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About Eric’s Wife

Some may say I am a "Stay at home Mom," but that is not even close. I am Eric's Wife. I have exhilarating strokes of genius, followed almost immediately by paralyzing pangs of self doubt and, for whatever reason, here is where I blog about it - warts and all. I serve a merciful God with a clumsy hand and at the end of each day I go to sleep thankful to be His servant and Eric's wife.

Born Blind

March 27, 2018

I was once very sick and now I am not.  I am writing because the story must be told.

Before I tell my whole story, I want you to join me for someone else’s.  It is one very dear to me, very old, and sure to tell better than I can why telling such a story can be just as important as it is daunting.

….

Born blind.  His whole life was a shrug whose only response was, “Born blind.”  Can he read?  Born blind.  Can he work?  Have a family?  Build a house?  Nope.  Born blind.  He never saw the faces, of course, but he keenly felt their helpless shrugs.  I don’t know his name, not that it matters.  Let’s just call him “Born Blind” to keep things tidy.

What made Born Blind born blind?  Nobody knows.  Maybe his mother did something while she was pregnant.  Or maybe his father brought some genetic curse on his head.  Sin?  Possibly.  Everyone sins, but blindness is such a burden that a person can’t help but wonder if it is an earned one.

In his youth he memorized by feel the way to the city gates, the temple gates, the market, and back home again.  Being Born Blind means you die blind and the sooner you get over that fact the sooner you can get to the right street corners to bring in whatever income being Born Blind provides.

Begging for scraps; he was like a shrub or a random bit of pottery in the way, nothing remarkable worth noticing and certainly not a man you’d think to hand the microphone to if you needed to hear some big truth.

And then one day a passerby handed Born Blind a microphone.

As all massively life changing events have a way of starting unannounced, his was an unremarkable morning.  228 steps from his door to the temple gates, pausing three steps for a goat and two more for a small child in the way.  He unrolled his mat, slid his hand along the wall to the ground and then laid out the mat and sat down.  He had a clink in his cup before he was even fully settled.  “Ah,” he thought, “a Sabbath crowd.  It will be a good day to sit in front of the temple.”

Sitting beside a wall, as he had done his whole life, offers few options for any kind of stimulation.  Lots of sitting and thinking.  Thinking and sitting.  Sometimes he got to hear rabbis walk by, talking deep truths of his old religion and he leaned in to hear what they might say.  Other times, he got to hear lovers fighting, making up, children crying, laughing; he had pretty much overheard every kind of imaginable conversation and scenario.  He was not a scholar in the classical sense, but an observer and a thinker.

On this Sabbath day he heard a crowd of many voices which seemed to be in an argument with a voice of one.  It was too far away to make out entire sentences, but, from what he gathered, the man was some sort of street preacher.

After a moment of the man talking, in a far off, muffled voice, a chorus of the crowd could be heard yelling back to him, “No!!  We are Abraham’s children!  We have never been slaves!!”

Oh, this is rich.  “Never been slaves?”  Israel?  Like, ever, or just today?  Whoever this man was, he had poked the hornet’s nest so severely that they lost their ever loving minds and tossed all knowledge of Jewish history aside.   Are they blind!?  Ha ha.  Blind.

Born Blind tapped the nearest gawker with his walking stick and asked, “What did that man say?”

“Something about freedom and being set free.  Also, he thinks he is God.”

God.  Right here and walking among us?  And here I am in my regular pants.  He chuckled.  Born Blind had heard it all, but this was a first.

The crowd’s yelling got even more vicious.  It’s rock throwing time.  It was a kind of electrical hum you could hear and you just knew without having to see that rocks are being picked up and aim is being taken.

Born Blind waits for the sound of the first toss.  He had heard it more than a few times in his life and it always sounded the same way.  The sound of a rock being thrown with force and finding its target in flesh is hard to forget.  Born Blind leans away from the crowds at first, but then leans in when the sound is not what he expects.  One by one, he hears rocks thud to the ground.  Can that be right?

