Anniversary of a Dubious Miracle

I’m  not one for remembering dates of my anniversaries and such — the practice doesn’t fit well with a live-in-the-moment attitude, and besides, I seldom know what day it is anyway, and it’s almost impossible to remember what you never knew in the first place. For example, I have no idea what day I met Jeff, and even though I knew at the moment that he would be important to me (I just didn’t know how important), it never occurred to me to mark the date. Years later, when I did want to know, I could only remember that it was the first or second Saturday of August that year. (I wonder if it ever occurred to me before now to make the connection — he came into my life on a Saturday, and left it on a Saturday.)

Still, with my penchant for not paying attention to dates, there are some things so stunningly ghastly that the date can never be forgotten. Jeff’s death, of course. And also the destruction of my arm.

A year ago today, at this time, I was perfectly perfect (in my own overweight way), but by the end of the day, I would have sustained such a devastating injury that from one minute to the next, my life would never be the same.

If there is such a thing as a miracle that brings horror rather than joy, this particular event would have to qualify.

It started in dance class a month or so before the date. The class was going to perform a couple of dances as part of the local college end of semester dance concert, and I did not want to be a part of it. For days, weeks, the class members badgered me to change my mind, and I remember almost crying when I finally told them to leave me alone. “If I do it,” I said, “Something awful will happen.” I did finally agree to be understudy for one particular dance since if any of the principal dancers couldn’t do it, they would be in big trouble.

They finally left me alone, but then a whole string of events occurred. First of all, instead of being at the beginning of December as it always is, the program was scheduled for the middle of November. Second, a major wildfire destroyed the venue of my teacher’s grandson’s wedding, causing the wedding to be changed to the same day as the performance. And one of the best dancers had been absent for a couple of months due to an illness that threatened her grandson’s life.

And so, there I was on that fateful night.

Even then, all would have been well, but just as I turned to cross the parking lot between two cars, the motion-activated lights went out. (I guess from the lights’ perspective, I had disappeared.) Next thing I knew, I was on the ground, screaming in utter pain. When I finally was able to look to see what had happened, I discovered I had tripped over a parking berm. Instead of the parking lines lining up with the berm, they lines forced the cars to park in the space. (Utter idiocy!!)

Well, I finally stopped screaming in pain, and started screaming for help. And not a single person came, not even the security guards who were supposed to be patrolling the area. I considered going back inside to get one of my friends to help me, but after going through all the aggravation to make sure the class could perform, it seemed contraindicative to get them riled up. (And anyway, I didn’t want to trudge that long distance back to the performing arts center — what if there was another unseen obstruction waiting to trip me up?) I considered calling an ambulance, but since it was a Saturday night (Saturdays are sure fateful for me!!) with sirens already sounding in the background, I feared it would be a long time before I could get help. So I wrapped my destroyed wrist (with the bone sticking out) in my veils from the dance and drove myself to the hospital. (At the time, it seemed logical, but now I shudder at the thought.)

And events still conspired to exacerbate this “miraculous” event. For one, the surgeon on call at the hospital told me my elbow wasn’t broken, and as it turns out, it was broken in so many places I eventually had to have the elbow replaced. For another, the surgeon only put on an external fixator without fixing the bones, so that when I finally had the necessary surgery, scar tissue had already began forming. Luckily, this on-call surgeon didn’t want to perform the follow-up surgery, so he sent me to a specialist. That surgeon didn’t want to perform the surgery, either, so he tried to pawn me off on a specialist’s specialist, but when he couldn’t find anyone else to do it, he reluctantly agreed to do the surgery.

At my final follow-up appointment with the surgeon, I thanked him for taking care of me, mentioning that I knew he didn’t want to do the surgery, so I especially appreciated his fixing my elbow/wrist/arm. He laughed and said, “I really, really, really didn’t want to do it.” He went on the explain the difficulty — with a normal wrist fracture, the radius is still connected to the elbow, but with my injury (a pulverized wrist, a shattered elbow, and more than a dozen breaks in the radius due to all my weight landing on the wrist), the radius was unconnected to any other bone (not even to the ulna, since those connecting tendons had also been destroyed in the fall), which made the surgery horrendously difficult. And then, there was the problem of it being an “old” injury. (Even injuries a couple of weeks old apparently cause problems for the surgeon because of the necessity to scrape the scar tissue from fragmented bones.)

