Touching You Right Back

January 30, 2009

Clay, your post was heart-wrenching and beautiful. Thank you for your courage to be honest and open.

I witnessed and shared your deepening pain in the days just before the planned audition. If my comments about the importance of the event made it even harder for you, I’m sorry.

Fear and discouragement were my constant companions in Peru, DC, and Richmond, and it was often really, really hard to find, hold, and share hope in the face of it.  Thank you for giving so much to your sister. Holding another’s life force in your hands even for a moment is an awesome responsibility.

The good news is that growth and positive changes keep happening through this ordeal. For me, our relationship is the strongest and most authentic it’s ever been. And we, along with Mariah, are learning more about life, love, and the power of the divine spirit within ourselves than many folks even imagine in a lifetime.

I love you, Clay. Blessings on you, Son.

– Dad

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Staying in Touch

January 30, 2009

Well I sincerely hope we haven’t lost anyone in the gap since the last post.

To be quite honest, I hit a slump the past two weeks on a personal level.  The good news about that is that I have managed not to drop the ball with my care-taking duties; I only nearly dropped the ball on taking care of me.   I planned on going to North Carolina last week to audition for music school possibly for next fall and I struggled to manage with my expectations not being met.

Admittedly, I have no idea how to find balance in my current life and work with Mariah, but we are both somehow still here and growing stronger, I discover.  I try to focus on Mariah’s recovery when blogging (d’uh! this is not claysreemergence.com!), but I guess that just for the present, we are in it together.

A few nights ago, I lay awake reading some poetry and Mariah tossed in her bed.  I asked her if she knew why I was here taking care of her.  She responded, “no…”   I told her that it was deeper than familial obligation or “doing the right thing.”

The poem was about hope.  It was defined as “the hardest love we carry”.  I told her that I believe I am here to help her carry that burden.  The heavy stuff is always lighter when we share the weight.

My sister is often lost in the desperation of her circumstances and I do know personally that that can be a blessing in disguise; a place from which we can receive hope.  For some of us, it is the only place from which we can become willing to receive the kind of hope we never previously thought existed.

Anyway, forgive my babbles and ramblings.  My point is that on the flip side of that “gift of desperation” is the terror of believing we are alone in our desperation.  I lost sight of my hope the past two weeks and also encountered my first feelings of questioning whether or not I want to be here doing this job.

After just six weeks on this job, I felt really ashamed and embarrassed for feeling like giving up.  But pride aside, I just need to let you all know that I am scared a lot. I don’t  know how I am getting it done, but I am taking great care of Mariah and would you all please keep praying for both of us, because that is where I draw my strength.

For those of you who have had enough of “what’s on Clay’s mind”, Dad visited last week and took some great pics and videos and will have those posted in the coming days, so I am gonna sit back and let him cover me this go-around and let you all see for yourselves Mariah’s progress and reemerging strength.

Love and Light,

Clay

    Greetings blog-fans.  This has been an active week in Mariah’s re-emergence process.  Whereas therapy-packed days previously led Mariah back to her bed to spend hours sleeping or otherwise staying off of her feet and off her butt, she has hit the gym off-campus every day this week in the evening after a full day of physical, occupational, and speech therapy’s.  Her workout includes a minimum of thirty minutes cycling followed by weight-resistance training and therapy-related exercise.  Not to mention she has attended several other appointments as well, such as dental work, opthomolgy exams, and doctor visits.  Actually Mariah’s attendance to appointments is apparently singularly unique, I found out yesterday morning.  After a late Thursday night, I dragged myself out of bed at 7 am to feed Mariah and myself this week’s breakfast usual of oatmeal and fresh fruit, and then off to our first appearance at morning formation with the rest of Mariah’s Able Troop to which she was recently assigned while here at Walter Reed.  A stern Major addressed the Able Troop and apparently reiterated the importance of each soldier’s attendance to his or her appointments because, and I quote, “Once again, the Able Troop is leading in no-shows”  This of course registered in my own delinquent mind as hmmm…next time you miss formation and the sergeant calls you, just gently turn his attention back to the rest of the troops who are probably playing Nintendo Wii in their rooms instead of going to physical therapy…(ahh it feels good to be on the right side of the mean average!)

The most exciting piece of news from this week is that Mariah is now putting in afternoon hours at the AFIP (Armed Forces Institute of Pathology) about two hundred yards up from the Mologne House on campus.  This is pretty much a dream job for Mariah, and after her first two afternoons doing gross pathology work she has come out beaming and totally psyched for the next visit.  I can’t give a detailed account because I haven’t asked her a lot of questions about it, but she is thrilled and seems very much newly inspired.  It shows, both in her smile, and in her dedication.   She is really putting in that “one extra” in her sessions, and rather than wait for me to come up with activities in free time, she is tossing out suggestions.  This morning she reminded me, “Hey let’s go to that Pompeii exhibit at the National Gallery of Art”  (I was of course surfing the net, at the time).   So we went to the museums today, took in the Italian masterpieces and perused the exhibits at the Native American museum and finished off the day back at Mologne watching, “Thank You for Smoking” on our movie screen.  We are doing great and hope that YOU are as well.

