A few days ago I found a lined notebook that my ex had brought to the hospital after I’d had my cardiac arrest.
This notebook was in a black zippered portfolio between a stack of medical papers. Sheets with medical results and appointments times and dates. From a time in my life when I was too sick to do anything on my own. Including driving.
The portfolio has my Dad’s business card tucked into a clear pocket on the front. In case anyone had found it – as we moved from appointment to appointment. These papers were important. At that time my health was like a full-time job. I woke up bright and early to go to medical appointments or procedures.
My Dad drove me from place to place. With his air of quiet patience. Taking another of his sick children to be checked.
It has always been a sad role-reversal with my Dad and I. The older man and his grown daughter going from appointment to appointment. Concern between us like a father to his parent – not a father to his child.
I had forgotten about this notebook. Like so many fuzzy memories of this difficult period in my life.
Some of these memories are remembered like we remember dreams.
I hold on to bits and pieces. Some memories are never clear – and never will be. I squint or close my eyes when I concentrate to TRY to remember them.
The pages are covered with entries written by the people who were taking care of me, and with me, during that difficult time. Primarily my ex, Steve. And a few best friends, Louisa, Renee and Marie. My Dad and Auntie Rene.
Different coloured ink.
Lists of things I’d eaten during their visits to me in the hospital.
Notes written to me – that I must have read – but don’t remember now.
Reading these entries was at once surreal – because I have so little memory of that time – and also horribly sad.
These entries are reminders of the painful experience my friends and family endured. A chain of events that, graciously, I don’t remember but that others (who were present) remember clearly and vividly. (Often with tears in their eyes when I ask them to remember for me.)
Each entry is a testament to love.
Only love will compel you to document the eating of two grapes or half of a vanilla Ensure.
Only love will compel you to write a note to a friend who isn’t “all there” to read it.
Only love will compel you to note the names of visitors and the color and size of the teddy bear they brought.
I was moved to tears.
Pages of notes and encouragement and documentation of my progress.
And then I eventually see my own handwriting on the pages – in strong, clear “Karen Nicole” printing. (The kind of learned in drafting class in Grade 9.)
It surprises me to see the things that I took the time to write down; names of medications. Doctor’s names. Visitor’s names.
I am relieved to see myself eventually emerge on those pages.
It the first signs of a rebirth . . . a re-emergence of the Karen Nicole I have become now.
If I take a moment to reflect – which I am not terribly good at – I can be proud of the journey I made from that time to now.
From a child-like woman with no short-term memory.
To the woman who left the hospital with a walker and a surgically implanted defibrillator.
To a woman who fought to assemble life from some fledgling pieces of a life.
To the strong woman present now – striving to share her message and have an impact on the world as an patient advocate.
I have to think that the seeds planted, that are blossoming now, were sowed by those simple notes in that lined notebook.
Friends and family who took the time to sit with me and visit.
Who endured my child-like non-stop questions. *smile*
Who brought teddy-bears and yellow orchids.
Food in Tupperware containers and Vietnamese pho soup – in warm styrofoam containers.
Who watched me eat tiny bites of “Dad’s” oatmeal cookies.
Believing in me when I wasn’t “all there” to believe in myself yet.
Holding my hand.
A heart-felt thanks. (Of course.)