Some of the unfinished stories need to be told, however. There is one which I have been putting off because I don’t think I can do it justice. (Or maybe it’s because it is too intensely spiritual, and I am afraid.) It is startling how quickly very vivid experiences start to fade into haze now...sensory overload, I suppose. But it was confirmed to me recently that I need to try to conjure up the memory fragments of that time.
In the meantime, I will share this one:
Last week, rather than borrowing a car and fighting vicious traffic, I spent several days in Pomona staying at Jay’s house. It was an exhausting, emotional, intense time for Katherine. More new patients have been admitted, and some are extremely volatile and combative. There are only a few female patients whose personalities have not been altered by their brain injuries, so that makes for some interesting interactions. There is a lot of yelling, crying, and even throwing. During one patient’s outburst, Katherine was so scared that she covered her head with her hands and tried to duck under her desk...even though the throwing was several rooms away. Katherine believes that one new patient in particular has it in for her, although it is my observation that it is just a problem with impulse control. Maybe this girl’s pre-frontal cortex was affected. (I’m just starting to study brain books...it is a fascinating topic.) Anyway, Grace and I witnessed one encounter when we sat in on Kat’s “Cognitive Dev.” class. The patients got to play a card game with each other. It was “Miss A’s” turn to play, but she was busily describing to one of the aides (in graphic detail) what she was planning to do with a certain young gentleman. Katherine called her name to tell her it was her turn. “Miss A” slowly turned around and pierced Katherine with a laser look. Then she turned it upon Grace and then on me to make sure we were watching. She sent it back to Katherine and in a slow, deep voice she hissed out her response: “Bitch.”
Katherine was born living Phil. 1:8: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”(NLT) Ugly words are like poison to her spirit.
Later that afternoon, we wheeled her back to the house. She was pensive in spite of our efforts to entertain. When I asked her if anything was wrong, she said, “Mom, I feel like I’m drowning. I’m drowning, but no one can help me.”
I guess it’s obvious from previous entries that I know something about drowning, but I’ve never heard Katherine use the analogy before. (Remember, she’s the one who floats.) I comforted her as best I could. Of course, she immediately wiped away her tears and told me that she’s okay, not to worry.
Shortly after this, we grabbed a movie out of the stack and put it in for a little distraction. When Jay came back and saw what we’d picked, he paused it for a moment to give us some
background information. The Diving Bell and The Butterfly is the true story of a Frenchman, the chief editor of Elle magazine, who suffered a massive stroke at the age of 44. The result was that he lived the rest of his life with “Locked-In Syndrome,” a condition of almost complete paralysis. Although his intellect was completely untouched, he was never again able to move anything other than one eyelid. He wrote the memoir on which the movie is based by blinking as a nurse went through the alphabet a letter at a time. One word could take 5 minutes. After Jay had finished describing the movie to us, I asked Katherine if she wouldn’t rather watch a comedy that day. No, she wanted to see the stroke movie.
An image stood out: The man dreams he is at the bottom of the ocean, trapped inside one of those old metal diving suits used before oxygen tanks. Like the Man In the Iron Mask, the walls of his prison touch his very flesh. Weighed down and drowning, he is utterly alone. The silence screams. No one comes to help.
As I was scrolling through the unfinished blogs this morning, I ran across notes I’d made the morning after a strange dream I had the first month after Katherine's surgery. In the dream, a little blonde girl was running and skipping over large slate stones scattered in a pond. Suddenly, she slipped and fell backwards, hitting her head on a hard stone. She sank into the water and down to the murky bottom. In slow motion, I put my face into the slimy water and tried to find her, but I couldn’t see. Long panicky minutes ticked by. Finally, I spotted her and dove down, grabbed her, and started back towards the surface. But the water was so dark that I became disoriented and couldn’t tell which way was up. Just as I ran out of air, we burst through the cloudy green ceiling. I dragged the little girl, who now seemed much smaller-almost a baby- over to a bank. She was limp and lifeless. I began beating her on the back, but nothing happened. Then someone came up and took her from me. I lay on the ground, defeated and devastated. But when I looked up, I saw the little girl moving and smiling in the Someone’s arms.
(Now that I’ve thought about it, I believe I will count that dream as a Memorial Stone.)