Monthly Archives: June 2013

Death and Needing to Hear from the Neither World: Grief, Insanity is Thy Name

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When we have loved greatly, we will never walk alone.

My uncle is terminally ill in a Florida hospital with a do not resuscitate order. He is a father figure to me so this is very important. I live 900 miles from Florida’s sunny gulf coast. This plays horribly with my mind.

9:00 am: I get the phone call telling me to expect the inevitable at anytime. Notify the rest of the family on Facebook, keep my phone charged and with me, Mom says.

I’m sitting with my daughter, who is in her second week recovery from spine surgery. We are home, finishing breakfast and morning showers when the call comes in. Immediately, I realize the problematic nature of the timing of everything. I feel I need and want to be in Florida. My daughter needs me home. She can’t do this on her own. Not yet.

Fourteen years ago, my parents, brother and several aunts and uncles heard the calling of the snow bird at the retirement capital of the country – Ocala, Florida. They sold their homes, packed their things, bought RVs and waved goodbye.  Ending what was a very close knit extended family system with all the trimmings. This left me with my own little family.

It’s been difficult to maintain close relationships across the miles. Responsibilities, expenses and health have all played havoc. But we have succeeded with only moderate feelings of loss on my part, especially during the holidays. This is not a holiday, but like a holiday, I feel the pangs of not being in the same location as the rest of the family and it’s taking its toll.

I’ve spent most of my day trying to figure a way to juggle taking care of my daughter and her cats and still fly to Florida. I realize I not only want to be near family, I need to be there for me to nurture them and for them to nurture me. I want another chance to say goodbye to a man who will always be my other father.

It’s 5:00 pm and my phone rings. It’s my mother. I ask her if my dad can pick me up at the airport if I figure out the logistical nightmare.

She hems and haws and says, “Let us go to the hospital and see what’s what. Then we’ll have a talk and call you back between 10:00 and 10:30 tonight.”

Not a problem, I have class in an hour and I still have not figured things out, so this gives me more time.  I take care of dinner for my family, take the dog out another time, another glass of ice water and an ice pack for my daughter and leave for class with my assignment left behind on the table. I have my fully charged cell phone in my hand in case the call telling me it’s over happens.

Class ends and I get back in plenty of time for the mom’s call.  The phone does not ring and this is where insanity set in and never looked back.

By 11:00 I’m concerned. My daughter asks if there is any news – no. 11:30, I get this odd feeling of relief.

Enter crazy thought #1. He’s passed away, no longer suffering and this is the relief I feel.

I tell all this to daughter who says, “Why do you think they didn’t call? Why don’t we call down there to see what’s going on?”

Enter crazy thought #2. They are so busy with Uncle’s death; there is no time to call, too distraught to call.  Who the hell am I to call them during this horrible, intensively challenging time?  I’m not a part of the family anymore anyway. I live 900 miles away! They had a family portrait taken several months ago, of all of them – without me. I’m really abandoned and on my own.

Enter crazy thought #3. I flash back to my sister’s death when I was seven. I didn’t get to say goodbye then either.  She died; they whisked me off to Grandmas while things settled. When I returned, all my sister’s things and pictures were gone. We weren’t to talk about her, it was too painful.  As an adult, I get this. As a child, I did not. Sitting in my room alone waiting for a call that was not coming, perhaps the adult is not too far removed from the child.

Enter crazy thought #4. They are doing this again. Arranging everything with me out of the picture because they don’t think I can handle it.  Just like, I couldn’t handle my sister’s death back in 1968. I was seven years old then! I tell my daughter all this.

She wobbles over, gingerly sits down on the side of my bed and puts her arm around me. Our roles have reversed. She tells me things I would have told her in a reverse situation. The leaves don’t fall far from the tree.

12:00 midnight. Enter crazy thought #5. I tell my daughter, “Well, if I can’t be there to say goodbye, I’ll be expecting a visit from his spirit. At this point, he can probably get to me easier then I can get to him.”

She looks at me to verify I’m serious. I am.  I’ve heard of many people having death-bed visits from loved ones.  Family finding out someone died before the police or hospital called to tell them. Why not have my uncle come to me to say goodbye?