How did the man get away?  There was no guard intervention or authority demand to cease.  The fight just ended with what sounded to Born Blind like the street preacher might have just shrugged at the crowd’s blindness and passed on by.  How odd.  How incredibly odd.  What kind of street preacher…?

The street sounds settled back into the normal and expected, as though nobody had been murderous just moments before.  Born Blind sat rigid for a second longer and observed the normalcy before relaxing back in his spot.

And then, a voice spoke up, not so much to him as at him.  “Rabbi?  Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Rigid again.  Did Born Blind just find himself the subject of cultural studies course?  Was this that trouble maker’s crowd now coming over here to poke at the poor blind man?  Born Blind’s thinking that he better get a drachma for his trou…

“Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but, that the works of God might be revealed in him.  I must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day.  The night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Born Blind did not hear anything the man said beyond, “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents…”  The rest of it was a slowed down and dizzying moment where memories flooded him of every time he asked his mother, “Why am I Born Blind?” and his father, “What use is the life of Born Blind?” and every time he shouldered the weight of people’s shrugs and every time he decided to live anyway and every time he asked God to just let him die.  They all spun around in his head and the answer was finally known.

Born Blind was born blind to reveal the works of God.

As this reality and the sudden awareness that he was, in spite of himself, believing every word this Rabbi said was washing over him, he heard the man spit on the ground and scoop up some dirt and saliva.

He was already thinking about how he was going to have to explain to his parents how he fell for a huckster when things took a turn for the very crazy and the street preacher smeared the spit/mud on Born Blind’s eyes.  Great.  How to explain…

“Go, and wash yourself in the pool of Siloam.”

He was in this far, and there was no harm in a visit to the pool, so he went.  Lowering himself to the water’s edge and dipping his hand in the water, he washed his eyes clean of the mud and blinked.

Born Blind could see.

Born Blind. Could.  See.

The whole neighborhood was amazed.  They all stared at him.  Same coat, same pants, same goofy face, but this guy can see.  Surely it’s not the guy we have known since he was a baby?  That guy was a blind beggar and this guy looks just like him.

“I am he!” he told them.

They asked him how he had his eyes opened and he told them, “A man called Jesus made mud, anointed my eyes, and then said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went away and washed, and I received sight.”

Oh, sure.  “Where is this Jesus?”

Shrug.  “I don’t know.”

So they brought Born Blind (who could now see) to the smartest people they knew, the Pharisees.  Being peddlers themselves, they were very well schooled on the nuances and odors of religious BS.   They asked Born Blind to tell them what happened.  A second time, he explains, “He put mud on my eyes, I washed, and now I see.”

Oh boy.  This crowd cannot handle this story.  Unable to wrap their very well educated brains around this man’s tale that defied logic, they asked for Born Blind (who could now see)’s best guess as to who this man called Jesus was.

Best guess?  “He is a prophet.”

Slow blink.

The Jews did not believe him and decided to bring his parents in to ask them.  Was he really Born Blind or was this a scam for begging?  How do we even know the truth?

Dragged out of their home and in front of their town’s religious leaders, Born Blind (who can now see)’s parents have to think fast.  On one hand, their darling boy can see, on the other hand, they are standing not far from a field of rocks that are aching to be thrown at someone’s head.

“Is this your son who was Born Blind?  How is it that he can now see?”

Stutter, gulp, uhhhhh, “Yes.  That is our son and our son was born blind, but how he now sees and who opened his eyes, we don’t know.  He’s of age.  Ask him.”

Back to Born Blind (who can now see.)  The exasperated religious leaders give the newly healed man a good religious what for to try and help him  snap out of it.  “Give glory to God! We know that this Jesus is a sinner.”

“I don’t know if he is a sinner.  One thing I do know: that I was blind and now I see.”

 

 

 

 

 

Amy is Going To Be Okay (part 2)

March 26, 2018

A steaming mug of coffee in the thickest possible ceramic was set in front of her.  A no brainer for most.  Just slip your fingers through the handle and around the warm cup, raise it to your lips, take a sip.  Easy.

