Regaining our equilibrium

Sitting on the couch tonight in front of a cozy fire, watching the sunset colors fade, I feel a bit like I am getting over a case of whiplash. The sense of having been violently slammed this way and that is as much emotional as physical, and stems from the wild ride of these past few weeks, beginning with my mom’s life fading and her death on February 3rd, and accelerating into the latest crisis in this journey with brain cancer, a hematoma that nearly killed Richard, requiring a middle-of-the-night ambulance trip over the mountains just over a week ago.

I’m working on regaining my equilibrium, my “calm state of mind,” as the dictionary defines it. Being home helps immensely, as does seeing Richard recover so spectacularly well from a very scary episode.

When I say spectacularly well, I am not exaggerating. That’s Richard in the photo above, confidently balanced at the top of an 8-foot-stepladder earlier this evening as he repaired the blind in the stargazing skylight in our bedroom ceiling, a complicated project that was beyond him before the fluid was drained from his brain. (No one told him not to climb ladders, but if his neurosurgery team sees this blog, he’s probably in big trouble for putting their handiwork in peril…)

It’s hard to believe that just a week ago he was recovering after having a temporary drain drilled into his skull, “channeling Lady Gaga,” as his ICU nurse put it. (Sorry about the poor quality photo–I shot it with my cellphone.)


Even when though the whipsawing ride of the past few weeks is ending well, it’s still traumatic–and exhausting.

We stayed in Denver for four days after he was released from the hospital to finish organizing my mother’s memorial service and reception. Thanks to a lovely crowd of family and friends, as well as to thoughtful and moving comments by our Molly, who speak also for her cohort of cousins, Heather and Sienna, plus family friend Erica Holtzinger, and my brother and Dad, it was a sweet and healing occasion.

After all that, when we finally headed home, we refused the many kind offers to drive us over the mountains, and opted to take the bus instead.

Riding the Black Hills Stage Lines bus–a new, clean “busette” that holds perhaps 30 passengers when full–was the sustainable option: we saved gas, wear and tear on a private vehicle, cut down on traffic congestion, and lightened our carbon footprint. All good.

But perhaps most importantly, taking the bus allowed us quiet time to work on regaining our equilibrium. We could simply relax, eat our lunches and watch the scenery go by. We talked when we felt like it, and not when we didn’t. I cried a bit, releasing some of my fear and grief; Richard closed his eyes after a while, and rested. We held hands the whole way.

We didn’t have to watch the traffic or worry about road conditions, which were so icy in high-elevation South Park that our bus passed one accident after another.

Last night, after the bus deposited us in Salida, we settled in at home, ate the fabulous dinner of quiche, salad, and cookies and milk that Kerry and Dave of the soon-to-be-late Ploughboy Local Market brought by, and slept deeply.


This morning we did yoga as dawn came and settled in for a quiet day. I finished another chapter in the mystery novel I’m revising; we ate lunch and talked about our work. We did a few errands; Richard fixed the skylight blind, we watched Orion appear as the sky darkened.

Tomorrow we’ll tackle the enormous pile of mail that accumulated in our absence, and have another quiet day. It’s those ordinary things that help me regain my equilibrium, the everyday routine, the sight of apricot-colored clouds blowing over the peaks at dawn, the stars twinkling in the nighttime sky. Those grace notes, and the comfort of routine, ease the pain of this wild ride, and give me faith that whatever comes, I’ll keep my balance well enough to continue living with my heart outstretched as if it were my hand.

Thanks for your help…