1:00 am. My daughter is back in her room leaving me and my over active imagination to run amok.  I’m writing the next chapter of a manuscript while sitting on my bed.  Behind me is a double window that overlooks a second story balcony. There I have a rocking chair where I drink my early morning coffee. The windows are open.  I have my I-pod on a speaker stand set to shuffle. The music is anything from tribal to Bach, Incubus to Frank Sinatra.

The writing is going well until I hear a noise. I shyly look up from the computer screen half expecting to see the materializing form of my uncle. I see nothing out of the ordinary.  I continue writing, fighting back sorrow. I can’t believe this is finally the end.

The I-pod stops playing and I stop typing, startled by the sudden silence. A sign, I wonder. Cautiously, I turn to see what song is listed on the screen. Was it Edelweiss, the song we danced to at my wedding? No, it says D00045.

That is the code for a series of voice recordings I’ve made. One of which is a lengthy conversation with my uncle where he tells me about his childhood.   I rummage through my computer to find the original clip convinced it is that recording (I-pod will not play it). It’s not.  It’s notes about muses in the Peach Orchard in the Gettysburg battlefield.  Not my uncle.

I laugh at myself and turn off the I-pod. The room grows still with the exception of the tip tapping of my fingers on the laptop keyboard. Behind me, I hear the sound of my rocking chair on the balcony moving. Is it the breeze? I don’t feel a breeze on my skin.

I want to turn and look but find myself griped in fear. What will my uncle look like? What if it’s not what I expect? I get up the courage to look but it’s too dark to make out the chair. Stealthily, I move closer to the screen, cupping my hands around my eyes to block out the ambient light.

Before my grandmother died, we got possession of her rocking chair and my father placed it in our clubbed-in basement. After she died, that chair rocked on his own for several minutes on many evenings. We always said it was grandma. Many a night, I would hear the creaking of the chair and sneak downstairs to watch it slowly move back and forth for just a few moments and then come to a stop.

The rocker on my back porch was empty. A swift breeze pushed back my hair and I sighed. It was the wind after all.

I return to my laptop. My nerves frayed and my mind on red-alert. The auto fan in the far window clicks on and the anxiety makes my skin feel it’s being peeled off my muscles. I push off the laptop, bound out bed and slam shut the windows, locking them and pulling the blinds shut.

If my uncle is going to visit, it’s not going to be through the window or in the rocker! He can visit but only on my terms. Whatever those are?

I go out to the bathroom in the hallway and return to my room, shutting the door behind me. I pick up the laptop and return to chapter three. Something outside my door bangs once, then twice. Everything goes silent except my heart.

I slid out of bed and mosey up to the door. I outstretch my hand to the glass door knob debating if I really want to see what is going on. I think, why in the hell would my uncle try to scare me like this? Followed quickly with the thought, maybe, he doesn’t have many options.

I’m the one that wanted to say goodbye and here I am cowering behind a door. I open it to find the empty hallway which does nothing to calm my nerves. Across the hall is my office.

I listen and notice the outside street sounds are louder than normal. I walk over and find the window open and several paperback books scattered on the floor. Lightning flashes and I assume the wind has knocked the books off an end table. I shut the window and return to my room thinking I’ve read too many Stephen King books and seen too many episodes of paranormal television programming.

3:30 a.m. and my stomach is growling. I need something to eat.

To get to my kitchen I have to go down the stairs and through the living room and dining room. The staircase is completely enclosed with a heavy wooden door at the bottom. I don’t like the staircase at night. In fact, I try to avoid it.

Tonight, my stomach says we’re moving forward through the darkness and down the stairs (there is no light on the stairs). I tell myself my apprehension is ridiculous. I reach the glass door knob and stop. On the other side of the door will be my living room partially lite by the porch light coming through the front windows.

In my living room is my late sister’s Chatty Cathy doll. It is my most prized possession. This doll is also a very special memento for my uncle and ties all of us together. I tell myself (enter another crazy thought) if he has any ability to communicate with me, it will be with this doll. Now I’m afraid to go into the living room for fear I will find the doll moved or moving, maybe talking. It is Chatty Cathy for goodness sake.

