The Blooming Desert

The desert is blooming, and so, I hope, am I. Each day I do a bit more, stretching my poor deformed limb, trying to get back into my life, whatever that might be.

No — not my poor deformed limb. My exquisite limb. As Sheila Deeth, friend and fan extraordinaire, suggested, paraphrasing the blurb at the bottom of my posts, “’an exquisite wrist, wrenching to move, and at the same time full of profound promise’ perhaps?” I like her phrasing so much better than the way I describe my wrist! And I’m sure the wrist would appreciate the new appellation because it is trying so hard to move! It’s not the limb’s fault it doesn’t look the same as it used to. (Though who am I to judge? I don’t look the same, either!)

Today I used both Pacerpoles (I’d been using the right-handed trekking pole as a cane), thinking the left pole would give my wrist a workout, and sure enough, it did, though I had to carry the pole part of the way. Still, any usage of the wrist, no matter how painful, is a step in the right direction.

And, even better, both my exquisite wrist and my exquisite self were rewarded with these exquisite images of the blooming desert:

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Dipping My Toe Into Wanderlust Again

Facebook has a feature where they show us our memories — the pictures or articles we had posted on this day a year or more ago. Today Facebook reminded me of a blog post I wrote two years ago called “Dipping My Toe Into Wanderlust,” which I found synchronous because today, once again, I dipped my toe into wanderlust.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? And, in its way, it is very exciting. I drove today! I’ve only driven twice since I fell on November 19, once to the hospital with my wrist wrapped in the glittery veil from my dance costume, and once very carefully when I moved to my new place. Both times I knew the danger of driving a standard transmission one handed, so I’ve been keeping my car packed away. I knew eventually I would have to start driving again, maybe in another week or two, but my erstwhile occupational therapist stopped by to visit with me yesterday (such a treat to see her!), and she thought I should start driving as part of my physical therapy.

She expressed dismay at the surgeon’s disinclination to prescribe therapy yet, but I am okay with his decision. I am doing what I can, taking myself to the edge of tolerable pain, and that is enough for now. At least that is what I tell myself.

Apparently though, I am doing okay for one who is a mere two weeks past surgery and a week past having the soft cast removed. I drove for a couple of hours today — perhaps foolishly, but it felt so good to be on the road that I didn’t want to come back. (And the poor, long-suffering bug needed exercise.) Although my hand is still too swollen to make a tight fist, I was able to get a good grip on the steering wheel. I had no problem at all, not even backing up or making tight turns, even though my ultra-basic car has no power steering.

I ache now of course, but I am at that stage in healing where I almost always ache. If I don’t ache, I use the pain-free interval to do wrist and hand exercises, which returns me to the place of pain. I don’t like pain, I’m certainly no masochist, but I’m learning to appreciate whatever sensations come my way. With as much damage as there was to the elbow, arm, wrist, and hand (although the hand bones were not broken, they had all been pushed close to the thumb), including the breaks in the the bones and the rips and tears in the tendons and ligaments, it’s miraculous that I had no nerve damage. And so, lucky me — truly! — I have full sensory use of my fingers and arm, and if that sensory awareness includes pain, so be it.

But this is not a time to be talking about pain, but to celebrate. I drove today! Can wanderlust be far behind?

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Small Steps and Big Adventures

I don’t know if the title of this post should be “Small Steps and Big Adventures” or “Small Adventures and Big Steps.” Nor do I know which are the steps and which the adventures. Perhaps each activity is a bit of both.

Although I have been using speech recognition software for my blogs, today, in the interest of physical therapy, I am typing by hand. Two hands. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

The effort to type probably falls more in the category of masochism rather than a step or an adventure. My real adventure came the day after my “I Have a Secret” post. Not wanting to spend another day dealing with the emotional side effects of my injury, I made plans to meet a friend for ice cream. Normally, this would be a simple and quick pleasure — drive for ten minutes straight down the closest major road to the ice cream shop. But when one is not able to drive — it’s too dangerous to drive one-armed in traffic, especially under the influence of pain pills, and without the pills, I would be in too much pain — the trip is more complicated, involving buses and transfers, and two hours of travel time one way. But I did it! And it was nice. A small adventure and a simple pleasure.

