Well, my hello, my little friends! Where were we? Oh … yes, the last part of my story about angels, otherworldly happenings, and Dennis’ health crisis in Canada 4 years ago. Last we spoke in part II, Dennis was still in ICU, but, praise be, he had finally regained consciousness! Once they removed Dennis’ breathing tube and he was finally able to speak, the first thing he said was “Leana, I saw The Light and it was spectacular! I turned around because I just couldn’t bear to leave you and the kids yet. Heaven is amazing and never again, shall I fear death! I heard your prayers, when I was asleep, and so did the angels. God himself, is sending you a special angel, her name is Sprinkles! For the rest of your days on earth, she will constantly be by your side guiding and protecting you! You can cast all your fears and anxieties into the pit of doom, I have returned with the answers to the universe!” … No … NOT really …
What actually happened was, Dennis looked at me, and in a really weird voice said “Lee, I reckon, what I really want me is a mater samich and a Coca-Cola.” Translation for my International Dibbuns, “Lee, I really would like a tomato sandwich and a Coke.” Huh … well… ok, at least he was alive, I guess…
Dennis did seem different though, due to our situation (I am his 24/7 caregiver), we are kind of like Siamese twins, thus I know every gesture and every face he makes. I also know the cadence of his speech, even better than I know my own. It took me a few hours but I realized, that the way he sounded and the way he moved his mouth was just like his Dad. It was unbelievably, bizarre! Dennis’ dad, Glenn, was a wonderful human being, but he had a very different energetic presence to him than Dennis does. Glenn was witty, sweet and gentler. Dennis is witty, strong-willed, and has a much bigger energetic presence. Dennis was using words I had never in all our years together heard him use. Dennis, called my nephew a “tar baby rascal” ??? Ummm …a what? I Googled it and it is a reference to a character from an old book, The Story of Brer Rabbit. Dennis was also referring to every woman who came into the room as “Lady”, which was totally a Glenn thing. Glenn, like many older Southern men, had a way of mumbling through his lips and drawing out the words. Dennis was doing that too! I mean, more than usual.
Doctor after Doctor came in to gauge Dennis’ mental orientation. Each one asked, “what is your name?” He usually got his first name. “Who is this lady?” (me) he always got that right. “What year is it?” 2016 … dang my bad (never tell lies to someone in a coma). “Do you know where you are?” “Yes’m Greenville South Carolina”. Yikes!
Slowly, after a few days back from la la land, the mimicking of his father faded, but he was still saying really strange things. He kept telling me “Lee, I feel so bad, you know I wouldn’t have done something like that on purpose. I really didn’t mean to kill that little Hispanic boy. Now the Fedaralis are after me!” He also was hallucinating (he was on no drugs). When the nurse came to get his stitches out, she apologized that she was here to do an unpleasant task. I proudly told her she had never met anyone as tough as my husband. “This will be a snap” I boasted! First stitch was pulled … “OWWWWWWW ” Dennis shrieked, like a little girl! He kept on shrieking and giving the nurse filthy looks, he also told her she shouldn’t have her kids with her when she was working. What kids?
Every time I left the room for more than a few minutes, Dennis would get all pissy at me. “Well, where have you been? you have left me here for days and they made me sleep out on the curb and they won’t give me any coffee. This hotel is horrible!” When I tried to explain we weren’t in a hotel, Dennis would get mad and tell me, “How would you know, you’re never here!”.
Since Dennis thought we were in a hotel, he couldn’t make sense of who the hospital staff was. He told one nurse, “Well, honey, now, how do you make a living? I hope it’s not as a pole dancer?” After she left and was hopefully out of earshot, he told me she would never make any money “dancing.” Oh, dear, this was getting embarrassing.
One day, an Indian doctor came in, and in his adorable accent said, “Mr. Conway, I would like to ask you some questions. Sir, can you tell me your name?” Dennis: “my name is Dennis” Dr: “Sir can you spell your name?” Dennis, “Sir, I went to school in Alabama, I can’t”. The doctor shut his little, file up and said, “I will come back tomorrow, to reevaluate”. Damn, I thought, we are never going to get out of this hospital. Aye yiy yiye! … and trying to explain to Dennis why the Braves were now in last place in the division as they had been in first before the big snooze, was hopeless. Dennis was taking his confusion personally, as if this was one big cosmic joke being played on him.
They weren’t going to release him until he made sense, so I began coaching him. I repeated over and over it was 2014 and he would repeat it, then the doctor came in and damn if he didn’t say it was 2016. Well, shit. Luckily, one of the doctors was very wise and felt Dennis had ICUitis. A state of confusion brought on by 24 hour lights, no daylight, and a strange environment, all following a serious illness. The doctor felt he wouldn’t completely recover until he got out of the hospital. Plus, of course, half of his brain had been swollen, and although the swelling was gone, the doctors said there would be residual effects that would hopefully all go away. Hopefully???? We got the thumbs up to leave, the doctor gave me his personal cell phone number and told me to not leave the city until he was making complete sense, or at least improving every day, or at least as much sense as he made before the incident. Yes, the bar was set low!