Before the waiter can escape, “Could I have a straw please?”

Eyebrow raised in a question mark, “For your coffee?”

She raises her gnarled, limp, and useless hands from her lap to demonstrate and repeats a line she has said a million, “I have rheumatoid arthritis.”

I was four.  I wanted a straw for my chocolate milk.  I had no idea leading up to that moment that a straw was a tool for the disabled and required medical need.

“I also would like a straw.  I have… (pause for effect)…  tricycle disease.”

It was the biggest word I knew.  The waiter callously laughed at my very serious and possibly terminal condition, my grandparents laughed, they all laughed.  And I got my straw.

I don’t think that was the first time I fantasized about having some sort of dramatic illness.  It is just the first time I remember when the connection was made between being ill and getting special accommodations.

My grandmother was spoken of in my family as one speaks of war heroes.  Disabled since age 12,  she never stopped living and her glow and faith seemed to advance at twice the pace of disease.  She was a giant among men.

I wanted to be spoken of in the same way.  I wanted to be a giant.

I wanted to be ill.

It is not something I admit with ease and I am certain this can dissected in a thousand different ways for your own armchair psychological diagnosing.  I’ll just have to trust you with this confession because this story can’t be told honestly without it.

When I had my sensational daydreams about being ill, I had a few go to musts for my fantasy illness.  It had to be very serious, but not disfiguring.  It had to appear intensely painful, though I only imagined my heroically grimaced face, not actual pain.  It had to be an illness that would summon people to my bedside, where I would sit in a smart bed jacket and declare the wisdom of the ages.

Being ill was a role I was very well rehearsed for.

Until I was ill.

During the first days in the hospital, when nobody knew what was wrong, but only that something was very wrong, I was terrified that I may have gotten my wish for an illness and suddenly I didn’t want to play any more.

When it was diagnosed as transverse myelitis, and the prognosis was that it was a passing thing, I was desperately relieved and a little bit thrilled.  I would get my bedside visits, my wheelchair photo ops, all the glamour and praise of a real trouper, and still finish my senior year without much of a hiccup.

It was that numb forehead that undid me.

For months I had been stoically bearing the weight of illness and dispensing wisdom to all passersby like some sort of  undiscovered Oprah Winfrey.  I was brave, so brave.  If you couldn’t tell just by looking at me, I would do you the favor of telling you as much.  I knew it wasn’t going to last forever, so I was wringing the role out like I was Ted Danson and transverse myelitis was my Cheers.

While I was still in the rehab hospital I saw a PSA that haunted me.  A woman was sitting in a wooden chair, looking well, and then suddenly barbed wire came and wrapped around her hands, and then her feet.  I identified with the image immediately because that is what my condition felt like.  And then the barbed wire wrapped around her eyes and her mouth.  It was a PSA for MS.  I had no idea what MS stood for, but I knew that I was glad I did not have it.

When the neurologist called at 7pm and asked for an early morning visit, I felt barbed wire wrap around my forehead.  Whatever MS was, I was pretty sure I had it.  I lay in bed that night, coming to terms with it.

The next morning seemed like one long formality.  I sat in the exam room while the doctor talked with my parents, showed my parents MRI slides, told my parents about treatments available, explained to my parents my prognosis and then comforted my parents with the understanding that this must be very difficult for them.  I still am not sure why I had to be there.

While they talked, I floated outside of myself and took a good long look at me sitting there.  My fingers were a tangled mess in my lap; I had gotten good at lacing them together like a normal person, but I missed a few when going too fast.  I wore a dress that I hated and my make-up had been applied by my Mom.  Everything about me looked and felt like an invalid.  Invalid.

The scenes I had performed in my daydreams were always hazy visions of 1)me being terribly sick in a hospital bed or 2)me bravely doing whatever I have to do, exercise in a music montage, whatever, to get better and overcome.  There was absolutely no time in my fantasies where I had to do real life with hands that couldn’t even fold properly, wearing dresses others chose, and makeup others applied.

