Last night as I was driving east down I-84 on my way home from an emotional visit with my family, my mind drifted about all the changes I was making for the future and I almost missed my exit.
I'd been remembering a time when I was in the hospital with an unknown condition which caused agonizing pain from my waist down and all kinds of doctors teamed up attempting to diagnose it. The door to my room might has well have been revolving for all the quick 'head pop in's' who never introduced themselves (incidentally, my version of Whack-A-Mole was to not pay them so it worked out very satisfactorily) but some were intrigued and considered what I had a challenge if only I wasn't such an uncooperative patient.
My stomach was uncooperative because it rejected all food. My veins were uncooperative because they rejected by the hour all needles and IVs. My nervous system was uncooperative because I had an unusual immunity to morphine among other opiates. My flesh was uncooperative because if you so much as approached me with a cotton ball I would lose my mind in dread anticipation of pain. And my wounds were uncooperative because MRSA was wreaking havoc and threatening to stop zigzagging and head straight for internal organs and bone.
One particular specialist which I had once visited prior to my hospitalization looked like a kindly old grandpa and was so reassuring I began to trust him but his bedside manner proved me horribly wrong. He told me he had to do a biopsy at my bed and I begged him for a anesthetic. He told me not to be silly and shoved a long swab in a wound and grimaced when I shrieked.
My sister, who had not left my side and had been eating my dinner, stood up and told him to stop. He responded by throwing her out of the room, closing the privacy curtain and approached me with an instrument which bore a remarkable resemblance to a melon-baller.
Again, I pleaded for an anesthetic and he rolled his eyes and said there was one on the bedside table if it got too rough (he was lying) and just before he touched me, my sister shouted from the doorway, 'IF HE HURTS YOU ELAINE, YOU SCREAM! DO YOU HEAR ME? YOU SCREAM!!!'
The pain was so excruciating that my eyes rolled back and I let out a bloodcurdling shriek which made him drop the instrument, announce he was done and walk out. My sister ran inside and hugged me and didn't leave until Spouse arrived after he got out of work. They took shifts staying with me because in spite of impressive doses of Xanax, my anxiety levels were through the roof.
By the time he got there, the Dilaudid injection had kicked in and I was somewhat loopy as I listened to her tell him how proud she was of me and to never let that sadist near me again. They promised me juice and I fell asleep feeling like a warrior. A somewhat discombobulated warrior like the Black Knight in a Monty Python romp, but I had found my voice.
A month later I was released from the hospital under the constant care of frequent visiting nurses and Spouse and my sister as often as her job permitted.
Because I couldn't have a Dilaudid IV at home, my medical team was running in last minute circles before my discharge trying to come up with an extremely potent painkiller or cocktail that would enable me to at least not suffer so much so that I would lose consciousness even if it didn't do much as far as real relief but the only cocktail they could come up with were high doses of Percocet and Fentanyl pops, tiny suckers that would dull the pain just enough that I wouldn't consider slitting my wrists as I was told my very rare almost unheard of condition had a high suicide rate due to that pain.
They told me not to let anyone near those pops because they were normally only prescribed to those in last stage cancer and unless one was already dependent on a narcotic, one pop could potentially stop the heart of the user. So in my altered state of consciousness, I asked Spouse to lock them away and administer only what I needed for the day, and told my sister the truth, that if she experimented with them, as she had done with painkillers in the past to self-treat her occasional pulled muscles and other maladies, she could die. She promised me she wouldn't and I drifted off safely into a blissful almost but not quite painless fog.
For nearly six months.
I was quite lonely and isolated as the MRSA still had not been put in check, so when I could focus, I found a new home on the internet and when I couldn't concentrate I talked to my cat Mr.Peaches. Peachy was my kid in a catsuit, my first pet that was mine and I was his and everybody knew it. His loyalty to me, is still legend. While I recuperated, he died after a lengthy battle with liver cancer, on his own terms after a tender good-bye with me the night before. He was stoic and steadfast, my best true friend, even in his own pain and the lessons learned there are branded deeply into my heart.
And then my sister suddenly died in her sleep, some of my Fentanyl pops on her nightstand. My guilt and my grief were unbearable. I was too ill to attend her funeral, just as I was too ill to attend my brother's two years later, he dying of the same thing, having only spoken to him days before, just like my sister. I had lost so much in so short a time but still I refused to curse God and die. I didn't feel like talking too much to Him especially since a lot of people like Job's buddies thought they could speak for Him, volunteered quite enthusiastically as well and this too I wondered about as I drove home almost missing my exit.
Last night my sister-in-law confronted me in anguish and rage and demanded to know why I hadn't attended my brother's burial, the brother who loved me above all, and I had to confess the horror that continues to follow me and she forgave me and is already proving to be a staunch ally in this campaign which I have begun in order to save my future, to save myself.
In fact, my brother's last words to her, he the only one who saw the truth about what my family was still insisting wasn't happening, were, "Believe Elaine no matter how it looks, believe her."
Remembering my sister shouting to scream, my brother whispering that I was telling the truth and Peachy tenderly saying hold on, hold on, hold on, reaching from the grave, they gave me voice, credibility and mercy when I thought I had lost it. When I felt alone and adrift and betrayed by everyone and under attack.
Like Job who lost his family, his health, his belongings and everything good and meaningful, there is some reason which I may never know, behind the agony and loss. But I do know that like Job that I will forgive all, myself especially and I will be restored multiple times over.
I cannot change the past and have only so much power over the present but after what is meaningless falls away and I am stripped to the bone, to the core, I have not missed my exit but found a new doorway, and will start anew.
Now, later, begins today.