Although he told me it would take two years to get back partial use of my hand, wrist, and elbow, I didn’t believe him. But today I do. After a year, I can do many of the things he didn’t think I’d ever be able to do, such as open a door with my left hand. He’d also said I “should” be able to type and drive again, but the tone of his voice expressed doubt. He also said I’d have chronic pain in the ulna (which hadn’t been broken) and the fingers (which hadn’t been broken but which had been pushed out of line) and he was right about that. He also promised arthritis, which is apparently nothing I can avoid. But that won’t come for awhile.

Meantime, after the fear of never being able to use my hand/arm/wrist/fingers, and despite pain and a deformity that apparently only I notice, I am grateful to be able to type, open doors and bottles, drive, carry sort-of-heavy items, and oh, so many things.

In the end, it wasn’t the fall that was miraculous. In a strange sort of way, it was inevitable. The miracle is that I am doing as well as I am.

So as it turns out, this is not a day to remember horrendous event and mourn the loss of some mobility, but a day to give thanks for being able to use my left hand/wrist/elbow/fingers at all.

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

No More Saturday my Sadder Day

During the past three and a third years, ever since the death of my life mate/soul mate, the date and the day he died have brought an upsurge of grief. Every 27th of the month and every Saturday I felt an increased sadness even when I wasn’t aware of the date and day. And when the 27th fell on a Saturday, I got a double dose of grief.

Last Saturday was the 27th, but there was no sadness. I simply noted the date and day, and went on with my life. Not that there was much to go on with — a walk in the desert, a movie (one of the movies he taped for us), some online activity.

Part of me wanted to feel sadness just out of habit — habits are comfortable even when they aren’t particularly productive. Part of me wanted to feel sadness because it was a link to him and to a life that is rapidly receding from me. Mostly it didn’t matter. I’d come to see that being sad or unsad didn’t make much of a difference — it was just a part of my life in the same way the sun rises and sets or the moon grows full and wanes.

It’s been several days since Saturday the 27th, and I still don’t know what to think about the lack of sadness. Three and a third years ago, I was in such pain, I couldn’t have believed this time would ever come. Some people who have lost their spouses still feel connected, but I don’t. I talk to him, of course, but never feel as if he’s listening, let alone responding. Whatever we once meant to each other, whatever we shared, I now know he’s on his own journey, just as I am.

The main problem continues to be emptiness. I don’t feel anything as dramatic as the bleakness I once felt, don’t feel much at all, to tell the truth. I do feel lonely, of course, but I’m getting used to that. I even think it might be my destiny—to be alone so I can . . . and that’s where the thought always ends. So I can do or become . . . what?

I don’t much believe in destiny, and yet it’s hard to completely disbelieve when two such inexplicable and awe-full events helped define my world: the day he came into my life and the day he left.

From somewhere deep inside, “want” is starting to seep up into my consciousness. It’s an indefinable want, perhaps a desire for life, whatever that might be. I’ve been steeped in death and aging for too long (still am — I’m currently looking out for my mostly independent 96-year-old father), and something in me is crying out for more.

Despite a growing restlessness, I need to be patient since my life is not yet entirely my own. But someday, when I am free, I hope I have the courage to run to meet my destiny, whatever that might be. I hope I have the courage for “more.”


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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Double Whammy of Grief

For more two and a half years, Saturday was a sadder day for me. My life mate/soul mate died late Friday night or early Saturday morning, depending on how you look at it, and often my mind/body saw it both ways, with an upswing of grief on Friday that grew to a crescendo on Saturday and didn’t dissipate until dawn on Sunday. Even if I paid no attention to the calendar, grief surged, which always mystified me — how could my body know when I didn’t?

Today is a double whammy — not only is it Saturday, but it is the 27th, the date of his death — but there doesn’t seem to be a great upsurge of sorrow on these days and dates anymore. My sadness is like an underground river running beneath my consciousness, and it doesn’t profoundly affect the hard-won peace of my days, though it does ripple and churn at times, most notably when I remember why he is out of my life. Death is too big for me to understand, and the thought of his being dead always brings tears to my eyes. Even now, after thirty-one months, I cannot bear that he is dead. Perhaps he doesn’t mind, but since he has yet to communicate with me in any way that I can comprehend, I don’t know how he is doing or even if he “is.” (Many people see butterflies or experience things that seem out of place or out of time, but I never have.)

