Then l read your blog and see how amazing you are, I’m sure a lot of the time it cannot be easy for you, everyone wants someone close especially when they are unwell, l admire how you seem to carry on and it makes me stronger. I so wish you well, hope both our journeys continue to move onward and upward.

    Sending much love from across the pond. Sue x

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Been wondering the same thing — this is my life now and do I really want it. It’s hard enough dealing with life alone and lonely in a coupled world, but having a poorly functioning hand and arm seems to make it worse.

      I’m sorry about your wobbles, but I think it’s part of our new life. It’s almost seven years for me, and I still cry sometimes. Even when I am relatively content, I can feel the tears deep down in my soul so it’s not surprising that they seep to the surface.

      Thank you for the well wishes. Hoping you are finding peace.

  5. Sherrie Hansen Says:

    Am delighted to hear of your progress! Hugs and prayers!

  6. Terry Allard Says:

    I just did my daily reading from your grief posts. Today the title was “Grief: Overflowing into the Empty Places”. and the line I picked to write about in my grief journal was; “Grief is a difficult journey,and it’s made even more difficult when you lose a life/soulmate because the one person you need to turn to for support is the one who is gone.” My ritual (for starting most everyday with this routine) has made a real diference for me. Your writing has made me feel understood and given me the ability to write myself. Even if I haven’t agreed with your viewpoint, I know it is ok, as you emphasize griefing is individual NOT a set of steps to be checked off within a certain period of time. Therefore I care you are going through such a horrid time and the one person you need to turn to is gone.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      A therapist whose husband died the same as Jeff sometimes disagreed with my posts because she thought I was trying to portray a new set of stages, but my grief blogs have always been a chronicle of my own grief. It amazes me that there are as many similarities as there are – but then, profound loss leaves its mark on us, no matter how we go about dealing with it. In that way, yes, I do understand. I am glad you are keeping a grief journal. If we can put into words what we are feeling, it helps dispel some of the utter bewilderment, confusion, and disorientation that accompanies grief. Wishing you all the best as you try to find your way.

  7. Coco Ihle Says:

    This post shows you are making huge steps forward, Pat. I don’t know if you even realize it, but I think you are doing well. I know it’s slow, but keep on keeping on. One day in the not too distant future, you’ll look back and be amazed at just how strong you are. Brava, Pat!!!

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