Yesterday a friend took me shopping, which is always wonderful. We stopped for lunch, had a good time, decided to do the thirty-day cleansing diet (no grains, milk products, legumes, or sweeteners of any kind) starting on Monday. And I promised to stop by ballet class for barre work on Tuesday. Both of those (the diet and dance) were major decisions. I haven’t been feeling well — understandable because of the pain, the continued effects of the injury, and my attempts at rehabilitation — but some of my malaise, I am sure, is due to my need for treats and poisons. (Hot dogs, potato chips, and soda. And jellybeans. Oh, my. How low I have fallen!) I hope the stringent diet will help me get back into more sensible eating habits.

The dance class promise is more problematic. I don’t want to go back to class. I feel as if the deformed arm and resulting disability are a direct result from dancing (or indirect, since I was walking out of the theater after a performance when I fell), and though people tell me I can’t feel that way, I can’t help it. Besides, the injury is way too severe to come from something that was supposed to be fun. Even more than that, I am not ready to confront all I have lost — there is too much I can’t do, too much I shouldn’t do, at least not yet. And most of all, I took dance classes to bring me to life after Jeff died, and now here I am, right back where I was — in agony.

But . . . I promised. So I will go. I also said I would try to get to Hawaiian class tomorrow. We’ll see. (I’m using a photo of me in a costume in the hope it would make me feel better about going, but it doesn’t seem to be working.)

The main thing that happened is that I took a shower!!! All by myself!!! The last time I took a shower, I had help. For the past two months, I’ve been washing my hair in the sink and taking one-handed sponge baths, but my new bathroom (private!) came with a shower chair, so today I took the plunge.

A shower should not be such a big deal. I spent decades showering by myself. And yet, today, showering (and typing) are huge steps. Painful steps, but still steps. The hardest part about all these steps and adventures is trying not to look back at what was or forward to what will or won’t be, but taking it from here.

My brother, the mostly sane one, has a golf metaphor about hitting a ball into a sand trap. Once you’re there, you can’t worry about how you got into the mess. You have to assess the situation and go from there.

Well, I assessed this situation and decided I much prefer speech recognition software. It is a lot less painful.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

I Have a Secret

If you’ve known me long enough, I’m sure you can guess what my secret is. Although I try to take things as they come, am grateful for the blessings that tiptoe into my life, struggle to find a good side to any setback, the truth is, I hate this.

I hate that I fell and destroyed my arm and wrist so badly I won’t be able to do everything I once did. I hate that I am in pain and that from now on might always have to deal with pain. I hate that my arm is deformed. I hate that after almost five months, I am still struggling just to get through the days. I hate that getting the fixator off didn’t really change anything except that it catapulted me into a new and vastly longer time of pain and rehabilitation. I hate that Jeff is gone — somehow it seemed to me that after all the agony of his death, I would live a charmed life, because shouldn’t such a terrible thing be offset by an equal amount of joy? I especially hate that that particular conceit didn’t turn out to be true, and I now have to deal with not only his absence but also my increased vulnerability.

I tell myself all the things I’m sure you are thinking. I tell myself the injury could have been so much worse, and that is true. The force of the fall was so great, I could have broken my back or my neck or my face.  I tell myself I will get used to all of this, and that also is true — I will get used to it . . . eventually. I tell myself that just because we survive one horror in our life it doesn’t mean we are safe from other horrors. I tell myself that I am grateful for this time of healing, that I don’t have responsibilities clamoring for my attention. And I’m grateful for the friends who helped me in my need, for the readers who have offered support and comfort, for the doctor who tried to put my mushed wrist and shattered bones back together.

And yet, tonight, none of that seems to matter.

Luckily, there are only so many hours in one particular night, and soon this night will be over. I don’t suppose tomorrow will be much different from today, except for perhaps gaining the strength and courage to go on.

That, at least is one thing I do not hate — the ability to keep going despite the traumas that sometimes bow my back.

Here’s hoping will all have a good night and that tomorrow we’ll wake refreshed and able to shoulder the burdens — and joys — of the new day.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Acknowledging Pain. And Pleasure.

