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like the invisible man's bandaged head
september 21, 2002
Yesterday, Friday, September 20, Mary and I went back to her work for the first time since her stroke in mid-April.
She was nervous about seeing everyone again, especially since she's still in the process of recovering her ability to speak.
I woke up first, feeding the cats. As I waited for the coffee to finish brewing, I flipped through the latest edition of the New York Review of Books. A few weeks ago, I mentioned in a Lately how Mary and I had acquired a new cat, which we named Lady. In the piece I told how we had gone over to our neighbor Jim's house to pick her up. "[Jim] was outside, grinning, a gray and black-striped kitten, long as a limousine, walking in figure-eights between his feet." I wrote 'long as a limousine' because when I first saw Lady, I was surprised at the unusual length of her body, and for some reason immediately thought of a limousine (possibly having connected 'cat' and 'car' in my mind-- who knows?).
In the New York Review I now flipped through, I stopped at an article surveying recent releases of books of sonnets. As I often do with reviews of poetry, I skipped for now the review itself, instead jumping from one italicized poetry excerpt to the next. Here are a few lines from a poem titled Cosi fan tutte, by a poetess named April Bernard: "Knitting Factory bouncer, House O'Love spy,/double-bottle brunette, cartoon caveman with a jaw like a trout,/wolf as long as a limo, and don't forget/the ibis that says she's somebody's mother."
"Wolf as long as a limo." Proof again how often the same thought, or a similar one, can occur to two different writers (although I don't think "caveman with a jaw like a trout" would have occurred to me).
We left extra early to make sure we'd get to Mary's work in plenty of time (I told everyone we'd be there at nine). As it happened, we arrived about half an hour early, so decided to drive around the neighborhood for a while.
The area where Mary's work is located is presently being torn up, with magnificently bold strokes, to make way for an expansion of the highway system. Concrete pillars so tall they would make a caveman's trout drop, meant eventually to support an even higher layer of highways, stand surreally alone amid the tiny traffic whizzing around them. We had decided we'd go to a local Denny's restaurant after the visit, to have one of their Moons Over My Hammy sandwiches (that's what they're actually called), a ham and egg and cheese sandwich, but saw that the Denny's had been torn down as part of the improvement (the gas station across the street, where for years we'd fuel up on the way back from lunch, had been stripped of all its signs and pumps, leaving just concrete, the station itself in the middle with all its windows boarded looking like the invisible man's bandaged head.)
A little before nine, we parked in front of Mary's building, walked hand in hand into the lobby.
Mary's finger push against the upwards arrow on the wall produced an immediate Ding, elevator doors opening. We kissed on the way up, a kiss mirrored into infinity.
We saw Joel first, Senior Vice President of the company, a tremendous support during Mary's recovery. He ushered us into his office, so we could have a chance to catch up. A few minutes later Gayle, Mary's closest girlfriend, showed up, then a few others, then more, all giving Mary a hug, so pleased to see how far she's already recovered. Sitting, watching them all, one by one, greet and hug her, I could see how much they love and admire her. There were a few wet eyes. We all have gray in our hair. We all know what that gray means.
Gayle took Mary on a tour, showing her the changes since April. After that, Mary and I sat with Joel, talking about the future. Joel and the CEO of the company, Tom, have both been giants in their ready willingness to work around Mary's recovery. They're good men. Joel emphasized again that Mary would always have a job here, and that she should not worry about having to get well within a certain period of time. "If you feel confident about coming back to work in January, that's fine. If you decide in January you want to wait another year, until you're even more recovered, that's fine too. Your job is guaranteed."
We brought Joel up to date on Mary's rehabilitation. At this point, she's progressed to where she no longer needs six hours of therapy, five days a week. Beginning next month, mid-October, she'll likely stop going to the outpatient rehabilitation center she's been visiting since her discharge from the hospital in late April, and instead receive an hour or so of speech therapy three times a week. The rest of the time, she'll work on lessons at home. Right now, her reading comprehension is quite good, her speech is recovering, but she still needs help with composing sentences, and working with numbers. This new phase in her therapy will allow us to focus more intensely on those areas that most need improvement.
We found another Denny's nearby that has so far survived the area's make-over, and had our Moons Over My Hammy. It was "just us" again.
I used to post a Picture of the Week with each Lately, but they stopped for the most part with Mary's stroke, because I simply didn't have the time anymore. Now that things have gotten a little more back to normal, I'm starting them up again, although they may not appear every week just yet.
This time around, there are two pictures, catching up on the recent past.
Here's poor Rudo, the day we brought him home after his hip surgery. The vet was amazed at how quickly he recovered. He wasn't expected to stand up for the first few days. Looking at his stitches reminds me of many of the people attending rehabilitation with Mary. Quite a few of them are in wheelchairs, or on crutches, all with one form of brain damage or another, from strokes, drug use, injuries. One boy is there because he was mugged, one of his assailants driving the front of a shovel into his head afterwards. Another kid, who I talk to sometimes while waiting for Mary to finish up, was a member of a local gang, until he was shot in the side of his head during a street fight. All of them humbled, some with heads shaved on only one side, stitches across the scalp, faces bobbing as they try to say "Hello" back, forcing a right foot to shuffle forward like pushing a hundred pounds with your toes. It's been an extraordinary experience, witnessing so much raw courage.
Here's Mary and Lady, a day or so after we brought Lady into our home. At first tense, sniffing the air for danger, Lady's now started to relax, often sprawling on the kitchen floor, four paws curled in front of her belly, waiting for her next meal. The picture was taken upstairs in our home. Around Mary you can see the first wall mural she created, years ago. At the very rear is the room Joe, Mary's dad, stays in when he visits. The gray filing cabinets hold my writings.