I was prepared for this role like a hipster in a hoodie is ready for a Siberian winter, but there was no way I was going to let on that I had no clue whjat the next step was.  I had studied under the greatest and I knew the words to say.  I leapfrogged all the stages of grief and jumped right to guru of acceptance.  A very keen eye might have spotted my clever performance for what it was, but I am really a very good actress.  Or, people are too polite.

I spent the remainder of my junior year at home.  My legs returned to a rubber like state and I was reduced to using a walker after two months of walking progress.  The school district sent a teacher to my house twice a week and I went to rehab weekly.  Occasionally, nurses come to the house to administer IV steroids.  I was prescribed a t-cell modifier which had to be injected every other day.

My life was not my own and I felt like an infant that had to be carted around, dressed, hair brushed, and then placed in a comfortable spot until I needed to be placed somewhere else.  From my perch I would wait for new faces to appear and notice my sad state.  The smile was always awkward.  Everyone wondered if I was going to be in this condition forever.  They all marveled at how brave and stoic I was about the whole thing.

What I said to them was always some practiced talk about how I absolutely knew God was going to take care of me and that I was prepared to go through whatever fire MS sent my way.

Oh, Amy.  You are just amazing, aren’t you?

Yes.  I know.

The real truth behind my amazing attitude?  Really?  The truth is that I was 17.  My perceived reality was that everything was going to be just fine and my parents were going to figure something out because they always did.  Also, God, as I understood Him to be, was well aware of my condition and He was going to get to me after I had twisted a bit and He felt I had learned my lesson.   In the meantime, I just had to keep it together and play the role I had been destined to play.

In the summer months before my senior year. my grandmother became very sick when an infection developed in her artificial hips.  The hips had to be removed, but her bones were so degenerated from disease that she could not get a replacement.  She chose to keep the hips in and stop having invasive procedures.  She did not get a quick death.

Days before she passed, she was in and out of morphine/pain induced comatose like state.  She looked to my mother and said her very last words and she said them with blazing wide open eyes, “Amy is going to be okay.”

“I know, Mom.”

And then, as though she feared she wasn’t believed to be speaking truth and had to be reiterated, “No.  Amy is going to be okay.”

 

 

 

Watch That First Step (part 1)

March 23, 2018

“Hey Amy, watch that first step!”

I had fallen down three concrete steps in a slow motion tumble on full display of all who were attending that Friday night football game.  It was an obvious joke to make at such a fall and I can’t blame the joker.  My cheeks burned and I felt myself do a full play by play review of what went wrong.

I was at the middle of the stands, coming down the steps.  My hand is on the rail, I take a step, and there!  There!  Back the film up and zoom in on those feet.  See!?  See!!!???  I did watch that first step.  It was clearly an equipment malfunction.  My left knee was badly scraped up. though it was thankfully hidden by my black tights and faded black denim skirt that I was wearing because 1994, that’s why.  I remember the fall well because it was the first time I remember ever being fully aware that my legs had simply quit on me mid step.

When I got home I put a bandaid on my knee.  Something about the fall and wound seemed significant, like a dark cloud.  I couldn’t express those feelings to anyone because I was already a known drama queen who could put a Rod Sterling stink on just about any kind of moment.

Weeks before my fall I had been complaining about my hands feeling numb and clumsy.  This got me two visits with two different doctors who officially diagnosed me as a drama queen.  I couldn’t argue with them.  I AM a drama queen, but deep in my gut I felt like drama queen was a co-concurring condition with something else and I knew there was no way I could convince anyone because I had already overused my fainting couch moments.

Sigh.  It is a burden that few understand.  My salts, please, and a water before I continue…

I was a junior in high school, just turned seventeen, and I had great hair.  Great hair is not all I had going for me, I just feel you should know that I was 17 and aware that I had great hair.  That should pretty well button up my character mock-up.

I was one of an ensemble cast in our school’s production of Neil Simon’s “Rumors.”  It was my first big role in a grown up play and I was confident in a way that could easily be confused for extreme narcissistic diva, but you would be wrong.  You’re always wrong.  Where’s my water?

