in sickness and in health: chronicles of injuries and caretaking

This surgery’s been a long time coming, though we didn’t know it.

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Mark hurt his (ring) finger about a month ago, playing frisbee. He dove for a catch (read: threw his body toward the unforgiving earth with too much confidence in his youth and flexibility) and dislocated and fractured his lil digit.

At first, we thought it was just a dislocated joint, especially because he had “popped it back in” right after the crash. It took an x-ray three weeks later to reveal that he had popped it back in…just not to the right place.

The joint (first one up from the base) was popped out about a finger’s width on top of the rest of the hand, and the bone connecting the two joints was chipped, too. The way the surgeon described it, it seemed like the three weeks’ delay had been like a desert storm on that lil chip, wearing away at it until it was no more. Here, questions abound: where did the fragment go? Does it get reabsorbed into the blood stream? Is there a lot of erosion going on in our bodies, normally? If so, what’s doing all that jostling in there? I didn’t know how to phrase these questions appropriately and quickly enough to ask.

So the surgeon reset Mark’s joint (as a “let’s just see if this works” measure) and scheduled the formal surgery (because we were pretty sure the measure wouldn’t work) for the following Thursday. And since the resetting, Mark was told to keep his hand elevated above his heart — it prevents undue swelling — and thus, the multitude of photos of the Markling in the perpetual worshipful-hand-raise pose.

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After that first manual resetting, Mark was in a lot of pain. A desperate, helpless, sleepless kind of pain that demands all your attention but only intensifies when you offer it. He texted me all through those first two nights, unable to sleep — midnight… 1 am… 3 am… 5 am… It was heartbreaking, and I was completely useless to help. We tried getting the surgery moved up, but no luck.

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Fear and Powerlessness
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But it wasn’t all pain and tears. We did some fun stuff this past month, too. @ Thomas Sweet.
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also, Pasta.

The surgery day finally came, and as it approached, Mark’s fear grew and grew. It was kind of astounding to me, because I have an almost unnaturally blase attitude toward medical procedures. Needles, blood-giving, surgery…it’s all NBD to me. All the opposite for Mark. He despises needles, hates the thought of steel objects penetrating his dermis, fears physical pain above all else. Don’t tell the terrorists, but he would last zero seconds under torture…

The fear was palpable and uncontrollable. I was even getting frustrated with him — the fear becoming bigger than a matter of the finger and the pain itself and triggering questions of character, of faith. Why is he so afraid/what is it that makes me not as afraid? At the core, I trust in the medical establishment and their ability to make me better. Does he not believe that? Is this a trust-of-establishment thing? Why does he always expect the worst? Is it a God thing? Does he not believe that God has this under control? Is he even praying? 

I tried, really, to be patient — though I broke down at the last minute and mini-yelled at him to “Stop meeping!” right as we were walking into the surgery center. Worst, ever. I know. He forgave me, gracious even amidst the fear.

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Behind this tight-lipped smile is fear and anxiety, don’t let him fool you and please pray for him.

We met with the surgeon and discussed what the procedure would be like. Mark was small and shivery in his flimsy hospital gown and high-fashion hair net. We tried to watch Food Network to distract him from the gloomy chill of the pre-op area, analyzing cupcake flavors and laughing at the made-up drama of food competition TV shows. It was hard, though, because the surgeon had just told us that it would not be a good idea for Mark to travel right after his surgery, as we had been planning to do. Mark’s brother was graduating the next day, so we had planned to head down to be there.

It makes so much sense, in hindsight, that we would have to stick around at home and let Mark rest over the weekend, but we just had no idea what it would be like. We are — luckily — both pretty inexperienced in hospital procedures and figured that as long as I did the driving, it would be no big deal for us to travel. Wrong-oh. The surgeon looked at us with the single eyebrow raise almost visible through his tight facial control, questioning our common sense, and advised that it would be best to take it easy all weekend, hang out on the couch, watch TV, and administer meds as necessary.

It was disappointing… But I came to be grateful for the dashed plans, because this meant that both our schedules were completely free for the time that we had expected to be away.

Those four-ish hours in the waiting room flew by… I was busy texting updates and emailing prayer requests, reaching out and asking to be touched. My fear bubble had grown, too, because fear is infectious — I was feeling grave and sad and sending out pings in hopes of receiving some back. And receive I did.

People came through. Events like these, I realized, clarify who makes up your community and family. People called, emailed, texted, visited (!), letting us know that they loved us and were praying for Mark. Mark’s family even came up on Saturday to see Mark after his surgery and to grab a meal with us. Afterwards, Mark smiled like a goon and said, “I love my family,” at which I cracked up cause, like, duh.