Sometimes I wonder at what point telling one’s truth becomes self-indulgence, but I don’t suppose it matters. Writing helps me process my various traumas, and if anyone gets tired of my tales of woe (I am a Wednesday’s child after all) he or she can move on to sunnier blogs. I do know that in the scope of world events, such as wars and other horrors, a disabled and deformed arm is of little consequence, but in my world, the injury continues to loom large.

Still, I don’t suppose anyone really needs to know that yesterday I shed tears of pain, frustration, and fatigue. It’s amazing how much energy it takes to deal with chronic pain and even more amazing that the ensuing exhaustion does not lead to easy sleep. If I sit quietly and don’t move my left elbow, arm, wrist, or fingers, the ache is minor and can be easily ignored, but remaining immobile is a good way of ensuring that my left limb will remain permanently immobile.

Normally massaging an atrophied limb makes it feel better, but I have so much scar tissue to be massaged, that kneading makes the pain worse. Unfortunately, I need to knead, so this pain, too, I have to endure. Ignoring scar tissue is dangerous. (Recently two friends have undergone major surgeries because of old scar tissue) and I have enough problems without worrying about scar tissue eventually impeding the flow of blood.

There’s no therapist cracking a metaphoric whip to make me do the necessary work, just my own undisciplined self trying to put myself back together again. Some of the pain is inadvertent, such as when I absently reached out to grab something with my left hand, but that is all to the good. After all, the whole point of gaining as much mobility and flexibility in the limb as possible is to be able to use the arm without thinking about it.

The very idea of having to live with such pain and effort for a year or two (and possibly the rest of my life) is daunting, so I try not to think — just do. I could take pain pills, and I did take one last night, but although they sometimes take the edge off the pain, they cause additional problems such as vertigo, so I only take them as a last resort. During the months when I absolutely had to take the pills, I couldn’t bend over without feeling as if I were falling, couldn’t walk without feeling as if I were off balance. (I still use a trekking pole as a cane, though now it is more of a precaution than a necessity. But come to think of it, it is a necessity. Any fall could cause more damage to that poor pulverized wrist.)

At the moment, I feel more hopeful than I did yesterday, maybe because I have not yet been reduced to tears. I do know I have to take each day as it comes without trying to negate — or exacerbate — my pain, frustration, and fatigue.

Although I have not yet learned to ignore the wails of the passing trains at night (during the day, the wind blows the sound away, so it’s not as much of a problem) and have not completely eradicated the smell of stale cigarette smoke from my room. I do feel that this new place is more conducive to healing than the old one. I have more privacy inside and a nicer area to walk outside. Being a creature of habit, I often take the same route — winding through the neighborhood, looping across the desert, and returning by way of the longest sidewalk I have seen since I left a city grid. That anachronistic sidewalk pleases me as much is the open space of the desert does.

So, see? I am not all doom and gloom, though sometimes it does feel that way.

Here’s to healthier and happier days for all of us.

 

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Everything Passes

I had a moment of discouragement today. It didn’t last long — moments by definition don’t last long —but in that moment, I totally lost heart.

This should have been a good day. I had my post-op doctor’s appointment to get the final bandages off my arm, and I was actually feeling pretty good until I saw my arm unadorned — no fixator, no bandages, just me. I knew the arm was deformed but had never actually seen what it was going to look like, and the misshapenness shocked me. My wrist and arm were unfamiliar as the back of my hand, or even the front of my hand. (All the bones of my hand were squished together in the fall, and they were never able to be put back where they should’ve been.) I don’t suppose other people would notice the deformity, especially at a casual glance, but it is quite pronounced.

People keep telling me to look on the bright side. That at least I still have an arm. That other people have it worse. That up until now I have been lucky. I understand what they’re saying, but it doesn’t really help. Once you start comparing yourself to other people (some do have it worse, but others have it better) or to what was or might have been, self-pity is not far behind. And self-pity is a deformity of its own.

Besides, today is about me. What happened to me. And it seems as if being disheartened for a moment, or even two, is a perfectly sensible reaction.