Love and Light, 
Clay and “Bunny”

It is Sunday morning and we are stirring after a bowl of Quaker Oatmeal with fresh strawberries and blueberries. The Quaker Oatmeal has inspired Clay to attend Quaker Meeting this morning with his mother. The same inspiration will lead Mariah to go work out at a local Bethesda gym this morning. We will reconvene at lunch time and share our insights, which will probably consist of Mariah being in shape and Clay being totally out of shape as the hardwood pews at Bethesda Friends Meeting were designed to suffer the back of the sitter so he or she may Quake before God, rather than merely snore in the presence of Him.

Napping at Home (Burtonsville, MD, 1/3/09)

Napping at Home (Photo by dear friend and roommate Suzanna Strasburg)

The weekend so far has already consisted of two off-campus gym work-outs, brother included (thank you very much and get off my back Richard Simmons). Mariah spent time yesterday in her very own bed (see above) where she was living pre-stroke with friend Suzanna. The picture includes her usual bed-mate, Chai, and Suzanna’s pet, Zoe.

[Dad’s note: This is the first time Mariah’s been in her own bed since she departed for Peru last June. After nearly seven long, difficult, amazing months the wheel has turned, and I believe Volume 1 of her story of reemergence can be bound and shelved.]

We also kept up our movie attendance over the weekend, which included for Mariah theater viewings of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Gran Torino. Friday night Ramon took Mariah to Baltimore to see a PBR bull-riding. She loves that stuff. Maybe she picked up a hankering for it in Texas?

So, the weekend has been stuffed, and so have we, thanks to the excellent cullinary skills of our mom and friends Suzanna and Georgia over the holidays. We thank you for the chilis, the veggie stews, and the baked goods. We hope everyones’ ’09 is kicking off as well as ours, and until next time…

Love and Light,
Clay

Dad’s First Stay in DC

January 2, 2009

Warm Day in DC (WRAMC, 12/27/08)

Warm Day in DC (WRAMC, 12/27/08)

I got to spend the weekend after Christmas with Mariah in her new room at the Mologne House hotel on the Walter Reed base while Clay attended to his art and some business in North Carolina. For me, the shift after nearly half a year from the familiar hospital setting in Richmond to a hotel environment in Washington, DC, was jarring but welcome.

Napping in the Hotel (WRAMC, 12/28/08)

Napping in the Hotel (WRAMC, 12/28/08)

Clay and Mariah had already worked out systems for managing the meds, laundry, meals, bathroom and sleeping arrangements, so I just needed a quick tutorial from Clay to feel competent in their brave new world. Before heading out the door, he handed me a single file folder with important papers, and a stack of business cards for anyone I might need to contact during the weekend, including whom to call first, second, third, etc. What a joy to be working with such a caring and well-organized partner.

Breaking Into AFIP (WRAMC, 12/28/08)

Breaking Into AFIP (WRAMC, 12/28/08)

That weekend, we walked around the “campus” and Mariah showed me her beloved Armed Forces Institute for Pathology (AFIP), one of the inspirations for her professional goal of becoming a certified vet pathologist. AFIP, like all of Walter Reed, will be relocated soon when the Walter Reed complex in DC is shuttered as part of the military’s base closings program.

At the Military Medical Museum (WRAMC, 12/28/08)

At the Military Medical Museum (WRAMC, 12/28/08)

We also stumbled across a Military Museum of Medicine featuring medical instruments used 150 years ago to save lives during battlefield mayhem. Diseased tissue samples from long dead soldiers, canisters of ether, knives and saws for amputating limbs, and clamps and pliers for pulling back skin and tissue were interspersed with displays of optical and electron microscopes (primary tools of the pathologist) and a full-size hologram of a cutaway view of the human body.

We also went into town and bought a lovely oriental screen room divider so Mariah can have some privacy in her bed.

Saturday evening we went to dinner at the Burtonsville, MD, house where she rooms with Suzanna and other friends. The gravity of being home for the first time since her stroke last June was mitigated by a great batch of chili, cuddles with her dog, Chai, and witty repartee (i.e. hilarious insults) among her  friends and roommates. Mariah used her walker to go from the car into the house and to give me a tour of her room. A few modifications will be needed to make the place accessible for her, but it certainly seems feasible. The biggest issue is that there’s no place for Clay or another attendant to stay, so returning home will depend on attaining almost complete independence for daily living and transportation.

Friends Suzanna and Eboni (WRAMC, 12/28/08)

Friends Suzanna and Eboni (WRAMC, 12/28/08)

A date to see the Nutcracker with a friend on Sunday evening was preceded by a visit from Suzanna and Eboni who double-teamed Mariah to get her ready to go out. Suzanna helped her bathe and apply her makeup, and Eboni sculpted a dramatic set of curls from Mariah’s beautiful and lengthening chestnut hair.

Captain K continues to get stronger and bolder as she faces the challenge of breaking out of the hospital cocoon. Perhaps after a moment’s rest in the warm sunshine, she’ll unfold her beautiful and fragile wings and fly into her future.

– Mark