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Aunt Bea Moves Out

28 May

Several years ago my husband and I moved to Arkansas with the intention of retiring there, but sometimes intentions collide with reality.  Our Retirement Plan A crashed when unforeseen medical issues led us back to Texas.

Rick and I shared four and one half years in the forests and mountains of the Natural State, experiencing the inspiring beauty and relentless wrath of nature.  In those woods I found pieces of myself I didn’t know existed, and unearthed passions I could have only dreamed.

The forest captured my heart, stirring instincts I’d never acknowledged, and inner strength I didn’t know I possessed as I surrendered preconceived notions to her mossy floors, and released the burden of loss into the canopy of her open arms.

Unity with the earth blossomed as I followed the umbilicus between us, and when I fell in love with my garden, I began a second blog at WordPress: Aunt-Bea-Me was born.

Growing was not Mayberry-eske but the delightful Aunt Bea character in the television series of the old Andy Griffith show was the stuff of my fantasies.  She was sensible and silly at the same time.  She was consistent. You could count on her for everything from a fried chicken dinner to common sense.  She laughed a lot and was never pretentious.

When the world was too harsh, I pulled Aunt Bea from the recesses of my mind and looked to her for comfort.  As an adult, Arkansas became my Aunt Bea.

Rick and I have been back in Texas for four years.  Texas is more than my state, it is the root on which I planted my seeds.  Once again I am living in the garden of my children, and am deeply blessed by their love and attention.  Surprisingly, I find my voice much stronger than before.  I have grown into an opinionated old bird and lost any fear I harbored along the way.

I’ve toughened with the times.

Months ago I considered abandoning the Aunt-Bea-Me blog, but before I made a final decision I did a little research on Frances Bavier, the actress who played Aunt Bea.  I was surprised.  Ms. Bavier grew tired then aggravated with the role assigned her; it turns out she and Mr. Griffith were never really friends.  They were much more adversarial than I could have imagined.  Ms. Bavier said she felt she no longer existed as an individual because people associated her with a single role she played.

She admitted to having a love/hate relationship with the character Aunt Bea; so in an effort to break away from something that seemed to own her, she shifted directions to save herself.  Ms. Bavier began to isolate herself from the world through a long, lonely process of withdrawal, and in 1989 she died alone.  In the presence of a dozen plus cats and a rundown dirty home, Frances Bavier made her escape.

We all are a bit like Frances Bavier.  Through my writing, poetry and musings I present various facets of myself to an audience of strangers who sometimes assign a single aspect of that voice as the ultimate and total truth of my entire presence on earth.

A year and a half ago I became aware I was expending a great deal of energy on Facebook.  The more “friends” I made, the more pieces there were to connect. I seemed to waste a lot of time explaining, defining or justifying myself to people I didn’t even know. It isn’t a polite world out there anymore, and I never stay too long in bitterness; so as difficult as it is for a writer to walk away from an audience, I decided I needed to.

Life’s amazing whirlwind sweeps us to corners or to the middle of the room.  Frances Bavier chose a corner.  I’ve moved closer to the middle of the room myself.  The fantasy of a dear, sweet Aunt Bea carried me through many a storm, but the reality of Frances Bavier’s life reminds me today that isolation can overtake the spirit if it stays too long in a corner.

My Aunt-Bea-Me blog is coming down.  It has served me well.  But the time to move away from my safe space has long passed, and I am moving on.

Because time is precious.  And because there is a season for all things.

Bev

 

 

Surprise Me With a Cookie Every Now and Then, PLEASE!

22 Feb

I feel like Parker Schnabel on Gold Rush digging my way through a bunch of worthless crap trying to reach the treasure I believe is under it all.  According to my calculations it ought to be ‘right here’.  The problem is the longer and harder I dig, the lower my confidence sinks.

I’m starving to death for a win!  Somebody take away this stinking plate of slop and moldy bread and give the old lady a cookie.  Please.

Putting gears in reverse, let’s back up a bit in order to see the big picture.  Last June my heart went haywire and I ended up in the hospital.  Eventually cardiologists diagnosed me with an abnormal heart rhythm; they also discovered a coronary artery was plastered nearly shut with cholesterol.  I ended up with a stent and a few medications.  A few weeks later I felt absolutely great and had the energy of a hyperactive child!  It was truly amazing!

Life goes on; in November I had a tooth extracted, and that went well until I reacted to an antibiotic the dentist prescribed.  By mid-November, I felt pretty darned crummy so I went to our family doctor who treated me with two new drugs: one, I later learned, counter-acted my cardiac medicine, and the second drug came with a whole new set of problems of its own.

A week later in spite of multiple phone conversations with the doctor who tells me all of this “is to be expected”; I’m sinking like a stone.  Rich loads my lethargic carcass into the car and takes me to the doctor who is appropriately “shocked” by my condition.  He admits me to the hospital and puts me on an IV antibiotic, saying whatever allergic reaction I had is long gone, but I’m suffering from some sort of non-specific infection based on hospital blood studies.  Long story short, the new IV drug did its best to kill me.

Enter a new doctor.  I am treated for severe allergic reactions, taken off the drug that has neutralized my heart medicine, stabilized and sent home with a minor UTI that no one wants to attempt to treat until my body “rebounds” a bit.

