Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Commuter Marriage Continues
Once again my husband, Dave, is heading back to his “other life” in Arizona.  He was home for seventeen days.  Now I feel as though I am in suspended animation without him.  His next scheduled return is in August, three and a half months hence and promises to be our longest separation yet since we began this “commuter” portion of our marriage.
When we made the decision for Dave to go to AZ to work it was devastating.  I saw a story on our local news about “commuter marriages” just days before his departure and heard a wife say that over time it becomes easier.  I didn’t believe it.  I did not want it to be so because I did not want this drastic change in our lives to become “normal.”  It has become easier and it is not normal, only tolerable.  It is a sensitive tooth that flares into full-blown pain from time to time, but mostly sits there aching.
The seventeen days of Dave being home were a whirlwind with us spending the first portion at our house on the Long Beach Peninsula getting things crossed off Dave’s honey-do list down there and then returning to Gig Harbor to work on that honey-do list.  As he heads back there are still things undone, but everywhere I see his hand in making our lives better.  You know, I don’t mind the fir needles and cones on the driveway, but I find a clean driveway comforting because it means Dave is around.
Dave leaves knowing that he may be returning at any point due to the advanced age and health of his parents and my mother.  That is something we talked about nearly a year ago when we began this adventure.  It is why my taking my Special Needs daughter and going to Arizona with him was never part of the discussion.  I am an only child and so my mother has no one else to rely on.  Dave has six brothers, five of whom live near to their parents—relatively speaking.  While he was home his mother’s health declined.  On our last visit Sunday she seemed to have improved a tiny amount.  I am grateful that he can leave, holding onto this tiniest thread of hope that she will be better still when he returns in August.  I hang onto that thread as well as I do not want him to be alone at the time of such a loss.
Dave's intention is to quit working the end of September.  That is not cast in concrete.  We were unable to meet with our financial advisor while Dave was home, but after a phone conversation with him we have some homework to do and an appointment in August when we can map out what is next in this adventure.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Now How the Heck Did I Do That??
Bette Davis famously said that aging wasn’t for sissies.  At age 62 I quote her often.  Recently I added injury to the insults of age related aches and pains by injuring the muscles along my left tibia.  A search of the Internet reveals that this irritation and resulting pain is caused by "strenuous activity."  I would not have said that I engaged in that.
There is no denying that I do a lot of walking.  As an aide to a special needs high school student I hike all over campus while he zooms along in a power wheelchair.  When I am home I am busy with work around our houses and I cannot deny that having my husband Dave working 1,500 miles away oft times leaves me exhausted, frustrated and resentful but I would not have said that I was engaging in strenuous activity. 
When the pain first began I thought, “My goodness, I’ve pulled something.  How inconvenient.”  I did what I usually do with pain.  I ignored it.  It began the Thursday before Easter.  On Friday my own Special Needs daughter and I drove to the coast where our “someday retirement” home is.  My other children were unavailable for various reasons, but we’d come to celebrate Easter with my mother who lives six blocks from our house.  Saturday was a perfect day to give our two lots large lawn its first mow of the year.  It took two and a half hours to plow through the thick and somewhat damp “back forty,” as I call the back yard which stretches from our barn and cottage on one lot to our main house on the other, with our electric mower.  I decided that the front, smaller but more complicated due to flower beds and walkways, would have to wait until Sunday as we had guests coming for dinner.
My leg had hurt during the whole process, but I’d trudged along as I always do, drinking lots of water and breaking to scrape the grass off the underside of the mower.  Our company was Kathleen Arseneaux and her daughter Stacey came to dinner which I’d largely prepped while waiting for the grass to dry (which it never entirely did).  Toward the end of last summer I’d engaged Stacey to help me with the gardening.  Stacey doesn’t mind weeding whilst I loathe it, mostly because I can’t get on my knees with any reasonable expectation of getting up again without calling the Ilwaco FD.  Over dinner Stacey offered to mow the front the next day and I gratefully accepted.
So I went literally limping along in pain, doing all the things that I’d got used to having help with before Dave went away ten months ago.  The pain finally began to take a toll on me.  Sometimes it left me nauseous and by the end of my work day it was leaving me wanting to cry.  If I’d had time.  There were still chores at home to accomplish before I gratefully put my leg to bed, only to begin the process again the next day.  Finally, I emailed our doctor and received a reply from her PA as the doctor was out for the week.  She encouraged me to go to Urgent Care which I finally did next day, a week to the day from when I’d first noticed the pain.
Shin splints the Urgent Care doctor said after reviewing X-rays that revealed no hairline fractures.  To immobilize my foot and give the tissue a chance to heal she had me put in an ortho boot making me think of astronauts walking on the moon.  I hobbled to garage, got into the car and tried out my new footwear on the clutch of my Neon.  No, if I tried to drive from Tacoma Group Health to our home in Gig Harbor I’d likely get into a wreck along the way so I peeled off all the Velcro straps the nurse had spent so much time adjusting and used the clutch with my bum leg.  It already hurt and while it was getting no better, it seemed to be getting no worse.  The Neon is in the garage and I'm driving our truck, which is an automatic.
So now, until it is healed, I am hobbling around on my new boot, petrified I’ll fall down our stairs and actually break something this time.  And there are still things to do.  Dave is coming home for a visit a week from today so there’s cleaning and dusting I want to do and a birthday cake to order for my father-in-law and daughter.  To quote another old lady, my mother, “There’s no rest for the wicked.”

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Things I Carry

Because I work as an aide to a partially quadriplegic high school student I usually read whatever has been assigned to him in English. Some things I’ve already read, but a little refresher helps me help him. I was absent from school the day the teacher handed out Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. A good thing, too. Apparently the instructor had the students unpack their backpacks, etc. I would not have wanted to pull all the stuff out of the bag I schlep around everyday!

“The things they carried,” for those of you unfamiliar with the book, refers to what American soldiers carried in Vietnam not only in their rucksacks, but in their hearts and minds. I’ve read parts of it and am looking forward to a full read this time ‘round because it is a wonderful insight into that generation of men. It also makes the reader examine the things they carry.

I have noticed that both my husband and I carry a lot of stuff that give us comfort. Which brings me back to my bag. It contains a prodigious amount of pencils, pens and highlighters; paperclips, analgesics and chap stick; hand lotion, a novel, and a ruler; safety pins, lunch money and scissors and a water bottle. I even have a little stapler. Like a boy scout, I am prepared!

Dave takes to work newspapers, magazines, and snacks to eat during lunch and breaks. The amount of fruit and veggies he packs with peanut butter is amazing, but at least he’s not eating junk. It makes him comfortable at work.

Other things that I sometimes carry that give me comfort are things that have belonged to someone I love. I attach metaphysical powers to those objects, primarily jewelry, and will wear a ring that belonged to my mother or step-mother or a necklace that belonged to my grandmother. When I wear these things I feel the strength of these women, especially my step-mother and grandmother, buoy me.

Sometimes I think of trying to carry less stuff all day. But I know that as soon as I eliminate something I’m going to need it!