I chide myself again for thinking such crazy thoughts and bust through the door. Keeping my eyes firmly on my feet, I quickly work my way through the living room, dining room, slam on the kitchen light and sigh in relief.  Everything is normal. Everything is going to be fine. Uncle is not going to pay me a middle of the night goodbye call. Mom and dad will call later when they are able. I’ll figure what to do at that time.

I pull out a plastic bowl, the box of Lucky Charms cereal and some milk. I wonder what the family is doing now. Are they still up like me? Are they making arrangements for Uncle’s cremation in the morning? Why haven’t they called me? Don’t they know I’m worried sick?

A dark shadow whips by my feet and returns prowling towards me. I scream, dropping the milk, tipping over the cereal filled bowl, spewing Lucky Charms all over the counter, down the cupboard and onto the floor.

I clench my heart in absolute terror, convinced the world is coming to an end when the dark, shadowed creature speaks to me – Meow.

My uncle’s spirit, if it could, did not visit me because he was still alive. My parents didn’t call because they thought it was too late. Never thinking I’d be up all night in grief then terror because someone I thought had died, hadn’t and was coming to visit me but wasn’t.

“Why didn’t you call?” They asked me. A good question and I don’t have an answer. I need to figure that one out.

If this isn’t an example of the power of our thoughts and what happens when we let them run amok, I don’t know what is. I need to ask myself some serious questions about my mental behaviors. I can throw in, yes, I was tired, I have PTSD, and I’m grief stricken and feel helpless. I think while all those things are factors, they don’t negate the fact; I let the whole thing run crazy. I didn’t reality check. I didn’t use the resources at hand to help myself.

It’s 11:30 pm and I’m sitting here on my bed typing this blog. My window is open and there is a slight breeze from the balcony brushing through the rocking chair slats.  I wonder if my uncle will make it through another night. If he doesn’t, I wonder if he’ll come visit.  Perhaps, I’ll sleep with the light on.

Uncle died at 1:30 a.m. My daughter and I were in my office reminiscing through old photos of us with Uncle when it happened. The call from my parents came in directly after that. While there was no ghostly apparition, I still got to say my goodbyes in a much healthier way. Through all the fabulous years of memories that will last not only myself but my children as well. Thanks Uncle Joe, I’m missing you already.

Gettysburg’s 150th Celebration: How to Survive and Maybe Learn a Lesson in Civility Along the Way

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Gettysburg re-enactment 2012

Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary celebration kicks off June 27 and lasts through July 7th. For all the official information concerning reenactments, concerts and other events go to: http://www.nps.gov/gett/planyourvisit/150th-anniversay-faq.htm  Or  http://www.bluegraygettysburg.com/ Or http://www.gettysburgfoundation.org/.  For everything unofficial, stay here.

I am a self proclaimed history buff, paranormal enthusiast with extensive history studying trauma. What would be more natural then for me to gravitate to Gettysburg, especially on such an epic occasion?   These days, I am in Gettysburg at least once a month. Usually, you will find me wandering around areas of the battlefield with a camera. I try to capture in photos the moods of July 1863 and now for me as I walk across the once blood soaked fields.

These fields speak; the trees wail with woe, the buildings are still scarred from cannon fire.  The battlefield is so vividly re-conditioned to its original state that I can literally walk where great and courageous men made split second decisions that saved many, killed thousands and helped bring a turning point to the Civil War.  The history of the town, the people and the soldiers have been so painstakingly researched, preserved and presented for the next generation to remember.

Why do we still harbor strong feelings toward a war that ended over a hundred years ago? Because it is the one time where our own people turned and divided. Brothers fault and killed brothers. Neighbors killed neighbors. I come from Maryland, a state divided in the war. We were neither Yankee nor Confederate and yet we were both.  So, there are many stories of families being ripped apart over the issues and ultimately burying their dead.

I used to find it hard to believe that people could turn on each other the way they did before and during the war. That is until recently when I started to hear rhetoric about taking up arms, parts of states wanting to succeed from the country over this issue or that. At times the vocal violence was so lethal, I found it frightening.