My role in the play included pouring drinks for all the other characters using a very heavy crystal decanter and glass set.  During rehearsals we would have maybe ten glasses strewn across the set.  The decanter seemed to get heavier and heavier.  I asked if we could keep it a little less full and was again diagnosed as a drama queen.  A drama queen among drama queens is a distinction that I do not bear lightly.

Opening night was one week after my fall.  By then, I simply could not lift the decanter any more, so I cleverly searched for drinks that others had already poured and simply used that one.  So smooth.  We had three glasses on the set at the end of the night and everyone learned that they had been sharing.  The show must go on.

I may have performed that play only once, but it was possibly twice.  My Grandmother was visiting from Lubbock, TX and she did not like how I was looking.  She was a dear figure in my life and I remember going in to her room one night during that visit and crying because I felt like I had been ignoring her, but I was just so tired.  She patted my head and said that she knew something was wrong.  She was always good for seeing through my drama.

The next day after my crying spell she took my parents out for lunch and told them to get me to another doctor, offering to pay if finances were in the way.  This was back in the day of good insurance, so the only real hurdle was believing me.

They came home from lunch to find me asleep on the sofa, having come home from school and deciding to stay home and sleep until my performance that night.  I was asleep, but I know Grandma gave side eye to my parents.  Not that they deserved it, but I feel certain it happened and that needs to be a part of this story.

Grandma had an idea that my problem was multiple sclerosis, not that she said a word of that to me.  She told my Mom to get me in a nice hot bath, telling me that it was to get ready for the play, telling my Mom that heat would make MS flare momentarily if that is what it was.  She was always good for going behind my back and talking over my head.

I washed my hair, the water was way hot.  Seriously, Mom, why is it so…, slap on some condishuner, slap, slap, slap.  Ugh.  Why are my hands so heavy?  And my tongue teels tick.  Head underwater and spaghetti fingers uselessly tangle up in my hair.  I should get out.  This bath is so hot and I am dizzy.  Why am I so dizzy?  My hand slips on the side of the tub and I slide out onto the floor.  I don’t remember calling my Mom into the room, but she was there in an instant.  Of course, she had been waiting right outside the door, aware of the experiment, though unaware of just how well it had played out.

I was helped to my bed where I laid under the ceiling fan.  Getting cooled off helped considerably and I got up to prepare for the evening’s performance.  I found that I couldn’t comb my hair and asked my Mom to assist.  I imagine now how well she played along with my last moments of false reality.  Oh sure, Amy, I’ll comb your hair for you.  Lookie here, you have all the conditioner still on your head.  Let’s go get that rinsed off.  Oh?  You want to just leave it in and go to the play like this?  Okay.  That’s normal.  Let’s get you dressed.

All dressed and with my shoes Mom tied, my parents and Grandmother tell me that we are heading to see my Mom’s auto-immune doctor and the play’s director has already been alerted that I will not be performing that night.Sure, but we all know I am a drama queen.  I was certain I would be sent home with a third doctor telling my parents that I was putting on a show.

At the doctor’s office I had to be helped out of the car and walked with like a three sheets to the wind drunk.  I remember that I was wearing red sneakers and I watched them get tangled up with each step, marveling at how awful it was and wondering why I couldn’t just snap out of it already.

It took the doctor about three minutes to say he was hospitalizing me and about four minutes to say he wanted  a spinal tap.

All I heard was spinal tap.  Didn’t he know I was just putting on?  There was nothing wrong with me that would require a spinal tap.  I had read books, man.  I knew things and I knew I had no time for that in my life.  He offered me a wheelchair to get back to the car.  I accepted, but only because I committed to my character, not because I needed a spinal tap.

At the hospital I had my Mom dial and then hold the phone to my ear while I called my school friend to say I would not be at school the next day and could she please gather my homework for me.  I told her I would be back on the following Monday.  I felt my Mom’s hand tense next to my ear.

