Sunday, August 12, 2012

Such is Life

The summer has been so hot I've found myself distinguishing an especially wonderful day to walk in the park by the hues of green round the base of the trees and how gently the breeze flutters through its leaves.  Today the sky isn't a striking blue which lays bare the earth to the sun's blistering rays but today, is a comforting robin's egg blue with large cumulus clouds billowing afore this serene backdrop like a sea of great sails taken to flight.

A pair of lovers enjoyed ice cream cones and talked in whispers.  Looking into each other's eyes directly as each one spoke.  Waiting to hear attentively, what the other said in return.  While they noticed the children playing and the men on the tennis and and basketball courts, their attention to each other was delightfully intent.  I could identify the feeling and was happy for them.

Coco and I walked on the trails that meandered through the park. I breathed in the moist cool air under each patch of shade that covered the path with exaltation.  I was grateful to see the wide open spaces turning green again.  The crippling heat withdrew so much moisture out of the ground by the end of June that it left wide cracks in its dry, parched earth.  The parks and lawns were brown and the leaves began to fall in the early part of July; not from a chill in the air that would come in autumn but rather from a thirst that would not be quenched.  It had been an exhausting summer for every living thing.  Even the birds left for most of the summer, only returning to the yard and bird bath recently.

Children were chasing each other through the wide open spaces and around the young Ash trees, spaced throughout the park. One lovely young girl ran and three younger boys followed her.  Pausing only to announce something they'd seen or declare their direction was about to change. 

Coco, my Akita service dog and I were relaxing beneath one of the Ash shade trees.  Usually we take our walk and then we go home.  But today I decided it would be nice to linger for awhile in the busy park.   I have been in so much pain lately.  I've even taken too imagining what life would be like if both of my feet were amputated.  Taking one more step on them had become unthinkable.  Listening to the laughter and and ball players chiding each other in an Asian tongue lightened my heart.  Resting there was a welcome relief to another movement of any kind.

For quite a few minutes Coco stood over my lap.  She was positioning herself so I could reach around her while she braced and held there firmly while I lifted myself up.  Once she realized I was not in need of her to help me to stand she too relaxed and laid beside me. 

The children playing in the open field took an interest in Coco.  They came over and I said to Coco, gentle greet girl.  I don't think I needed to say anything though.  She was so sweet when the children came over to say hello.  They asked all kinds of questions.  They asked about Coco's guide dog vest and if I was blind and how she helped me.  And as I told them about my brain injury and peripheral blindness and explained how Coco helped me so I didn't walk out in front of cars and how she helped me up and down stairs they listened.  And as they listened they petted Coco.  She had a huge smile on her face and she clearly loved every bit of the attention.

One of the boys picked up a stick.  Will she fetch?

Well, yes but she is an Akita.  So she plays differently.  She goes and gets the stick or ball and then she comes back and lays down.  Then she chews on the stick or chews on a ball and then pops it out of her mouth with a toss and throws it so you can take your turn. I reassured them that she would not bite.  And every time they took a stick from her they'd shriek and then laugh.  The young girl remembered she had seen a tennis ball on the ground and went to retrieve it. 

Coco was on her 33 foot leash so she could move about freely.  The first time she started to run I could see she was going to trip up a couple of the children. So I used my foot to brace the leash and told the kids to look out. Then I told Coco to slow down.  One of the children fell and all were laughing. She then figured out how to play the game. She didn't run far when she played ball and she came back to me and laid down with her ball and then chewed it and popped it out of her mouth and the kids got it and tossed it back to her. She was so gentle with them. As often as they threw the ball she would get it and bring it back and then throw the ball away from the reach of her lovely long legs.  Then one of the children started bouncing the ball on the ground and Coco caught it in her mouth.  This was an amazing trick and occupied all of them for quite awhile.

One of the adults they knew started to setup a net for playing volleyball and so the children went over to see what he was doing.  I smiled at the mama's and said good-bye and they smiled back and waved.  Then I reached for Coco and there she stood, strong, enabling me to stand and we went to the car and I drove home. 

I can drive during the day on small roads.  I can see just fine when I look straight ahead.  I have a hard time with words because I always have double vision.  There is always a shadow line just beneath each line of print.  And my eyes are extremely sensitive to light, even now, after nearly twenty years since my traumatic brain injury.  I am temporarily blinded when Coco and I leave a store and the sun is bright outside or when I am walking into the sun, even with my polarized sun glasses (which help tremendously). Closing my eyes is the only thing that eases the pain of it.  During these times at the park or when Coco and I are out walking in the neighborhood, I close my eyes and Coco leads me.  She has gotten so good at it I can tell her to take mama to the car and she does.  Even if the lot is full she takes me right to our car.  In the car I can pull the visors down and allow the tint from my glasses and the windshield to adjust the direct sunlight enough to make it home okay.  When I wear a cap it is much better.  But some times I forget to take one with me when we leave the house.

In many ways this trauma has been relentless.  In many ways it pulls me back and away from the moment into an abyss of pain and disjointed movement and the ability to process any sort of challenge.  But in the same moment, I have also found a way to enjoy a wonderful day in the park.  This is survival.  This is appreciating how precious and fleeting each moment is and focusing on the beauty of it instead of the pain.  This is the power of taking the next step even when I know it will be excruciating.  This is life.  And though it contains pain and a sense of sorrow when I think about the way it used to be before this pain took a hold of my body; still, the pain diminishes when I allow for joy and mutual kindnesses to touch my heart.

Just wanted to add a little note.  A few hours later my kids and their buds came over and we had a delicious dinner together.  We had homemade chicken soup with veggies from the garden and sangria and salad with fresh veggies and cucumber and herbs from the garden and Italian bread broiled with real butter and garlic and oregano from the garden too. 

The kids played instruments and we all talked and laughed and had a really good time together.  These are the times when I think, I'm so glad I didn't give up because I would have missed this beautiful evening with my children and the people they love.  I carry that with me all day, everyday.  I don't want to miss a thing.  Because every minute is so precious.  And I never know when something special is going to happen.  When I'm going to see those beautiful little yellow and black birds land on my bird bath or hear by son's voice who is far away.  And laugh together about something in life we get a kick out of.  There are certainly moments when life is rough.  But not all of them.  Not all of them.  That's for sure.

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