Monday, December 09, 2013
Finding Gratitude in Cold Places
Going to bed wondering if the puddle forming beneath the boiler in the basement might turn out to be more troublesome than we think.
Going to bed wondering whether the dog will manage to tear another stitch or two out of the wound on his leg despite the fact that he is toting around a giant plastic cone.
Going to bed knowing that tomorrow morning won't bring my customary latte because I'm fasting for an abdominal ultrasound.
I woke up to a house that has finally succumbed to the "cold snap" the news has been talking of for a week. The boiler gave it up while we slept and the radiators are frozen hunks of iron, no good for warming my towel as I shower. The dispatcher warns that it might be days because most of the folks in town have no heat, either, and haven't for days. I am grateful for the gas fireplace and the electricity to run the fan that pushes warmth out to the family room and kitchen. I am grateful for the dryer that dispenses warm clothes I can bury my cold nose in as I walk up the stairs.
I woke up to a gaping wound on the dog's leg, trailing drops of blood throughout the house. His head is still unwieldy with the cone of shame, and I marvel at the doggy yoga he must have performed to get his teeth around the stitches and tug. I am grateful for hardwood floors that I can simply swipe with a wet paper towel to clean the mess. I am grateful that the wound is clean and free of infection for now. I am immensely grateful to the vet who chucks him affectionately under the chin and injects a local anesthetic to put him back together again.
I sit in the waiting room watching the other people here for bone density tests and x-rays and ultrasounds. I eavesdrop on the couple in their late 6os, she the patient with the clipboard who looks to her husband for the answers.
"Do I put what kind of cancer? Or just when?"
"Medications? Do I put all of them?"
She is not confused. Simply leaning on him for validation, assurance. She is not wavering in her emotion or fragile, he is not paternalistic. They are simply there together. A team. Two halves of a whole.
The young man (ten years younger than I, I know because I heard him say his birthdate to the receptionist) who is there for an ultrasound. He is well-groomed, healthy-looking, and I wonder what part is being ultrasounded. I hope it's nothing. I hope it's not testicular cancer or something like that. He sits down with his clipboard and I look away. My eyes well up with tears when a young woman walks in and heads straight for the chair next to him. He isn't alone. He has someone to wait with him.
There is a woman in her late 50s or early 60s sitting alone across from me. She pulls out a knitting project - fat, fluffy yarn the color of mint leaves in the spring. I know exactly what it would feel like just by looking at it. There are thicker knobs of yarn interspersed with thinner parts and I think She must be making a scarf. A Christmas gift for someone. Her hands are small and a little gnarled, but she knits with comfort and precision.
I am brought back to an exam room and given a gown that opens in the back. As the technician leaves the room I think how absurd it is that I have a gown that opens in the back when they will be doing an ultrasound of my abdomen. I briefly consider putting it on backwards so that I can just open the two halves to expose my belly when she comes in, but opt for compliance. If I follow all the rules, everything will turn out okay. That is my 8-year old self talking, but she still occupies a powerful place in my head, so I do what I'm told.
After a few strokes of the wand through the warm gel, I close my eyes in order to resist the temptation to interpret every movement the technician makes. If she raises one eyebrow, I instantly begin analyzing what that might mean; where is the wand on my body, does it hurt there, could that be a signal that she saw something she didn't expect? If she shifts in her chair suddenly is that to get a closer look at something? When she clicks the mouse to record a measurement, is that normal or does that mean she found a mass to measure? Closing my eyes is the only defense against her silence. I know from experience that she won't tell me anything, that she isn't allowed to. So, in closing my eyes, I breathe life into the idea that there will be nothing amiss. That it will be frustrating because there aren't any answers, but any answers that lie within my abdomen aren't answers I want, anyway. I inflate that balloon and let it float above my head. I am grateful. I am grateful. I am grateful.