Time passes; I simply do not regain my strength.  Thanksgiving comes and goes.  Christmas comes and goes.  The new year, my birthday, all are miserable.  I’m nearly afraid to go to any doctor, but when I do it’s around the first of February.  He prescribes a 7 day round of a gentler, friendlier antibiotic for the miserable, relentless, merciless urinary tract infection.  I finish the prescription with no problem!  I actually feel pretty good again, not great, but good.

February 8th, I take Rich to Little Rock to a neurologist.  Over a period of 6 weeks the muscles in his left hand have begun to shrink in obvious muscle wasting and we want to know why he is dropping forks and having such a hard time writing.  It takes 6 LONG weeks of referrals and scheduling to see a neurologist.  All along, I can’t think of anything except the shocking changes in my husband’s hand.

On the way up the stairs to his appointment, I have to keep stopping to rest; my chest hurts, and it’s hard to breathe.  Rich panics, I minimalize.  The truth is I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and absolutely determined to get help for Rich.  It has taken us such a long time to reach these stairs; I damn well am going to climb them.

Over his protests, I push on.

Once inside, we are assured “most likely” Rich’s muscle wasting is the manifestation of significant peripheral neuropathies related to his 25 year battle with diabetes. To know the depth of what we are up against, and to set a proper plan of care, further tests are set for February 19th.

Riding back home to Hot Springs, I begin to relax.  While peripheral neuropathy is a very serious and progressive condition, I am relieved the doctor hadn’t taken one look at my husband’s hand and said something like, “I think this might be ALS.”

While my chest pain has subsided, I feel heavy and weak. When Rich asks how I feel, I smile and say, “Better.” We stop at Subway for takeout then go to bed early.  The next morning I call the cardiologist.  He says my experience with the stair case is pretty much like failing a stress test and fears my stent may be clogged.

Check it out.

Another heart cath.

Routine.

Only not.

This time the catheter tip tears a hole in a coronary artery.  With each beat of my heart, I feel life spilling out.  I see Rich’s face, hear Father’s voice; I have missed him so much since he died 2 years ago.

I try to tell the doctors I don’t feel right, but instead say “Daddy”.

I wake in ICU.  Good news, bad.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t need emergency by-pass, but my arteries are seriously diseased.  And I’ve bled into my chest cavity and it will take a little while for the blood to be reabsorbed.

Stabilize.  Rest.  But not for long.  The next day, back to surgery for placement of a 3rd stent, without which, disaster is sure to follow.

What follows in life, what leads?  How can you tell anyway, and does it matter, does anything really matter in the end or the beginning, or all the beautiful and flawed pieces in between?

Where the hell is the pony under all of the crap? Where’s a cookie for a woman starving?  An ice cream cone for the man she loves?

My husband nearly gray with fear, his hand like a soft claw touching my steel face, his eyes semi-liquid changing like the sky, hazel, blue, gray, hazel again.  The muscles in his face too smooth, (his glucose is low), idly hang like sheets or sails waiting for the wind.  But wind doesn’t come.  Or perhaps it does.  Except this time, when it does, it’s the worst storm of our lives.

Neurological test results are back.

I’m sitting in a wheelchair on a keg of 1,000 new drugs, my heart, a waiting fuse, the doctor’s words, a reluctant yet persistent match.     Then it all explodes.  The neurologist’s eyes locked into mine.  Suddenly she is a mime full of woe; but if mimes can’t talk, why is she using words?     ‘Serious.     Urgent.     Significant Underlying neuromuscular disease.       Invasive.      Tests.   Watch for twitching.   She looks at me as if I am a widow.    itty?  itty?  Can you hear me?’

The world disappears inside a microscopic black hole.  Rich and I hold hands, swirl through choking, cruel air until at last he is pushing my wheelchair back to the car that doesn’t matter anymore, to drive back to the house that isn’t home.  Home is a perfect crystal, it is the fiber of the irrefutable love that binds us together with steel and silken threads we’ve earned and created along the way.

Rich  asked me to share with readers that our lives have been challenging for a long time, but it wasn’t until the past four years, that those challenges have focused on health.  We moved to Arkansas full of hope and energy.  Three weeks after arriving, Rich had a heart attack.  One thing led to another,and in the span of four short years, we’ve both been hospitalized five times.  We don’t blame Arkansas, well, maybe a little; the reality is timing.  We are stoic people who avoid drama like the  plague.  We are quiet old folks who have a lot of fun together.  We retired to Arkansas because it is one of the most beautiful states we’ve ever seen. We assumed our health would stay strong and consistent; we believed we’d face each new challenge life threw at us the way we always have.

We’ll keep fighting, but if we have our way, it will be closer to our family.  Neither of us is a  Parker Schnabel; we’re not 19 any more with the bright shiny world beckoning.  But we know our places in it.  And we know ours hearts, as battered and bullied as they are, and we know our love is a universe of defiance and intensity, as well as a gentle cradle for holding all that is precious, and an indestructible bastion of never letting go – even past the last days of this long walk we make together.  And we take great comfort in knowing we will always walk together, never alone, through long, twisting hallways and sunny great rooms inside fortress grounds and gardens we build every day out of love.

black hole 2