It was a Thursday night and my three brothers had various football related activities.  My parents left me with my Grandmother just as I had gotten settled into my gown.  She was no novice around that place, having been plagued by raging Rheumatoid Arthritis since she was 12 years old.  At more than sixty years old, her spine was fused into a straight rod, her every joint touched by some sort of surgery or procedure.  I remember her taking in the view of me in that bed like a tired marathoner watching a fully rested youngster line up to start.

A nurse came in the room to start an IV.  She announced her intentions very casually, as though I had been informed.  No, ma’am.  No, ma’am, indeed.  I have already agreed to let that voodoo doctor do a spinal tap.  I do not intend to let him go around doing IVs as well.  I simply will not stand for this.

“Amy.  This is happening.  Hold my hand and squeeze as hard as you want to.”

And then, my Dear Grandma put her hand with paper thin skin and fingers twisted beyond use into my hand.  I couldn’t squeeze her hand anymore than I could have accepted that offer from a baby chick in my hand.  Focusing on not destroying her hand helped me get through that first IV.  She was always good for putting her very life on the line to risk helping me through hard things.

My evening was pretty eventless, as all tests were scheduled for the next day.  I was stressed out about the spinal tap, feeling more and more certain that I could just snap out of it if I could quit playing around.  Every time that hospital door was knocked on I began to shake all over with fear that it was time.  I think my door was knocked on eleventy billion times that day.  The spinal tap guy did not knock.

After I survived that, it was decided that I needed a neurologist on the case and that pain medicine should be held off until he could see me.

The stress of waiting for the spinal tap, followed by the hours of unmedicated pain once more woke up the beast that had been nudged by my hot bath.  I lost motor control hour by hour.  My nurse came into the room like a vigilant soldier and harassed the neurologist to come quickly.  He came, saw me, agreed that something was going on, and asked my parents if maybe I was sometimes a little dramatic.

By Friday night I was unable to walk.  My spinal tap showed a high count of chicken pox virus, so I was diagnosed with some sort of spinal infection and treatment was started.  On Sunday morning, the neurologist, who had realized that I was a drama queen, but also very sick, called us to announce that he had called in some favors and got us in for an MRI.  At that time MRI was still very new and there was one single unit that traveled central Texas on an eighteen wheeler.  The waiting list was a mile long.  Providence saw to it that the machine was in town and my doctor knew the strings to pull.

I was wheeled into the MRI lab and the tech commented that it was wildly unusual that I had gotten in.  He had lots of questions about how I was doing and said that he felt certain the MRI would give answers.

Three hours later he pulled me out of the machine with a practiced smile.  He helped me back into my wheelchair and pushed my back to the hallway by my parents.  He told us that he could not diagnose anything or even tell us what he saw, but he felt confident that he could show us the MRI and let us easily draw our own understanding.  Just below my brain stem we saw a huge something on my spine.  He assure me that he did not believe it to be a tumor, but that my doctor would be able to easily tell what was wrong with the images in hand.

Back in my hospital room, my nurse was there with an IV bag waiting.  High dose steroids were started.  My neurologist arrived a few hours later and says that I have Transverse Myelitis, more of a symptom than an actual diagnosis.  He suspected MS, but kept that to himself, knowing that steroids would be the protocol either way and there was no need getting the drama queen worried.

One week after that, I watched the scab on my knee flake off and remembered how it all started.

Two weeks in the hospital and three months of outpatient rehab saw me walking again.  My hands were very slow in coming back to full usefulness, so I continued occupational rehab for long while.  One of my therapist’s favorite games for me involved the task of removing nuts from bolts.  One afternoon I was diligently working in this task when I felt my furrowed brow go numb.  Ha ha.  Nervous laughter.

I answered my questioning therapist by telling her that my forehead had suddenly gone numb, but that was not possible because my spinal injury should not affect anything above my neck.  Clearly, I was drama queening again.  She excused herself to make a phone call.

Two days later I was once more enjoying a three hour MRI in a once more providentially immediately available machine.  That night, my neurologist called at 7pm to ask us to come in first thing in the morning.

They never do that for good news.  Drama queen or not, I knew that much.