I don’t think most people have it within themselves to kill a family member or neighbor over politic differences of opinion. I’d like to think not. I know for sure, most people have never taken another person’s life and have no clue not only if they could, but what that would be like.

I’ve worked with enough veterans and police officers who do know. It’s not pretty. It’s easy to spout at the mouth about wanting internal war. I don’t think people realize if there was an internal war, we, all of us, would be the ones fighting. Not just enlisted people or trained militants. It would be our children, elderly and disabled injured and potentially slaughtered. Our food not able to be harvested from destroyed fields. Food that is harvested, not able to reach its destinations. It is our socio-economic system completely collapsing. There would be no, forgetting we are at war because it does not affect me unless I catch a glimpse on what we currently call the news.

We all need a dose of calming down and a reality check. Gettysburg, while now a thriving tourist destination, being home to one of the most explored, if not the most explored battlefield in the world, is one powerful reality check.  For 150 years she’s been screaming at us. Don’t forget!

So, if you come to Gettysburg this year, especially during this celebration of remembrance, don’t’ forget. But at the same time, don’t’ let it swallow you whole. Depending on your own experiences and empathetic abilities, it can do that. Have some fun. There is a lot to take in.

I’ve decided to give you the, if I was a Gettysburg tour guide this is where I would take you, agenda. If your favorite haunt is not listed, well I couldn’t list them all. This is just my list compiled over forty years of visits to town.

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Walking Along Cemetery Ridge

Must Haves When Coming to Gettysburg:

  1. Patience! Crowds will be intense this summer and especially during the 150th anniversary. Remember, this is a walking town; pedestrians have the right-a-way. In the traffic circle, the cars inside the circle have the right-a-way. You can only go in one direction. When you get to your street, veer off to the right. Watching for traffic around you.
  2. Sunscreen, lots of sunscreen, hats and or parasols. If you are going to the re-enactments, there are few to no trees. The sun gets intense. Remember to shield the kids!
  3. Water! Bright sun and intense July heat equals dehydration. There are venders selling drinks all over town and at the reenactments. Lines can be long and many venders do not sell water. You can’t drink enough water.
  4. Bring cash. Most places accept credit cards, but some venders, again, especially if you are going to a reenactment, may only accept cash.
  5. Time. Give yourself plenty of time to get from point A to point B. Traffic will be difficult. The main historic district of town is located on two cross streets meeting at the traffic circle. Parking is limited.
  6. A map of town and the battlefield. The re-enactments are not on the battlefield. The battlefield is not one large land mass. It surrounds the town and if you are looking for a particular battle location or monument, a map and or GPS is a must.
  7. Sense of humor. Everyone is in town to have a good time, learn new things and experience a piece of history. There will be short tempers, babies crying, people walking into traffic, lines for restaurants and port-a-potties. Accept it and go with the flow. The park service is expecting over 20,000 re-enactors and half a million visitors this summer. Smile!
  8. A place to stay! Don’t come to town expecting to find a place, even if it’s camping. Be smart; get your lodging ahead of time. I’ve heard people are staying in York, Hanover, Chambersburg and Harrisburg for the re-enactment weekends.
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Pennsylvania Infantry Memorial

Must Dos (According to me):

