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Copyright © 2002 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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i see like superman
september 7, 2002
Mary continues to improve from her stroke in April. From evenings spent at the breakfast nook table going over the alphabet with her, Mary moving her index finger from letter to letter, singing in her lovely voice the ABC's, as they taught her to do in the hospital, usually bogging down around "V", where the childhood melody gets a little weird, me staring at the grid of letters as she sings, noticing for the first time all the words half-submerged in the alphabet, like "restaurant", she's now progressed to where she can get out quite a few sentences, her reading comprehension also improving, Mary reading out loud the billboards as we make our way through cross-town traffic each evening from her speech rehabilitation center in north Dallas to our home in the rural suburbs.
Brain damage is such an odd thing. "Friends are now terrified that Whitney's new $100 million deal with Arista Records is in jeopardy due to her and Bobby's hard partying and undependability", this from the Globe, one of the supermarket tabloids I buy Mary each week so we can practice her reading. You would think Mary would get stuck on multi-syllable words like "jeopardy", "partying" and certainly "undependability", but usually, after a few tentative lip-formings, she'll spill those words out. What invariably stumps her, though, are the small words. "In", I'll say finally, helping her, after she's stared at the word in complete perplexity. She'll look stunned. "Really? That's what it looks like?" Maybe because prepositions and demonstrative adjectives are more abstract, harder to picture.
Her own form of brain damage, from the stroke, is such that fortunately her intelligence itself was not harmed at all. Everything she knew is still in her head. She can still figure things out quicker than I can, whether it's road directions or assembly instructions, but because of the aphasia associated with her stroke, it's difficult for her to express that wealth of knowledge in speech. But she is getting much better. I see the improvements each day. Whereas before, early after her release from the hospital, she would compose sentences mostly made of nonsense sounds and self-interruptions, now she can communicate fairly well, and at this point, when we're out in public, in a shop, and she exchanges a few words with a clerk, I can tell the clerk has no idea there's a problem.
Before I turned the column over to Arnie Maddox for six weeks, Rudo, one of our cats, was on the verge of hip surgery. That's behind him now. At the moment, in fact, he's under my desk as I type, nipping my calf, even though it's only three o'clock in the morning, far too early for him to be fed (I still get up extra early, as I have for the past few months, in large part because we now retire around eight each evening).
When I drove Rudo to the vet for his surgery, he meowed the whole way in his cage on the seat beside me, King Kong face pressed against the hatching, me having to continually reassure him everything was all right, although of course it wasn't, for him, by saying over and over again, "Rudo's a good boy. Rudo's a good boy." I was endlessly repeating this phrase at a red light, looking not down at him, but rather up at the light, waiting for it to change, when it occurred to me that because he was on the seat he wasn't visible to other drivers, so that it might appear I was talking to myself. I glanced to my left, still repeating the mantra, and saw a man my own age in the next car staring at me with extreme unease. I smiled at him, but he snapped his head frontwards, staring up at the signal light. Apparently he thought I was Rudo, and needed to constantly reassure myself I was a good boy.
As a result of the surgery, Rudo's right side is completely shaved all the way down to the gray skin, all that long black fur gone, a frankenstein stitch in its place. At the vet hospital, when I picked Rudo up, the surgeon showed me before and after x-rays of the hip, and it certainly did look a lot better now. The ghostly bones in the x-ray reminded me of when I watched Mary's heart beating vigorously during her echocardiogram a few months back. I'm finding out what the insides of everyone I love looks like. I see like Superman.
A few Sundays ago Mary and I were in bed watching a video, Stuart Gordon's take on Lovecraft's Dagon, actually not that bad of a horror movie (Gordon did Re-Animator), although if you want to see a good recent horror film, I'd suggest Takashi Miike's Audition (Odishon), which starts off as a Cary Grant comedy and mutates into something truly creepy.
Our phone rang. It was our next-door neighbor, Jim.
"I got a cat over here, must be a kitten, that's been hanging around my front door for the past few days. We're thinking of taking her to the pound, but I wanted to check with you two first."
Mary was sitting up in bed.
"It's Jim. He has a cat next door, a kitten. He's calling to see if we want it."
(I've stopped just now to feed the cats. One by one, they've made an appearance up here, banging against my ankle, jumping up, rather awkwardly, on the desk. I got up, slapped the side of my hip to get them to follow me, which they did, thundering down the stairs behind me, each one excitedly thinking, Master would never, ever slap his hip like that unless we were about to get food).
So we went over to Jim's. He was outside, grinning, a gray and black-striped kitten, long as a limousine, walking in figure-eights between his feet. We've named her Lady. Her body is in fact luxuriously long, giving her a ferret-like appearance. The three boys, Rudo, Chirper, Sheba, have each reacted to her introduction into our home in their own way. Rudo, the top cat, generally ignores her, preferring his own company. Chirper, stout and cautious, is rather obviously trying to court her (although they're both in for a very small surprise if he's successful, since we had him spayed years ago). Watching him creep a little closer to where she was cleaning her crotch, back leg pointing straight up in the air like a ballerina's, I said to Mary, "Counting in cat years, isn't this a little like a sixty year old man trying to date an eight year old?" Sheba, on the other hand, snarls and attacks her every chance he gets, screwing up his face, shutting his furred eyelids, windmilling his declawed front paws at her.
I wrote a new story, Pushing Down the Tombstones, during these early morning sessions, started another one, Steaks in the City, and also returned to working on my autobiography. The hardest thing there, is trying to decide what to leave out, so that the narrative doesn't become episodic. And leaving something out, realizing it's an event in my life that may never be known to anyone but me, by its not making the final cut. (Writers are obsessed with getting every detail of their lives into print).
Mary has started painting wall murals again, working on an immensely complicated mural for one of our downstairs bathrooms.
Also, I'm pleased to say that my novel Father Figure is finally being published, in trade paperback and e-book versions. It's tentatively scheduled for release next month, October. I'll give more details as the release date gets closer. It's the complete, unexpurgated text of the novel, which has always been my nonnegotiable requirement for its publication (and which partly explains why it's taken so long for it to find a home).
As a last bit of good news, Joe, Mary's dad, will be flying down to spend the Christmas holidays with us. He mentioned he'd like to have Spaghetti alla Carbonara during his stay. Last Sunday, our test kitchens came up with the perfect creamy, smoky recipe.
SENTENCE will be moving to a new host server this week, so there may be a day or two when all or some of the pages aren't accessible.