Thanks Given

Settled into a different schedule I would go up to Canonsburg toward the end of the week, stay a couple of days then return home.  Fred was also into a routine of sorts.  Each day, they would wheel him to his various therapies and, when I was there, I was encouraged to accompany him and his therapists.  This was something I really appreciated…not just being part of the process but the OJT. 
Well aware that no matter if or how much progress Fred would make, I knew at some point there would be his discharge and he was going home where he belonged.  It was in both our best interests that I  learn to do as much, learn as much as I possibly could, any chance given me.  As to his going home…yes, attempts to dissuade me from fulfilling that promise were constant.  My sister never did, Fred’s mother never did.  I realised that those who tried did so with the best of intention for me.  The two who didn’t also didn’t try for my sake as much as for a beloved brother-in-law and son…they knew me too well, I think, and knew there was no way I couldn’t NOT bring Fred home.  Twenty-five years in a naval career, twenty-six years married…we had been on the move all our lives, moving country to country, State to State.  We lived in a trailer, apartments, row houses, villas, bungalow.  Only the trailer had been ours to own.  The rest were either private rentals when military housing wasn’t available to us or military housing, itself.  We had come back to the US in 1985…to Maryland and Fort Meade where Fred would spend his twilight tour, prior to retirement.  Soon as we arrived we rented a rancher…that lasted about three weeks when another, two streets over, came up for sale and we decided to buy our first home.  It wasn’t a tough decision.  Given his military training and background Fred’s best opportunities for a second, civilian career,  would be where we now were or, most likely, D.C…about twenty-five miles away.  Not a bad commute, all things considered.  Another consideration was our daughter had married a young Scottish engineer and was living in Scotland.  For us to live on the East Coast was much more conducive to us being able to go back there for a visit or for them to visit us here.  If nothing else, it would cut the travel time and expenses plus, anything that would reduce flying time for me was a relief!  Being the first home we had ever bought, regardless of how long Fred might live or even how he would live his life out, he was going to do it in this home…his home.


It was somewhat painful watching them try to get him to eat food.  They did all the work but he could not chew, could not swallow yet this was something they explained had to be done.  Along with hisSpeech therapy (which was the feeding), PT, the recreational therapy, the hope was something would stir and awaken him…but we  saw no signs.  When I would take a few minutes break while Fred was in sleep mode, I’d go to the smoking lounge where I soon made a few friends.  One in particular was a woman no taller then myself (5’0″!)…name of Carol.  She was a little older than I and she visited her son, David, every day.  She lived about two hours north west of Pittsburgh.  David had been in a coma for nine years following a car accident, his vehicle being hit by a 18-wheel postal truck.  A year or two after David’s accident,  his Dad died from a heart attack and Carol now lived with her mother.  Along with learning their story, I had free access to the inspiration of this dedicated mother as well as imagine the heartbreak.  When our daughter died, when they couldn’t revive her, I raged against everything I knew and much I didn’t.  I bargained that if I could just have her in my world I didn’t care how…I would take care of her for the rest of my life and nothing would ever be too much.  I didn’t get the chance and, seeing Carol and David, I did wonder how I really would have coped were I too have been in Carol’s shoes.  Bad enough a husband, but one’s child?   No matter what, she was there at nine every day, worked with David, tended him mostly herself…her choice…and didn’t leave for the two hour ride home until after nine-thirty each night.  She had been doing this for all those years.  Often David would run fevers, have a seizure, get a cold with additional respiratory problems and Carol would just stay over, sleeping in a chair by his bed.  A couple of times she would come back with me to the townhouse…not strictly legitimate since families who lived within PA were excluded from these accomodations but if I had a place a to myself, the staff at the centre would turn a blind eye.  Myself, I was grateful for both the company and someone showing me the ropes from the family side of things.  And Carol was witty, pithy, strong.  I learned how to laugh again and it felt good she also inspired me to keep reaching inside and retrieving strengths I never knew I owned.  I learned how to swear!  And THAT, too. felt just fine…not something I craved doing or aspired to in my life but at that time,  when I would explode, it was a release of sorts.  Not that I was proud of it, either…it was what it was and I realised it was better than keeping things in.  As they say…”Better an empty house than a bad tenant…”.  Never in my life could I claim to know what ‘lonely” was.  I was a loner since childhood.  So was Fred so we were loners together, our favourite pastime, exercise, hobby came down to one thing…reading.  So while I had friends I never felt a drive to seek people or company out.  When friends would visit or we would visit them I thoroughly enjoyed them but I was just as happy on my own.  Often it was just Fred. the dogs and I or myself and the dogs since he was often off on business trips from two to six weeks.  I didn’t suffer boredom, either.  I can’t even say that this catastrophic change in our lives changed things for me in that respect but there were times when found I was glad of Carol’s company, when we would sometimes go to Denny’s down the highway for a 10pm breakfast before she headed home or sit and chat in the lounge at the centre until we were kindly and politely thrown out.


And then it was Thanksgiving.  I made my way up to Canonsburg for the weekly visit, not too concerned about the holiday.  Spent the day with Fred in his room…no therapies that day and he did have a tv, we had music,  I had a couple of books.  Lunch was our soup and sandwich but they did serve us turkey at dinner.  Had my coffee then the smokers amongst us toddled of to the smoking loung before we returned to the respective bedsides and calling it a day.  Fred was back in his bed, lying as still as he had done for weeks.  I had to chuckle…they had told me that first week they were going to have to get a bed extender for him.  When I asked why, they said it was because of his ‘long length…he’s what…6’6″?’  Uh…no.  Six feet…and they didn’t believe me.  And I could see why…for some reason, stretched out as he was, he was a long drink of water and every time I walked into his room, saw the bed extension and his feet almost hanging of the end of it, just couldn’t figure out how or why that was.  I checked to make sure the PEG was on and functioning…a slow drip, sixteen hours out of every twenty-four, talked to him a few minutes then leaned over the side-rails and began softly singing a song.  Even that didn’t stir him to wakefulness as it probably should have!  As I usually did at such times I watched his face carefully, then did a slow scan of his form…head to toe.  It was a two hour period when his splints needed to be off so his hands were palms down on the blanket, by his sides.  I continued singing and scanning.  Then I saw it…very briefly, lasting maybe a split second.  His index finger on the right hand moved!  It rose the barest fraction of an inch but it MOVED!  By itself!  Quickly I looked at Fred’s face…nothing changed, no expression, still in sleep mode.  Back to his hands I asked him to do it again…move his finger, thumb…anything!  Nope.  At that I ran down the hall to the nurse’s station to talk to his night team, his charge nurse.  The words were spilling out all around me…as I tried to calm down.  Finally, I managed to make them understand what I was trying to say.  The charge nurse grinned.  I asked her if I had just been seeing things.  She said she didn’t think so…two days earlier, Fred’s CNA had reported seeing the barest twitch.  They had checked it out, had the doctor, director and Fred’s social worker/counsellor in there but, no…they saw nothing, nothing to see.  Which is why they had said nothing to me until now…they wanted to be sure, needed to see it again (or something like it) but those on duty that night were thrilled that I had been the one to see it, myself.  There were two Coma Scales…Los Ranchos and Glasgow.  I had copies of both and while each was slightly different, Fred had been barely a one…that being the lowest, pretty much.  This night, he may just have moved up a half point!  A new beginning?  I didn’t know, they couldn’t say for sure.  But thanks WAS given.

Published in:body-mind-spirit, inspiration, life, society, Uncategorized |on January 3rd, 2009 |1 Comment »

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