  1. Get in town early and have breakfast at one of the many restaurants. I’ve eaten several times at The Avenue Restaurant on Steinwehr Ave. across from O’Rorke’s Irish Eatery and Spirits.  The cost is family friendly, food good and lines not too bad.  OR
  2. Go to the National Park Service Visitor’s Center and Museum. They have a 19th century eating establishment on site. See the film, cyclorama and the museum. The museum displays give a wonderful, easy to understand presentation of pre, during and post Civil War information and life.  Visually stimulating, occasionally interactive displays allow for even the most museum skittish to benefit.
  3. Buy the two hour Battlefield Auto Tour CD from the National Park Service bookstore before touring the battlefield. Stops on the CD correspond to the tour signs on the battlefield. The CD not only gives logistics about sections of the battle but re-enacts stories from the perspective of soldiers, town’s people and generals.
  4. When on the battlefield tour, get out of your car and walk around! Check out the vantage points, variety of monuments and the stories they convey. There is a book you can purchase at the National Park bookstore called, So You Think You Know Gettysburg, by James and Suzanne Gindlesperger. It is an easy to use book giving GPS locations and stories behind some of the parks most memorable statues and monuments.
  5. Rent a horse, Segway or book a bus to tour the battlefield. There are over 6,000 acres of battlefield with out-of-the-way roads and trails.
  6. Have lunch.
  7. Take a walk down Steinwehr Ave. Watch fudge being made in the Chocolate, Fudge and Ice Cream shop on Steinwehr Ave. Dress up in Victorian clothing and have your picture taken. Have a home-made ice cream cone, take in multiple gift shops, art galleries, book shops and souvenir venders.
  8. Veer to the right at the corner of Baltimore Street and Steinwehr Ave. There are several bed and breakfasts, private historic collections and museums with minimal admission fees, candy shops, period clothing shops, restaurants and ghost tours.
  9. Have dinner at either the Farnsworth House or Dobbins House Tavern. There are many great places to eat in town but for me, these historic locations with their ambience, period menus and service can’t be beat. Farnsworth House is located on Baltimore Street. Dobbins Inn is located on Steinwehr Ave.
  10. Take in a ghost tour. Warning, there are several to choose from and one is not the same as another. Some take you directly in front of the building or location where the story takes place. Others only walk you around a circle, stopping here and there to tell a story.  Some claim to promise seeing a ghost via orbs on your photos (orbs most likely to be dust, bugs, dew or other weather related element). Some tell stories with minimal to no factual back story. While others give factual, historical information behind the stories and town’s people’s antidotes of unexplained events. You can have a great tour but a minimally effective tour guide and visa-versa.  Guides expect a tip after the tour.

My favorite ghost tour is Ghosts of Gettysburg on Baltimore Street. The author, Nesbit wrote the series Ghosts of Gettysburg and runs this operation. Reservations are recommended. I prefer the longer tour as they take you down to the train station and college as well as around town.

  1. End the night head down to the Lincoln Diner at 32 Carlisle Street for a great piece of pie. Located across from the Railroad Station, this college diner is known for its large, scrumptious deserts.
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Sach’s Bridge

If you have a second day in town, check out the Jenny Wade house on Baltimore Street. Take a carriage ride. Check out the Lincoln Train Museum on Steinwehr Ave., Soldier’s National Museum on Baltimore Street, and Hall of Presidents also on Baltimore Street.  Talk to some re-enactors stationed in encampments about life as a soldier. Pay your respects at the National Cemetery and location of President Lincoln’s famous address.

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Little Round looking down on Devil’s Den

At the end of the day, find a large rock on the battlefield at Little Round Top and watch the sunset over Devil’s Den. This location, where thousands lost their lives in the Valley of Death is oddly serene and quiet in the rays of the setting sun.  While you are there, don’t’ forget the message these hollowed fields deliver. Find peaceful resolutions. War is not the answer and it’s never what we expect. Once started, it’s hard to turn back.

Enjoy your time in Gettysburg!

Happy Farters Day: How Low Have We Gone in Celebrating Dads?

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The Restless Wanderer with her father and brother at the Hammond Castle, Gloucester, Massachusetts

I’m at the Wal-Mart waiting for prescriptions and decided this would be a great opportunity to pick up father’s day cards. The Wal-Mart in my area has two rows of cards about fifteen feet long devoted to father’s day. The store is not crowded and I have the entire father’s day card ensemble at my viewing pleasure.

Picking out a card for my dad was a breeze. He’s the sentimental type and I easily found a card depicting a little blonde haired girl smiling and laughing with her dad. Ah, I thought, boy does that bring back memories. If it brings a tear to my eye, which it did, I knew it would get him too.  I put it in my cart.

Then there is my hubby who can be described in many ways, but sentimental and romantic are not among them. I don’t know if it was genetics, environment or he just likes to hide his softer, mushy sentimental bent, but he is more like Sheldon Cooper (Big Bank Theory) then Romeo (Romeo and Juliet). Sentimental father’s day cards are not an option.