Still, when people aren’t trying to be encouraging (and succeeding only in making me feel bad), I’m okay because the truth is it could have been worse, a lot worse. And up until now I have been lucky. I’ve never been particularly beautiful, and I carry some extra weight, but in its own way, my body has been perfect. And now it’s not.

As the surgeon said, however, it’s not how the arm looks but how it works. He was quite impressed with the mobility I have managed to regain in my fingers. (I can almost make a fist.) I only did what he told me to do, which was work my fingers whenever I got a moment, and I will apply that same diligence to my wrist. This is the long haul now. He says even the most simple hairline fracture of the wrist takes a year to gain the maximum possible mobility, and my injury (injuries, actually) was 1000 times worse than that. So I’ll try not to be discouraged for two years, at which point I will know what I have to live with, and will probably even be used to it.

Although several people have told me to make sure I demand physical therapy, the surgeon said there’s no point in going to physical therapy yet, that it’s better to wait until I get some mobility, otherwise the therapist would just sit me in a corner and have me work the wrist. And that I can do now. He will reassess in three months. Until then I am on my own. He did offer suggestions, such as massaging the scar tissue because the extensive scar tissue is impeding some of the motion. And he suggested water therapy: A large sponge in a bucket of warm water. Reach the hand in the bucket of water and squeeze the sponge letting the water run down the arm. Sounds therapeutic, doesn’t it? Almost pleasant.

When I stand outside myself and don’t let myself get involved in the emotion of the injury, I find the whole thing both interesting and challenging. But you can’t live outside yourself. And in myself I feel . . . so many aches and pains and emotions.

But one way or another, everything passes, and so will all of this.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Olio

Olio is one of those words dearly loved by crossword puzzle makers but that you never hear in real life. Olio means a miscellaneous collection of things, and that’s what today’s blog is — a collection of loosely connected thoughts.

Every time I write a blog using speech recognition software, I am especially pleased with how easy it is to tag an article. Normally, I would scour a blog searching for keywords, then copy and paste those words into the blog editor. This always added an extra 15 minutes or more to a blog — not that I begrudged the time, but it felt laborious. Now all I have to do is set my cursor at the bottom of the document, re-read what I wrote, and voice any terms I come across that I wish to use for keywords. Then I copy and paste the entire list into the blog editor. I don’t honestly know if using speech recognition software to tag an article saves time, but the process is so much less tedious, I don’t mind tagging as much as I did.

People keep telling me that one day I will understand the good that has come from destroying my arm, but I don’t necessarily think things — especially this injury thing — happen for a reason. They just happen. I do know most of us tend to make the best of bad situations, because really, what else can we do? In my case, since my pulverized wrist keeps me from two-handed typing, I got speech recognition software to make writing easier. And oh, it truly does make writing easier — though is it still writing if one is actually speaking and not writing?

I imagine writing has come to mean any means of disseminating one’s thoughts via words to people not immediately present. Every writer knows there is a vast difference between typing and writing, so there is also a difference between merely talking and writing using speech recognition software.

Still, as helpful as the program is, there is no way I would have ever exchanged a perfect arm for a piece of software, especially since I could have bought it either way, giving me both a perfect arm and speech recognition software. As for other benefits of having broken my arm? There are none that I can see. I can’t think of any lesson I learned. No monetary windfall came my way, and because of all the bills, I’m worse financially than I was before. And, of course I am worse off physically. The best I can hope for is to regain as much mobility I can, learn to live with whatever disability (and pain) is left, and not let fear of injury impede further adventures.

Oddly, with all of the care and worry of the external fixator, and the recent surgery to remove it, I’d forgotten I broke my elbow in so many places that I now have a metal elbow to match the various pins in my arm and the plate in my wrist. I never did any physical therapy for the elbow, just exercised it, and though I don’t yet have full mobility, I’m doing quite well. And my fingers are working to a certain extent. I was finally able to cut my hair (yep, I’m a do-it-yourselfer all the way). And today I discovered I could tie my shoes. Such a big girl now! Can tie my own shoes! When I had the occupational therapist, she tied my shoes for me; I left the laces tied and used the shoes as slip ons.

