Years ago, MG taught me a valuable lesson about marriage. We would be "discussing" some issue and I'd say, "That just your perception,'' to which she'd reply "My perception is your reality."
That sounds crazy at first, and completely unfair, but the longer we've been married the more I realize it's true. I have to deal with her perception as my reality. I have to see things from her perspective and figure out how to respond to that perspective, otherwise whatever the issue is that is dividing us will not be bridged.
Her perception is my reality.
I have learned that again this week, as MG has slowly awakened from the accident, the surgeries, the drugs and tubes and brain-altering lack of a clear day-night timeline that is life in the hospital.
My perspective: I have been living at this hospital for nearly three weeks, staying all day and most of the night by MG's bedside, watching and talking to her and waiting for her to respond from all the surgeries and treatments. And now that, over the last two or three days, she is more alert and aware and has moved out of ICU and into a private room, I'm relieved and starting to feel like life can begin to be some kind of normal.
MG's perspective: she woke up two days ago. She has no memory of all that has gone on except what I and others have told her, but just hearing about it doesn't make it real. She didn't - from a cognitive sense - experience any of it. To her, this ordeal began two days ago when she finally broke through the drug-fog and began to experience real time again.
Do you see the difference? For me, this is week three; for MG, it's day three.
That's a huge difference in perspective and reality.
I have been trying to do as much work as possible from here, and given the wonders of technology - laptops and cell phones - I feel like I've been able to stay on top of things. However, to someone who grew up PVR (pre-virtual reality), there is nothing like "being there,'' seeing people face to face and interacting in the place where things are happening.
So thinking that MG was coming around and that I had spent over two weeks away from my office, I decided it was time to make a quick run back to Gulfport, where my work is based.
Reasonable of me, right?
But remember, MG just woke up to this new reality that I've had more than two weeks to start to get adjusted to. And while she would never say it like this, I realized while I was gone that it was as if she'd just had a serious accident and I had run off to go to work.
Unreasonable of me, right?
So who is right?
Her perception is my reality.
(And, to be fair, the reverse is true too - MG understands that my perception has to be part of her reality, too. It's not one-sided).
When I left, MG was awake, but still heavily drugged. I honestly thought I could get down and back and while she would know I was gone, she wouldn't really know for how long.
At 5:30 Wednesday morning, I got a text from SB: "Are you awake?"
At 6:15, I got a text: "Are you awake? Mama wants to talk to you."
I was, and called; I knew I was in trouble.
It was so good to hear her raspy voice on the phone. She said she wasn't upset that I had gone, just bothered that I had tried to "trick" her. But, she added, it was nothing that some flowers and chocolate couldn't fix.
Unfortunately, the hospital doesn't allow flowers in the rooms up here.
Some of the folks with BP in Houston sent a basket of treats - including chocolate - to her room today. So I'm halfway in the clear.
Trust me, there will be flowers.
Remember when SB said, ""Every step forward is going to be full of hard?" I'm not sure any of realized just how true those words would be. Maybe even now, we still only have the vaguest of clues as to what that really means.
There are times we all gather and laugh and talk and even play games, and we see that the next few months will be manageable as we work through this "interruption" as a family.
Then there are times when we see how difficult it is going to be - when the pain becomes unbearable for MG and the rest of us can't do anything about it; when one of us has to be there to do things for MG that she can't do for herself (and trust me, it's not because she doesn't want to do them herself); when the 'other things' of life get pushed aside or delayed or done just good enough because our attention tends to be all on this.
Understand, that's one thing about our family: we will do this together. Not just our immediate family, but extended family. MG's brothers and sisters and in-laws have already talked about setting up a schedule to come down for a week at a time to be with her and help out; my brothers and sisters are offering to come and help; and then of course there are friends who I know without a doubt if I were to say "I need ..." they wouldn't even wait to see what it is I need but would begin springing into action while the thought was still making the transition from brain to mouth.
Still, it doesn't help when MG is overwhelmed at just what has happened to her and how different her life is going to be. We can offer all kinds of support, but in the end she has to process it and work through it and deal with it.
And we - I - have to figure out how to deal with her.
We are out of the ICU and in a private room. We're out of that glass-walled room, where everyone walking by could look in and the people in rooms on either side could adjust blinds or curtains and we could all see each other. There is a fold-out couch that I can sleep on. There is privacy.
But it's not home, and MG wants to be home. Truthfully, there is very little she can do here, now, that she couldn't be doing at home. The physical therapists come by and are working with her on being able to move from bed to wheelchair and back again. That's going to be about the extent of her movement for approximately three months: bed to chair, chair to chair, chair to bed. Maybe, in time, there will be a car ride.
I remember being so daunted at how long this process might take. But then I'm not the one who feels the frustration of limited mobility, who bears the pain of a multiple-broken body beginning to mend. If three to six months feels like a lifetime to me now, to MG it looks like an eternity.
The therapists have given us reason to believe we could be home this weekend or by Monday. MG already has it in her head that she could be going home tomorrow (Friday). Patience was never her strong suit. I think it might be Monday, if for no other reason than her orthopedic surgeon is out of town at a conference and won't be back until Monday and, for some reason, I think he might want to see her before she leaves the hospital.
Pain is still very much an issue. She can't stay upright in the wheelchair for very long without wearing herself out. Someone told me that you can lose as much as 50 percent of your body strength if you stay in the hospital like this for over a week. I believe it. But MG is doing her arm exercises, and did remarkably well in her physical therapy today. I think it's more her determination and adrenaline than having built up the right amount of strength, but what do I know?
I just know that at home life will at least have the framework of normalcy.
Although ever step forward will continue to be full of hard.
Still, those steps will be easier to take once we're home.