Monday, May 05, 2008

Mental and emotional whiplash

I was saying goodbye to a friend at church a couple weeks ago when a man walked up and asked to be introduced to "the young lady." I had to laugh. I'm in my fifties. I'm usually mistaken for younger than that, probably because I'm a naturally joyous person and so don't have many frown marks. But I have enough wrinkles that it's purely in fun when somebody calls me a young lady. Anyway, we chatted for a while, but I finally had to excuse myself, saying that my husband was having a particularly bad day and I wanted to get home to see how things were going.

It wasn't the sort of thing that should have popped out of my mouth when I was in a hurry, because of course the new friend wondered what was up, and so I explained that my husband has MS or something like it (the doctors around here seem to have a binding resolution never to agree on a diagnosis), and whatever it is, it causes severe face pain and other problems.

"Oh! You don't want it to be MS!" the new friend exclaimed, as he launched into a story about someone in his extended family who dropped to the floor at the age of 31 and hasn't been able to move since. My new friend was puzzled how what my husband has and what his relative has could both be MS, so I tried to explain about nerve coverings and how it makes a big difference on which nerves are corroded, etc., but he wasn't having any. MS to him is a mother collapsing at age 31, and being helpless from there on out. He was exuding worry for my sake.

I assured him that our situation isn't as bad as that. We've been thrown to the mat fairly often over the past thirteen years, but we keep going. But some stretches are decidedly worse than others, and we were in a bad patch, so I needed to be off. We parted with mutual good wishes.

Well, we're still in the bad patch. But still kicking.

Like usual, I've run into just all sorts of situations that help me keep things in perspective.

Last week, for instance, I ran into a former neighbor who'd moved across the state years ago. She was standing by a car with a "Just Married" sign filling the back window. The car was behind a moving van. I popped over to say hello, to find myself being introduced to a total stranger. "Meet Carl, my new husband. We were married yesterday." (I'll say that's a new husband.) They'd swung into town to say hello and goodbye to friends and relatives, and to pick up some stuff and a cat she'd left behind when she moved away. They were off to the East Coast to live. It was a beautiful sight, two gray-haired people as happy as puppies, setting off for a new life together. But it was bittersweet, too. There isn't much chance I'll ever see her again.

A few hours after that, we got a call from relatives celebrating the birth of their first great-grandchild.

A few hours after that, I heard that a friend's newborn niece was fighting for her life, and without a miracle she was going to die. The story he got is that she seemed to have trouble getting enough oxygen, and when they went to look they found her lungs looked good on the outside but some of the lining was missing. Upon further investigation, it looked like whoever went to 'aspirate' her stuck a tube in too deep and sucked too hard and suctioned part of her lung away. At least, that's what he understood.

Go ahead. Scream if you want to. I opted for collapsing in a puddle, but I'm sure screaming is appropriate under the circumstances. Bear in mind that I got my info via a distraught friend who got it from a distraught uncle who got his info long distance from other distraught relatives, so I can't vouch for the details related above. But the bottom line is that a family was watching a newborn fighting for her life and, worse yet, it seemed to be from a botched medical procedure. Totally avoidable, in other words. God have mercy.

It made my problems seem small, I tell you.

I was still reeling from that when I went to the bank in time to see one of the tellers gushing to a customer that they'd seen the ultrasounds of her new grandbaby and "IT'S A GIRL!" The teller tossed back her head and yelled "I FINALLY GET TO CROCHET SOMETHING IN PINK!" There was dancing and jubilation all around. Now, gentlemen, don't be offended. This lady has grandsons and adores them, and would have adored the coming grandbaby if it had been another boy, but she has had nothing but grandsons (for that matter, I'm not quite sure she had anything but sons), and she quite obviously harbors a deep craving to shower girly things on a girl.

I was still basking in the glow of that much excitement about a baby not yet born when I ran into a dear, spry, cheerful old man who always acts like seeing me is the high point of his day. That he does that with practically everybody doesn't diminish the fun of it. He told me that his 90th birthday was coming up in just a few days, and he was just marveling at it. "I never expected to live this long," he said. He told me that he'd been down with pneumonia recently, and never left the house for five weeks. But, he said, neighbors brought him food and took care of things. "Yay, neighbors!" I said. "Oh," he said, "I have wonderful neighbors."

This from a man who rescued me once, by giving me a ride when I was stranded, and never thought twice about the trouble.

So, I was basking in his joy at being alive, and feeling good about living in a town where there were so many good neighbors, when I got word that the mill layoffs that have been devastating our community have been extended, and are now indefinite. And that another business had folded, and more friends are out of work.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg...

In the good news department, Spring has sprung. We're still getting the rare snow flurry, and yesterday we had a hailstorm, but between storms it's almost unbelievably refreshing and wonderful outside. I know I say that every year, but I never get used to the transition out of winter. It knocks my socks off every time.

And this weekend there was a prom in town. I'd been too busy with other stuff to know one was coming up, but I happened to be out on a grocery store run as many of them were walking downtown. The boys this year were in tuxedo mode, and the girls were going for glamorous. More to the point, most of the couples I saw were crazy happy, the boys smiling and proud, the girls radiant. They lit up the place something wonderful.

So, anyway, I'm still here. I just haven't taken much time for the internet lately, as it happens.

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