YAAAASSSSSS, we were one step closer to getting back to GA, but now how do we get back was the question. We could take a plane, and someone would have to drive the van back from Wpg to GA, or we could drive. I was pretty darned whooped, plus Dennis was completely paralyzed and extremely physically and emotionally needy. I just didn’t think I could make the 24-hour drive and take care of Dennis. My dad, Fred, stepped up with gusto. My dad is very intelligent, he is an engineer and has his MBA, and he also loves a challenge. However, Fred, is also a big believer in PAPER maps. For my younger readers a definition of Maps (not Google): a representation on paper or a flat surface of the whole or a part of an area, only used by people over 60. We had lots and lots of maps, snacks, a 4′ by 5′ frame my great-grandfather brought back from Paraguay, (I just had to bring it home), enough medical equipment to keep a nursing home going for a month, and a bewildered, beleaguered complete quadriplegic. Yaaaayyy, sounds like the making of a really fun, buddy, road trip movie!!! … or else the makings of a great Dateline special. Cue Keith Morrison, “Two men and one woman found dead in handicap van just outside Wpg. They were covered in paper maps, had a large, antique, ornamental frame, and the one in the wheelchair left a note, he must have written with his teeth, that said, “The Federalis did it”! Was foul play involved, or was this a case of very, poor judgment?” Yes, Keith!, damn it, it was really, really, poor judgment.
My dad and I took turns driving, and when it was my turn I could see Dennis sitting in the back in his wheelchair with eyes as big as saucers, looking incredibly alarmed. I had thought, he would just sleep the whole way home. Wrong again, it was like he didn’t want to fall asleep. Months later, Dennis told me he was terrified that if he went to sleep he wouldn’t wake up. I can see his point, as he missed a month the last time he shut his eyes. At the time, however, he was still trying to process what had happened and the edges of reality were fuzzy and frayed, as was his ability to communicate.
After 25 long hours of driving, stopping only one night, we made it home. When we pulled into the driveway to our adorable little, yellow, ranch, cottage in bustling, quaint Woodstock, GA, I cried. I cried because I was relieved, both of us came back. I cried because I was tired, I had poured my soul into trying to get Dennis back. Mostly, though I cried because I worry how many close calls we have left. None the less, we made it back home. Our wonderful neighbors had cleaned up our yard, put new flowers in the window boxes, and brought meals for two weeks after we got back. Ahhhh home … bliss.
A few weeks after we were home, when I felt comfortable enough to leave Dennis, Katie came over to stay with her dad, while I went to get a massage. Some of you, my friends, aren’t old enough to have felt this way, but I was exhausted all the way down to the marrow of my bones. I went to a cheap (semi-reputable) place down the street that takes walk-ins. I laid down on the table, and took a deep breath. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much from this experience. I had noticed the massage therapist’s license on the wall didn’t have an expiration date, hmmm … suspicious, so … they are licensed forever? To my delight, the hands of my therapist were firm but gentle, and they became like the strokes of angels wings, pressing in all the right places, communicating to me through touch, that I was not alone, that I was safe, that I could breathe, this scary chapter was over. I have been lucky enough to have had a lot of massages, mostly at massage school, but also at some of the best spas in North America, when Tim and I were entertaining clients on the company dime. This massage was a revelation. I felt an emotional and physical release that had been building for two months. I doubt this therapist ever gave a massage this good, before or after.
When I got up from the table I felt rejuvenated, Dennis was still very weak, but home and I was ready to forge forward. I asked the Asian, massage therapist for her name, she replied Helen (well actually she said Hewen). I floated out the door and to my car. I turned it on, and then it hit me, HELEN, the name of the insurance lady that found us and gave us $98,000, Helen the same name of my beloved “country” Oma! Oh … my… , what a wondrous, mysterious world we live in. I mean, how many Asian Helen’s do you know!?
Maybe, wee Dibbuns, you still don’t believe in angels, or that Dennis, visited with his father while he was unconscious- that’s ok. It’s not my intent to convince you of anything. We are all on our own journey and each of us are entitled to interpret the world through our own lens. My only bit of advice is, pay attention. Listen and look above the din of the physical world. I myself am sure there is more to all of this than what meets the eye. Understand, that it is only through challenge, that these mysteries are revealed. In between the rocks and the hard places of this world, tiny little seeds of hope sprout and create masterpieces. Because, miracles come amidst the fear, the disease, the mistakes, the broken hearts, and the confusion.
When I finished this post I was looking for a picture that represented, what I hoped, was the big take away from my story, The hard parts in life are essential to creating the beautiful bigger story. I stumbled upon this artist Elspeth Maclean, I was immediately mesmerized by her work. Among other things, Elspeth, among-st other things, takes rocks and turns them into beautiful art! When I had been in the hospital my Aunt Liz had given me a stone from the beach at the cottage, it had been polished, she told me that I was like the stone being polished by adversity into something beautiful. I kept that stone in my pocket until we got back to GA, now it is on a shelf in our house.
So when people and life throw rocks at you, or you are between a rock and a hard place, don’t despair, turn your experience into your own medium of beautiful art!
I learned so many things during our stay at the hospital in Canada. Things can, and will change in the blink or an eye. Hard things come, but always,
xoxo, Mummy (Auntie Lee-Lee)
Next post, back to my list! Photos of task number #6 Dance with Dennis standing(ish)!