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Scott calls Mark to encourage and to love. “Be strong and courageous,” he said (Joshua 1:7). “WHAT A GOOD GUY,” we said.
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A snippet of the post-op email update sent out to the DC small group. Theme: “We are so grateful.”

The surgeon came out, showed me before and after x-rays, complete with new bits of bone and pins poking through. He said that the joint was able to bend all the way to normal range (110 degrees, for those of you counting), so we’re hoping that with physical therapy, Mark can reset the doc’s PR for best recovery.

And thus began our four-day weekend of resting and worrying and relaxing and an uncharacteristic amount of cooking on my part. Like seriously, I have never cooked so many things in the span of four days. Who even am I?

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Couch-sleeper, thanks to J&Q’s gracious generosity. After finding out that we weren’t going to be going to Mark’s parents’ place for the weekend, we had to figure out real quick where we’d set this guy up — I didn’t want him to be alone. In short, my housemates are the best.
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Mac and cheese cures all.
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Bananer bread, gone in three days. Go us.
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“This is my favorite thing that you’ve ever cooked for me.” How can I not make it again? It’s super easy — pad krapow gai by Chef John: http://foodwishes.blogspot.com/2017/04/spicy-thai-basil-chicken-my-pad-krapow.html

It was a weekend of fitful sleeping, for sure, what with the medicine schedule and the jingle-jangle of Rogue the dog’s midnight prowls through the living room. But we did things we’ve never. done. before as a couple: hang around the house for hours, cook multiple meals in a row, (re)watch seasons of TV shows old and new, sit on the couch until my back hurt, do zero things of productivity. Like, normal people weekend activities. I know we were caring for an invalid here, but it felt kind of luxurious to me, in some ways.

And I got a teensy little taste of what it means to serve selflessly — like, putting my needs and wants on a back burner somewhere and thinking first about somebody else. And I noticed that the caretaking got easier over the weekend as I got more used to it. My selfish sharp edges were dulled a little in the face of real need and a very polite customer. Mark was an easy patient, grateful and eager to get better.

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#adulting at the grocery store, where we went to take a walk and advantage of the deals.

He has his post-op appointment on Tuesday, the day after tomorrow. And as our super-weekend winds down this evening, the Sunday feels are real. We’re sitting here, both back in our respective productivity modes as I blog with a vengeance and he puts the finishing touches on the wedding website. But for the first time in a long, long time, I feel really refreshed from what was actually a pretty stressful weekend. Ironic, yep. Such great ups and downs we’ve traveled in the span of these past 48-or-60-or-whatever hours — counting in chunks of four-to-six as the prescription bottles dictate, constantly asking for the enumeration of pain levels (on a scale of 1 to 10, how do you feel?), cooking and eating real meals, laughing at the antics of Michael Scott (and falling asleep to an anime episode…), taking stock of one another and feeling grateful for the way things are and not how they could’ve been.

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Eating mac and cheese on the floor, enjoying a cold sodie pop and cider while we watch Netflix via the PS3. “I feel like a real American!”

Will have to keep you posted on how we fare through next week and the next; I’m sure the chronicles of physical therapy will bring more ups and downs. But as of this moment, I sit here, grateful for the weirdness, the normalcy, and all the cheezy blogposts in between.

getting schooled: generosity, replacing tires, fear of everything

life’s been throwing me around like a bully, these days. lessons left and right. punch and sucker punch.

in response, as expected, I have been singing those songs of self-pity like it’s my job.

and then, life schools me again. about singing those dang songs.

after all the drama of home-searching, I came right back to the first little square I started from and will be MOVING SOON and subsequently, have been purging the apartment and the closet of things I’ve been holding onto in hopes of filling a home in a next lease. or maybe the one after.

basically, holding onto things that don’t have a place in my current life or even the next immediate one, maybe. who KNOWS where I’ll even be living in another year from now? who KNOWS what kinds of things I’ll need? it’s funny because these are the very questions that once caused me to scrounge and hold onto things — and now they’re my reason for letting gooo ~ !

so I’ve been selling off some of my wares — the odd lamp here and there, a bathroom cabinet I have not needed in over a year and a half, wall hangings that haven’t seen the light of day in who knows how long, a book that I got as a gift but literally never read, cause it’s a coffeetable book and who has time to read the coffeetable books in their own home? no one.

one item from my closet was a winter jacket, a nice jacket, warm and low-key, just the way I like my winter jackets. but I decided that it had to go, because it was redundant in my closet. so went it did. go it went? goes it goed? I sold it.

with MUCH SELLER’S REMORSE! right after it had been claimed from my posting, I stewpidly began researching the brand + type of jacket and seeing how much MORE other people were selling for and feeling much, much regret for my belated research. why? WHY brain, why? I don’t know.

this is how devious I am: I even tried to think of ways I could TAKE BACK MY POST and somehow sell it for more! but good old conscience kicked in (whew) and saved me from my id.

fast-forward to the day of the trade — Christine came over to my apartment, braving a 45-minute drive through the evening traffic, and as she was handing me the measly bits of cash for my precious second-hand coat, she said,

“Thank you! This is a great coat. My church does a coat drive every winter, so I always try to buy some to donate.”