During the past four and half months, ever since I fell, I’ve been more or less drugged. It didn’t really feel as if I were, but now that I have been drug-free for a week — the recent anesthesia has worn off and I’ve sworn off pain pills — I can see that I’ve been in some sort of altered state. I don’t remember everything that happened during the past few months. It’s as if I walked out of the theater after the dance performance on November 19 and woke up today living in a different room, different neighborhood, and with a disabled arm.

I’m also disoriented as to time. I fell in the autumn and now summer is on the way. I seem to have misplaced a season or two. And I’m disoriented as to days and hours. When I was out walking today, I panicked, thinking I should be at the doctor’s office for my post-op appointment. I called to tell them I would be late and discovered I would not be late but in fact was twenty-three and a half hours early.

I don’t really know what to make of all this, though I suppose there is nothing to make of it. Just continue on as I’ve been doing — one day at a time, taking the bad with the good.

My most recent watercolor. Maybe it’s time I start signing them.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

My April Time

Last week brought big changes. First, although I was not supposed to have the surgery to get my fixator off until this Tuesday, April 4, when I went for my pre-op on Monday, March 26th, the surgeon decided to take the hardware off the next day due to irritation around the pin sites. So, I had the surgery on Tuesday, March 27, the seventh anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death. I spent Wednesday in bed trying to recuperate, finished packing on Thursday, and moved on Friday and Saturday with the help of some friends.

I hadn’t really planned to move, but the place where I was staying had become un-conducive to healing. (Is that proper terminology? If not, the words describe how I felt, which makes it proper.) And this new place fell into my hands. It’s across the street from open desert, and while the house itself is much quieter than the one I came from, the area is vastly noisier. Dogs barking, power tools screeching, and trains howling. (This is a major transit area for trains, not passenger trains but freight trains, and they come within a mile of where I am staying, sometimes every few minutes, blaring horns all the way. Yikes.)

Still, I think the trains create sounds I can get used to, I have earplugs for other intrusive noises, and — did I mention? — I am across the street from the desert! I can’t really go hiking yet— because of my destroyed arm I am considered a fall risk (and I feel like I am at risk for a fall) — but I can pick my way carefully through the lower trails and washes. The neighborhood is also much nicer than the one where I’d been staying, and I have a private bath, which, along with the proximity to the desert, helps offset the noise pollution. (It’s amazing to me how much noise pollution we allow. Why should one man with a chainsaw be allowed to destroy the quiet of an entire neighborhood? It doesn’t seem right.)

I still have a long recovery ahead of me, at least a year, perhaps two, until I get to my maximum mobility. Although the surgeon continues to claim I will only end up with fifty percent mobility and guarantees that I will suffer from posttraumatic arthritis, I intend to do everything I can to heal. If I were with someone, I’m sure I would have the same resolve, but being alone and facing a future alone, I need to give myself the greatest chance of being able to take care of myself completely for as long as possible.

Oddly, despite a few surges of grief over the fate of my arm, I’ve handled the situation with equanimity. Perhaps the lessons of grief and other adversities have finally sunk in. The arm might be deformed, might be lacking in strength and mobility, but I am not deformed. I am not lacking in strength and mobility. Whatever happens with the arm, it in no way changes me — who I am at the core. (Of course, it still hasn’t been determined who I am at the core, but I don’t know if it’s necessary to make that determination. It should be enough simply to be. To adapt. To become.)

One change I’m curious to see how will affect me is that for the first time in a long time, I have a place to read and relax other than on the bed. Will I be able to sleep better using the bed only for sleep? I guess I’ll find out.

It seems sort of a new beginning, this April. I passed the seventh anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death. I got the external fixator removed, which will allow me to enter a more active role in my healing. And I have a new place to stay.

In her book The Stillwater Meadow, Gladys Tabor wrote: “People have seasons . . . There is something steadfast about people who withstand the chilling winds of trouble, the storms that assail the heart, and have the endurance and character to wait quietly for an April time.” During the first years of my grief — while I worked through the pain of my life mate/soul mate’s death and our separation, adjusted to life without him, learned to think of him with gladness instead of sadness, searched for new ways of being and new reasons for living, realized that he is he and I am I and we have separate paths in life — I held fast to the idea of an April time.

Now, finally, an April time — perhaps even my April time — is here.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Yay! Great News!