I have a choice. I can get him a card about drinking beer, being lazy, forgetful, being over occupied with cars or sports, being in the bathroom too long, reading in the bathroom, staying in bed with a beer, over-eating or farting. There are eight different cards about father’s farting.  Four cards on being in the bathroom. Three cards on offering new and improved reading material for being in the bathroom. This would combine being in the bathroom too long and reading in the bathroom.  In case you are keeping track.

There are a couple cards for older kids to give their fathers. Things like, you embarrass me, I’m just as moronic as you, give me money, where are the keys to the car.  I have to add that in the pre-school – kindergarten age cards for fathers are; I love you, you play with me, you take care of me, things like this.

My question is, what the hell happened from I love you to Happy Farters Day? Granted, I’m not in the Hallmark store. I’m in Wal-Mart. Does that make a difference? If I was on the east side of town would I find less fart and toilet related father’s day cards and more, thanks for going fishing with me cards, you taught me lots?  With the card picture showing two guys in a boat, one younger than the other, all tangled up in a fishing net.

My hubby has said on numerous occasions that men, especially white, middle class men, are one of the only populations of people where it is acceptable to berate, tease and stereotype. He uses American television shows as his evidential media trail to prove his point.

I think about this as I’m standing in the card aisle trying to force some of these cards to change so I can find something suitable. You know, humorous but intelligent and with style. My magic genie is not working. I find another toilet card depicting a gorilla on the toilet reading the newspaper. Really?

I’ve been standing in this aisle for twenty minutes and it’s obvious nothing is going to change. So, I’m going to find a somewhat acceptable, humorous father’s day card, cross out what does not apply and with sharpie in hand, make it fit.  I search again for the ultimate card and come up empty handed.

Is it that our stereotyping of fathers is so out-of-hand that no one can remember what their dad is (was) really like? Why stereotype fathers with the attributes of dysfunctionality and think it’s funny?  Is this really what our current society feels about fathers or men? Maybe, hubby is right. Maybe this is another evidential trail.

Has the role of father changed that much in main-stream America that we resort to fart and toilet cards to express our hostility? As a social worker, I know that the percentage of fatherless families is staggering. The last statistic I saw was fifteen million children live in a household without a father. (The Washington Post)  In Baltimore, where I am from, 38% of children live in fatherless homes. The domino effect is horrendous for children and society.  The numbers continue to rise.

Is this the reason I can’t find a decent father’s day card? Will there come a day when we won’t have father’s day? Maybe the people who wish to express honor and appreciation for their fathers are declining. If this is the trend and it continues, there will be no need for a day to celebrate and honor half of the genetic gene pool that brought all of us here.

Maybe it’s the type of humor involved. I accept that. There are too many degrading, hello, I’m a dysfunctional dad and it’s my day, cards verses I’m a great dad, not perfect but I love you and you know it cards. There is no balance, at least not in these aisles.

So what’s with happy farters day? Lack of responsible dads, lack of respect for dads, a disconnect between who dad’s are and how they relate to their families? Or is it something I haven’t thought of?

My hubby does not like sports so that cuts out about an eighth of the selection. He does not drink and that cuts out a fourth.  I’ll be damned if I’m going to give him anything that has to do with bodily functioning to celebrate his fatherhood. That cuts out another half. The last percentages are the sentimental and pre-school cards. Where this does led me?

I bought hubby a birthday card. I have a sharpie at home. Maybe, this is a sign I need to go into the greeting card industry. I certainly can’t do any worse then what I’ve seen today.

So if you are a father and you get a father’s day card that does not have drinking, laziness, or jokes about bodily functions, give your family an extra hug. They obviously went the extra mile to find that special card just for you. Happy up and coming father’s day!

Anyone See Where I Left My Scalpel? Now That’s A Brush With Reality!

ImageIts 11:11, an hour and ten minutes into my daughter’s five hour spine surgery. I’m sitting with her fiancé, a menagerie of electronic devices to keep me entertained and a fully charged cell phone.

