November 10, 2015. Defuniak Springs, FL. Wait, it gets better. Before “Rays Little Fall” I had visited an emergency department once in my life. It was to get stitches. And before you ask, yes it was a biking accident. Yesterday I visited my third emergency department in three weeks and three states. The number of bullet holes in the Alabama state line sign would seem to suggest the best course of action would be to duck and keep pedaling. However, paying an impromptu visit to the Emergency Department here was probably the smartest thing I’ve let Rae make me do.
The power of the human mind for denial will never cease to amaze me. People are often incredulous at tales of women showing up in labor who didn’t even know they were pregnant. That doesn’t surprise me at all. If you don’t want something to be badly enough then you find a way to make it not so. I have spent the last year or so watching my left upper torso getting progressively smaller and my skeleton becoming more prominent as the muscle mass covering it diminishes. So imagine my surprise when my left arm and hand started to get bigger again. And bigger. We tried many things, elevating it, anti inflammatory meds, sling adjustments, sleeping with a pyramid of pillows stacked on top of me to keep my arm up. But every day my arm and hand became more swollen. Rae described my hand as looking like a glove that someone had filled to capacity with water. My skin even took on a reflective sheen. The possibility of a clot had been suggested by a friend who is a physician. But I just couldn’t deal with one more fucking problem and I’m a nurse so dependent edema it was going to be, damn it. Although I was starting to wonder where my knuckles had gone and why my fingers wouldn’t bend anymore. I hate taking off my wedding ring. But fortunately I switched it to my right hand in El Paso because at this point, if it was still on my left hand, either the ring or the finger would need cutting off.
I came to the United States on a fiancé visa. Rae and I had 90 days to get married or I would have to leave the country. Both of our parents were separating at the time after long marriages and we weren’t too sure about the point of this whole marriage thing. Ours was a marriage of convenience, so that I could get a green card. It wasn’t exactly billed as the most romantic event of the century and we even told people not to bring any gifts. Would the truth be known we had even set a date for the divorce one year later in 1984.
Did I mention that in one of my many previous lifetimes I was a jeweler? Before coming to the States I spent a month back in England. I wanted to make our wedding bands but didn’t want to spend too much money because a) I didn’t have any and b) as I said, this wasn’t exactly billed as the most romantic event of the century. So while in England I asked my divorced or separated family members if I could have their old wedding and engagement bands. I took them to one of the jewelry shops I used to work at and they let me melt them down into a bar. I rolled the bar out into one long band which I then turned into two gold rings. And voilá, two free wedding rings. As cheap as my intentions may have been, over time I have come to see the wedding ring as an external sign of an internal spiritual grace, a visible representation of an invisible bond that holds two people together–even when distance separates them. I always know that Rae is at the other end of the band on my finger.
We had just dropped off Daniel, Andi and Bill in Fairhope on the Eastern Mobile Bay coast and were headed for Pensacola. When on a whim Rae turned into the Fairhope hospital parking lot and said “lets see if they’ll see us.” I’m guessing she knew better than to ask if I wanted to go. After a few hours they finally took us back to an exam room. When the practitioner came in, before so much as laying a finger on me she just looked at my hand and said we need to get a sono to check blood flow to rule out a clot. To which I proceeded to tell her why it couldn’t be a clot because of x, y and z. And by the way, did I mention that I’m a nurse?
The sono tech spent about 30 seconds on my neck and forearm respectively and about 15 minutes on my upper arm. Rae asked if she could see any clots. To which the tech curtly replied “we’re not allowed to say anything.” Which is tech speak for “you’re fucked.” Technically speaking I was right. There wasn’t “a” clot. There were two. So now I can add DVT’s to my ever growing list of health issues. I’ll be on an anticoagulant for the next 6 months. But more importantly I’ll be on a trike in 48 hours. I just have to try not to do anything that might cause me to bleed for a while. My trike shipped from Easy Street Recumbents in Austin today. We rendezvous with it on the 12th in Tallahassee. My trike is the one in the box, not the rickshaw thingy in the picture. I think.
With each ED visit I also get a new arm brace. Actually, this is #4 including the one I got from the clinic in El Paso. This one covers my fingers. So if anyone asks how I am, I can say “I can’t see my fingers, so as far as I can tell everything’s fine.” From Tallahassee we will have 8 days left of riding to get to St Augustine. I’ve been looking at the roads as we’ve driven along. Some are narrow. Some have no shoulders. Some are quite busy although we seem to be past most of the logging trucks that filled the roads in Louisiana. I have thus far not been to an Emergency Department in Florida. Depending on when you are reading this you’ll know whether or not I made it to the Atlantic. I hate it when people know more about my future than I do.
A certain amount of denial is required for me to get back on a moving vehicle without seatbelts or airbags. I am supposed to keep my arm elevated to help reduce the swelling. I could put a pile of pillows on my lap on the trike to keep my arm up. That’s the good thing about a recumbent, I wouldn’t need too many pillows to raise my arm above the level of my heart. I might even strap a few pillows to my head too. There’s nothing that cries out “street cred” like riding a recumbent trike surrounded by pillows. This trike, like my Schwinn, is fully operational by the right hand. The hand that now bears my wedding ring.
Sometimes people ask me what is the secret to a long standing relationship. If I knew the answer to that I’d write a book. Relationships are such a crap shoot. Our eldest daughter is an incurable romantic. She once asked: “Dad, how long did you and mommy date for?” I thought for a while and responded “Oh, about 30 minutes.” “Euwww. Dad!” I’m guessing that wasn’t the response she was hoping for. I was going to add “it would have been less if I could have walked in a straight line” but thought better of it. We’re a one night stand that has lasted nearly 34 years. I don’t really recall if we actually decided not to bother getting divorced or just decided that marriage wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe we just stopped denying we loved one another.
The only advice I have to offer is learn to say sorry–and mean it. Beyond that I would just say treat yourself and each other with respect. When frustration and difficulty assail your relationship, as they will at one time or another, focus on what is right between you, not only on the part that seems wrong. Remind yourselves often of what brought you together (even if it was a brand of beer).
Peace, love and midwives