I went to the doctor today for my pre-op appointment in preparation for surgery next Tuesday. Because there is a bit of irritation around one of the insertion points of the external fixator, he decided to reschedule the surgery for tomorrow. I planned to do a countdown this coming week, counting, down the days until the fixator is removed, so here is the countdown to surgery:

One.

I thought this would be an unsad day because of the doctor’s and lab appointments, and that busyness would have kept me from feeling the grief of this day — the seventh anniversary of Jeff’s death — but at the moment I am too excited to feel sad. I refuse to think about the coming weeks (and months!) and the pain that will be involved in trying to get my hand back into its proper position and getting some mobility in my wrist, but I won’t have to think about any of that for at least another week. After the fixator is removed, they will bandage the puncture wounds and put a soft cast around the wrist to give it a bit of support for the next week. And after that. . . well, I’ll go from there, dealing with whatever it is I need to deal with.

Although this should be a relatively uncomplicated surgery, any surgery under anesthesia is a risk, so please, spare a thought for me tomorrow, and wish me well.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Eve of Seven Years of Grief

1:40 AM tonight marks the seventh anniversary of when my life mate/soul mate died. If it is true that our bodies are renewed every seven years, then this anniversary is another death — the death of whatever remains of him in me. When two people live together for an extended period of time, in our case thirty-four years, you not only exchange ideas and energy, you also exchange atoms and molecules, and DNA via benign viruses, so for all these years I carried a bit of him with me. And now he is truly gone. (I still have his cremains, haven’t decided yet what to do with them, but that is another story.)

A month ago, I entered a spate of grief so profound, I felt almost the same as I did at the beginning, as if parts of me were being amputated. Could that be when the last iota of him in me died? As romantic as the notion is, I have a hunch the upsurge of grief was simply that — an upsurge. Generally the month leading up to the anniversary is much worse than the anniversary itself, and I expected the past month to be a horror of pain. During that grief upsurge though, I wrote him a letter, and also printed out a photo of him to hang on my wall. (My photos are all packed away in a storage unit, and since I cannot drive because of my arm, they are not available to me.) Because of this renewed connection, as ephemeral though it might be, or maybe just because after all it’s been seven years since he died, the past month has not been a horror of grief, but rather a time of relative tranquility.

I still don’t understand life, death, grief. Don’t understand why some people are allowed to live out their lives with a special person, and others are fated to go into old age alone. It used to bother me, this unknowing, and sometimes it still does, but generally I try to live in the moment, to take from the day what I can and leave the immortal questions for another time.

I do know I will always be grateful he shared his life with me, even though memory of that life is fading behind newer memories of my life alone. And I know I will always miss him. We shared a special bond, not like a long married couple, not even like soul mates, though that is how I describe our relationship — more like cosmic twins. For most of our life together, I thought the bond was so strong it would pull me into death when he went, and I resented his having five years more of life than I would. As it turns out, something in me did die that day but other things were born, such as a determination to live, and I have now lived two years longer than he did. I resent the extra years on his behalf, though I hope he is beyond caring.

I don’t know where the next seven years will lead me — no one knows what the future will bring, of course. Will it end with me sitting at my computer telling you about the 14th anniversary of his death? By then, I will be elderly. No, I don’t want to even think about that. I’m still afraid of growing old alone, still afraid of being old alone. But today, living in the moment, there is no fear, just a sense that . . . I don’t know . . . maybe that my life is unrolling as it must.

There probably won’t be room for tears tomorrow. I have pre-op doctor and lab appointments that will take up much of the day. (As of now, the surgery to have the external fixator removed from my arm is scheduled for April 4th.) And I am packing one handed for a move to a nicer room and a nicer neighborhood.

Changes.

So much has changed in the past seven years. For a long time, I lamented that his death and my grief did not change me, but looking back, I no longer know who that woman was who clung so firmly to life when all she loved was swept away.

One thing has not changed — a great yearning to see him one more time. To see his smile that so often warmed me. To see the light in his eyes when something interested him.

And one other thing has not changed — disbelief. I can’t believe he’s been gone so many years. Can’t believe I survived.

And yet, changed,/ unchanged, here I am.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.