My mom had knee surgery recently. Total knee in the jargon of the various healthcare workers we met along the journey. I stayed with her for a few weeks to help with her recovery. It was: a lot, and it was more than I expected, because we had already done this once, a few years earlier, when she’d had her other knee done. But we realized early on that neither of us had any recollection whatsoever of what we had done or how things had gone with her previous knee surgery recovery.
Whatever we experienced was just gone. She has the metal knee to prove it happened, and we have a shared, vague sense that her recovery was easier that time? Maybe? But that’s it.
We also neither of us had any memories of her recovery from her heart surgery, or her recovery from her diaphragm surgery. These were all in the past few years but any details of them have been stricken from both our memories. Self-preservation, maybe? The way you return home from the hospital with your newborn thinking: No way are we ever doing that again. Then look at your toddler a few years later and think: Hell yeah more of this.
Previously: getting dumber, and: my lists. The realization that all the lists, all the blog posts, are maybe my only way of hanging on to memories that aren’t of immediate need. So I need record this:
My mother’s surgery was on a Thursday. She came home from the hospital on Friday. She was still very shaky on her feet. Had strict instructions from the medical community at large and me personally to not do anything on her own, but even so, she decided to take herself to the bathroom at 7am on Saturday. She fell, onto the toilet, cracking the toilet tank, unleashing a flood of water onto the floor, and into her bedroom, and down through the floor, and through the light fixtures, and onto the bathroom and hallway of the floor below her. And because the toilet kept trying to refill itself, the water kept coming and coming and coming.
This was how my morning started, startled awake at 7am by a crashing noise down the hall, running in to find water: everywhere. I’m running around the house trying to find buckets and towels to catch the water, wondering how badly my mom is hurt, absolutely no idea what to do about this mess, just a vague sense that this happening on a Saturday makes solutions even more difficult. A sense of being outside my body, watching this happen to me, wondering: how the fuck does he get out of this one?
(Answer: a call to my brother, who had recently been through a similar situation. 3 hours later a crew was setting up a series of fans & dehumidifiers all over the house, and one urgent care visit later we had determined that my mom was fine, no permanent or increased damage to her body.)
While I was helping my mom, my schedule, my normal Flow of Life, was pretty thoroughly upended. So many errands and housekeeping chores and care-taking tasks that filled the day, and much of the night. I wasn’t really writing, didn’t work on music, didn’t draw much. Just the cleaning, laundry, tidying, cooking, shopping, making phone calls, organizing notes, fetching things from across the room or upstairs, etc.
Plus work! Working From Home! A home, but not my home. So Work Work managed to follow me, but not My work. One child and one pet came with me, which was nice, but the rest of my life remained in Cambridge. There was texting and phone calls and facetime so I could hear what’s going on with them, what I was missing. What cute things did the cat do that I am missing. Daily, I felt some acute need to be home, even just for a minute. Sometimes for emotional reasons, sometimes for practical. I realized, not for the first time, that I pack for a trip like an absolutely maniac. Why did I bring all these pairs of pants but not any of the t-shirts I normally wear?
The stuff I need, the routine I love, is far away. Why do some things come with me and not other things.
I spent time wishing there was a way to just pop home and back with the snap of my fingers. It’s a 90-100 minute drive, so there is no popping there or back. Teleportation still not a thing. Quantum entanglement mostly theoretical. Astral projection not one of my skills. I meditated on the concept of the 4th dimensional flat circle, a sort of comfort in knowing I’m there (and here), always will be and was there (and here), even when I’m here (and there).
When my mom was finally well enough that I could come home, I found that the work of her recovery was still with me. I was back in my house, ready to resume my life, but instead still very focused on texting my mom, helping her remember things. Doing as much as I could for her from farther away.
“You’re having trouble not being there,” Rosalie said. “You’re still there.”