Lately I’ve been posting articles about looking forward, about being me, about trying to open myself to surprises and the power of the universe, and sometimes I wonder if I’m just fooling myself (and you) with this pretense of being okay with my current state of affairs. I’m not okay with it, but I can’t undo death — not just his, but death in general — and so I try to act as if the universe is unfolding the way it should. And perhaps, in the final analysis, that’s all any of us can do — fake it until we make it. (Whatever “it” is.)

Maybe there is a special destiny waiting for me and that is why I am still here, even though I somehow always assumed death would pull me out of this world when it took him. Maybe my being here is nothing but a trick of genetics or a roll of destiny’s dice, but whatever the reason, I am still here. And he is not. It doesn’t seem fair, though I still don’t know which of us got the worst of the deal and which of us got the best. Could it be there is no worst or best? I don’t know, and probably will never know while I’m here on this earth. I can only act as if this is the best for me and go from here to wherever life might lead me.


Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy 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+

Saturday, My Sadder Day

Another sad Saturday — 83 of them since my life mate died. Even when I don’t remember that it’s Saturday, or that Saturday is the day of the week he died, my body remembers, and my usual muted feeling of sadness becomes more pervasive. It’s not that I want to be sad; the sorrow just comes, especially when the weather is as perfect as today’s — warm, still, clear sky, bright sun, gently cooling breeze. I’d worry more about my continuing sadness except that I tend to be of a melancholic bent. And the sadness does reminds me to pay attention. Since he can no longer make note of a lovely day, it’s as if I need to appreciate it twice — once for me and once for him.

If Saturday is a sadder day than normal, that must be a sign that I am doing okay most of the time (otherwise I wouldn’t feel sadder; I’d just feel sad). The world still feels flawed, I still feel the phantom itch from where he was amputated from my life, and I still yearn to talk with him. Part of me (perhaps that fabled inner child?) cannot understand why I can’t call him to find out how he is doing, to see if he needs anything, to ask if I can come home. This yearning flares up every Saturday, as if he’s closer on this day, and it seems as if I should be able to reach out and touch him. But he’s gone, out of reach of even my sadness.

Oddly, in many respects, my life is much better now, at least temporarily, than it was at the end of “our” life. I don’t have to worry about him any more (though the habit of a lifetime is hard to break, so I wonder if he is feeling as lost and as alone as I sometimes feel). I have a lovely place to stay with proximity to wild spaces. I have a respite from bills and other such annoyances. I have time to indulge myself with small excursions and escapes.

But my heart doesn’t care for such things. It wants what it cannot have, especially on Saturday, my sadderday.

Grief: All Things Considered . . .

Another Saturday gone, thirty-three of them since my life mate died. Saturday — his death day — always makes me sad. Even if I’m not consciously aware of the day, my body still reacts, as if it’s been marking the passing weeks. For some reason grief hit me hard this past Saturday. Perhaps it was the lovely weather we’ve been having, weather he will never enjoy. Perhaps it was the homesickness for him that has been growing in me again. Perhaps it was just time for another bout of tears to relieve the growing tension of dealing with his absence. Grief doesn’t need a reason, though. Grief has an agenda of its own and comes when it wishes.

I’ve been mostly doing okay, moving on with my life — walking in the desert, writing, blogging and doing various internet activities, making friends both online and offline — but nothing, not even my hard-won acceptance changes the fact that he is dead. At times I still have trouble understanding his sheer goneness. My mind doesn’t seem to be able to make that leap, though I am getting used to his not being around. I don’t like it, but I am getting used to it. Maybe that’s the best I will ever be able to do.

Someone asked me the other day how I was doing. “I’m doing okay all things considered,” I responded. His witty and wise response: “Then don’t consider all things.”

I’ve been taking his advice, and trying not to consider all things — trying to consider just enough to get through the day, especially on Saturday.

I don’t expect much of myself on Saturdays. Often, I spend the afternoon and evening watching movies my life mate taped for us. It makes me feel as if we are together, if only for a few brief delusional minutes. I try not to consider that he’ll never watch his tapes again. I try not to consider the long lonely years stretching before me. I try not to consider that I’ll never see his smile again, or hear his laugh. I concentrate on the movies, and so Saturday passes.

By Sunday, I usually regain a modicum of equanimity, but Saturday always comes around again.