…SCHOOLED!

lesson no. 1: you are a much, much greedier human than you ever even imagined. try to have some space in your heart for other people and stop scrounging for dollar bills. be generous with your heart and your stuff.

 

in another experience that held up a mirror to my ugliness…

leading up to the weekend trip to RVA was a lot of drama (hm. a theme?) concerning me and my badness at being a good sister and all that guilty jazz. seestre was being sad that I hadn’t been making an effort to come see the art show she was putting on that weekend, and I was feeling bad for having that be pointed out to me.

a couple of productive rants later, Markling gently — ever so gently — reveals that I communicate just the same way my sister had been doing, to me.

it was one of those *drop everything, including jaw* moments. full admission: “you are so. right.”

schooled.

lesson no. 2: if you find yourself hating something a lot about someone else, go find yourself a character mirror because you might just be reacting to a trait in YOU. or, you may find that the other person has some valid reasons for the way they’re behaving — passes you give yourself all the time because you know your brain and your intentions, but no one else’s. pfft.

the third lesson is deeper and heavier and involves a deep and heavy conversation I had with Merk, about Children and Childrearing and Families and all the beauty and scariness of those things. the “beauty” contributed by Merk and the “fear” portion by me. ending with blubbery me crying about all the things that could go wrong with having a baby and trying to raise it to be an okay human being in this world. wow.

lesson no. 3: fear is a huge, but sneaky, driver of a lot of my life “decisions.” air quotes there because if fear is the motivator toward or away from something, are you even truly getting to decide? I’m not sure. 

and if these fears are so big and so overwhelming, to the point of refusing to let you dream some dreams and pursuing some pursuits… where’s your faith in God in all of this? do you really believe that He’s sovereign over your life and your comings and goings and even your elections? do you believe that He’s good? (and that’s even when things don’t go the way you think they should.) I dunno. I have to chew the cud on this one a bit more.

and most recently, and shallowly, lesson-wise:

after much consternation and lower-lip pouting, I took myself to a Costco to get that dang tire replaced. [don’t tell my dad; he doesn’t know yet] I nicked one of the tires on a mean old curb that was probably sticking out its leg, trying to trip me. and it was time to get that tire replaced, finally.

so I went. to Costco. because I figured it would be cheaper than going to the dealer!

…which it wasn’t.

+ I was stuck at Costco (which doesn’t sound too bad…)

+ for THREE HOURS (AGH)

and no one to rescue me, because it was a Monday afternoon when normal people are at work and otherwise far away.

I walked around slowly, which killed about one hour, then consoled myself with a Very Berry Sundae and stood in the book pile and read for another hour.

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said pity Sundae + book pile

hour 2: I decided to go ask the desk lady if my car was ready yet. she said no. and then said “oh wait, yeah” — indeed it had been ready for a whole half hour. no one had contacted me, tho.

grateful, still, I went out to my car…to find that the WRONG TIRE HAD BEEN REPLACED. I was a little miffed, but not at the point of feeling SCHOOLED just yet. but when I walked over to the garage and no one knew how to help me, and then when I walked over to the desk lady and she didn’t know how to help me, I just wanted to cry, actually.

so I did.

loud, sobby, snot-running tears, right in front of the manager, who was bewildered and worried looking, as he very well should have been. tears of frustration, sure, and helplessness, but also very much tears of “I am cold and tired and sad for having wasted so much of my time here today.”

not that they were intentionally manipulative, but they sure got him to jump to action and get my original tire back on my car and get rid of that nicked one right away, the right way.

lesson no. 4: sometimes you cry for a lot more layers of reasons than your audience will know. and that’s okay. even useful, sometimes. that day was hard because of having run so many miles in the morning and having spent so much money and time on what seemed like a never-ending problem.

also, that custard in that Costco sundae was not as tasty as you remembered. so remember that next time.

I think the layering of all these lessons on my heart have been hard on me. less resilient and more prone to tears because my membrane had been worn thin already. the lessons get shallower and shallower and my heart gets fuller and fuller — to the point of bursting into tears, if you prod just a lil.

it’s okay though — reminds me I’m human, reminds me that I need to take breaks from running (literally and metaphorically), to rest my body and my mind and my soul and that sensitivity membrane so I can take more of those sucker punches that come, sadly but surely, along with those precious life lessons.

la di da