 I’m on level 33 in the game Candy Crush and fiancé is on level 65, not that it’s a competition. Steve Harvey is on the television chattering away about Jack Russell Terriers. I have one of those.  Chicken-dog we call him due to his un-bounding ability to find the most minuscule piece of chicken bone from the trash. No one in the room seems to notice the television exists. No one cares that I have a chicken-dog at home or why I’m sitting in this artificial environment called a waiting room.  I however, cannot say the same about my feelings toward the other people in the room.

I hear snippets of conversations, small windows into the lives of others, small dramas in adult human packages.  She did well, you can go back; He had problems and will be in recovery another hour; I’ve been here all night and I got a parking ticket; I’m sorry, we need to talk to you in private. Things didn’t go as expected.  This is what I am currently calling my reality.

I’ve heard that word in different contexts lately making me wonder, what is reality?

Outside the hospital walls, people continue to rush around grabbing coffee, the latest news, the morning dead-lock on I-83, pushing their kids onto school buses. In here I sit and wonder why it’s taking me so many attempts to get past level 33 in Candy Crush and what fiancé knows that I don’t.  Its easier then thinking that the woman I once spent forty-two hours giving birth to is lying on a table being flayed by a man I’ve met only once.

Okay, maybe flayed is not the most accurate word. No correct that, this is what I feel, so it is the exact word for my current reality. What is reality? How can my reality consist of one way of life and the next day be completely alien from the day before? Are they the same? Is my reality the same as someone in a country where there is no electricity and my daily existence is spent finding food and fresh water?

My first inclination is to say, no, they are not the same reality. How can they be? When I think about the veterans returning home after active duty, I think the same thing. How do they wrap their heads around the life they lived overseas in war zones too returning home to, hey, the neighbor cut the hedge too short?  Do something about that.

My second inclination is to say; yes it is the same reality, only different facets. As quantum physics contemplates the ramifications of string theory, (alternate dimensions in time and space) I think I’ll view reality as a large, loosely woven textile. Twisted, strands of cotton into yarn blended together and the fibers criss-crossing, under and over each other. You pull one string and the whole thing wobbles or comes undone.

There is a large family in the hallway outside the trauma intensive care ward. From their faces I can tell they are sitting on the edge of threads coming undone if not completely ripped. I make eye contact with their pleading, empty eyes. I can almost hear the word, why, from their minds. Why did this thread have to snag or be cut? I don’t have an answer.

It’s surreal to see. Daughter’s fiancé and I are walking down the hallway toward the hospital cafeteria. He’s talking about a stock car race and the amount of hours they give him at work. I am flashing back to when I was in the trauma intensive care ward down at Shock Trauma in Baltimore. I can smell the alcohol and hear the doctors and nurses talking as they filleted me open to save my life. I never lost consciousness till the end.

Daughter’s fiancé does not know my reality just sharply changed course on that textile of life. Nor do I think he caught how close we both just walked around another reality sharply snagged and unraveling as we passed that family in the hallway. A chill goes down my own spine. My spine, intact, closed within the confines of my muscles and skin. I flash to my daughter lying there in surgery.

Do you think a doctor ever left a tool or cotton wad in someone, I hear someone say while in the cafeteria line. I’m trying to decide on a nice, healthy fish or a piece of cake. I pick up the cake and another cup of really bad coffee. I know medical issues like these happen more times than we might want to think about. After all, we are only human. All on that same piece of fabric that twists and turns under our feet.

If a surgeon is having a fight with his spouse or had a minor accident on the way to work, do they take that energy into the operating room? Do they get as scatter-brained as I do when things knock me off my routine? If I were surgeon, on days like that, I’d lose my scalpel in someone for sure.

I can’t handle thoughts like that right now. I grab a second piece of cake in case the first piece is not enough comfort food. I notice fiancé has grabbed three times his normal amount of food for lunch. Nerves, I tell myself. Maybe, he is closer to the unraveled part of the textile then I think.

Do any of us really know where in reality we are? I don’t have any answers to this either. This cake is really moist; I wonder if they bake it here?

The nurse tells us my daughter came through surgery well. I sigh in relief. My section of the textile is still raveled and I’m pretty sure the surgeon still has his scalpel. Not a bad day overall.