I have to own something, Y’all. These last several months have been the hardest for me since the first few months after the divorce. I know me – and I am a survivalist. I survive. When I’m in the thick of it, I’m Game-On. My exterior is tight and my Poker Face is strong. I get through it until I’m done, and then I let myself digest and sift through all the feelings. I can’t do both at the same time, it’s either Survive or Feel. One or the other, never both at the same time. I’d implode if I had to do both.
So here I am, at the end of this last hurdle, the last few weeks of recovery after the second major surger in five months. My Dr. has ordered me home until the first of the year so I have a couple more weeks of care and recovery before I get back after life as normal. I’m going a little stir crazy, if I’m honest.
Do you know what no one talks about in divorce? The hunger….the hunger for touch. I don’t mean sex. I don’t really mean intimacy, or maybe I do. I’m talking about the hunger for touch in the resting of a hand on your back, or the long hug where you close your eyes and sink into someones shoulder. The act of holding hands and being comfortable to rest a hand on someone’s knee. Touch. Feeling connected. So I did a thing one night, perhaps after a glass or two of wine, I bought a Free Hugs T-shirt.
I suppose I figured it would make me a little more approachable and also satisfy a little bit of need for physical touch. Will I also be opening myself up to getting man-handled by every crazy on the street? Perhaps. But I will try to choose wisely where and when to wear the T-shirt. I imagine though that it might open up some fun dialogue with random strangers who might not normally be open to talking to strangers. At least, that’s my hope.
Being home for these three weeks so far with the knee surgery has created some cabin fever on my part, and I’m pretty sure my daughter would admit that she’s ready to have the apartment empty on weekdays again rather than having me under foot constantly. We are both becoming a little snippy with one another and are getting tired of all this togetherness. You’d think I’d be looking to her for some hugs and satisfying that kind of physical touch, but we aren’t that kind of mother-daughter. We’re more of a look at each other, have wierd conversations about spiders or reptiles or what we think our dogs voices would sound like if they could talk kind of relationship. I digress, of course – I am suffering from a little bit of cabin fever and for someone whose love language is Acts of Service, I’m not able to be really of service to anyone right now. I’ve cooked all the food my freezer will hold and I think even my dogs are sick of looking at me so I had to find some new recipients for my care and neediness until I can get back to work.
So today I did a thing. I took myself down to one of the older nursing homes in town and I put myself to work. I was supposed to fill out an application and have a chat with one of the Activities Directors, but she was very busy trying to herd a slew of Reisdents into a room for a “Country Store” adventure where residents could use the in-house printed money they got for participating in nursing home events and purchase small items, chocolate, jewelry boxes, mirrors, lotions, toiletries, snacks and things of that nature. There was a line out othe door of the dining room of little old ladies in wheelchairs and walkers waiting to get their shop on. The Activities Director told me she was really busy and asked if I could come back in the morning. I wasn’t about to leave her with her hands full, so I offered to help her right then and there. She looked so relieved and we had a lovely hour or so, helping residents count their nursing home dollars and pick out items they wanted in their rooms. I got to meet some nice folks and be of service and it scratched a much needed itch for me.
After the Country Store, the Activities Director and I finally got to that application and we had a little while to chat and she checked me out to make sure I was there for good reason and not a risk to any of the residents. I guess she had a good feeling about me, because I asked if I could wander down to the larger dining room, as it was close to dinner and I could see some residents gathering there and I might be able to sit and listen to some people’s stories and make connections. She cut me loose and I wandered around and went from table to table, introducing myself, looking each resident, man or woman in the eye, sometimes shaking their hand if they offered it and commenting on something to each of them, even if it was simply to say “Merry Christmas.”
Eventually I made my way towards the back of the room and saw one of the gentlemen I’d met first – Dennis, was joined by a woman at his table. The woman called out to me and we introduced ourselves. Her name was JoAnn and she liked that my name was Wendi and that my mom had named me after the Wendy in Peter Pan. She said my name fit and we struck up a converation. Turns out, JoAnn and her husband are both residents of the nursing home and have raised 6 children over their 30 year marriage. Her husband was just sent to Hospice a few days ago and she is accepting the fact that she’s about to lose him. We talked about that for a while and I offered her one of my hankies I’d brought with me and she declined – saying she didn’t need one….yet. She told me about their first born, a daughter, who was born the day before Thanksgiving and who died if SIDS on the day after Christmas that same year. She told me it ruined the holidays for her for a long, long time. Eventually, she and her husband were able to have more children and it got easier to talk about. What a life she’s led, following her husband, a Drilling Consultant all over the Coast, working along side him, cooking for drill hands, roughnecks and the like – side by side with her husband until they couldn’t anymore.
I’ve been a little solomn about this Holiday season. I just want it to be over. I’m feeling lonely and doing a little of asking “why me” in regards to all that I’ve been handed in my life. I don’t understand why some people are given so much to deal with, while others seem to sail through life with little more than a care in the world.
Today I had a moment of clarity as I sat with JoAnn and heard her story. She certainly has been given her share of trials and tribulations over her long life and they aren’t over yet. She’s about to face another big one with the impending loss of her husand. I may have lost a husband too, but for me, it was my choice to lose him. Actually, he chose through his actions to leave me no choice but to end our marriage – otherwise be taken down with him. It was not unlike a death, as one minute he was there and then poof, he was gone and I’ve not heard from him hardly since. At the end of my life, if maybe I’m in a nursing home and some middle aged do-gooder like me strolls in wanting to hear some stories and make a connection with me, they will get an earfull of what I’ve endoured in my lifetime and what I’ve survived. Drugs, family violence, two divorces, cancer, 5 months of bedrest with one of my pregnancies and 2 months with the other, 12 surgeries over my lifetime including total hip replacement and double mastectomy. Lots of After-Market parts on this 1971 model that’s for sure! One thing is for sure, however….I survived.
I think I needed today to remind me that the struggle is just part of the story. The real meat and potatoes of the story is the survival. I will get through this chapter of my life with an even more impressive story of survival and I will hopefully be rewarded somewhere down the line with a beautiful relationship with a thoughtful and handsome man who doesn’t require much in the way of training and loves me for the rest of my days in ways that keep my cheeks sore from smiling.
Until then, I will continue working towards being whole again and 2020 will hopefully be surgery-free. I hope to be back to Sister Birding Weekends and perhaps dating again sometime soon. I think I want to go back to the nursing home again and hear more stories like JoAnn’s. There is also a Memory Center in my community I plan to visit soon and hopefully meet some more people who need someone to smile at them and invite them to share their stories. Maybe it will help them. I know it will help me.
Until then….Merry Christmas to those who celebrate. I know this might be a tough one for a lot of you. It is for me. Together, we will get through it the only way we know how, as the Survivalists that we are.