Every summer, my partner’s sister, Peggy, comes to visit. She’s the one sister who still lives on the East Coast, despite concerted, whining efforts to get her to move out here to the West Coast where the other four daughters live, three in Washington and one in California.
Peggy is the one closest in age to CF, and they have been best friends their entire lives. When I had the seizures last August, even before we knew I had also had a stroke, Peggy and her younger daughter Sharon flew out here to help CF, because that’s what kind of people they are, always sticking their noses into everything.
No, not really. They just wanted to help. They kept CF going. And they kept our son, NF, going too. (Not to shortchange my friend, Amy, or my mom and sister, who also raced out here to help, or all our local family and friends, but right now I’m writing about Peggy.)
Here it is, summer again, although last night at the baseball game we sat swaddled in blankets and sweatshirts in 40 degree weather while NF’s team WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP, beating a team that had beaten them all season long, even though that other team was all 14-year-olds and they are all 13-year-olds no I am not bragging just stating facts now we move on to Pony-13 Regionals woo hoo oops back to what was I saying oh yeah.
Here it is, summer again, which means that it’s time for Peggy to visit. Normally, this is a time of great anticipation and excitement as we joyfully plan activities and prepare accommodations and race around desperately cleaning the house for her arrival. We especially need to fumigate NF’s room to remove all traces of dead and dying baseball socks, historical remnants of Hot Pockets, and gnarled bits of pizza crusts.
But I find that I am preoccupied with what Peggy will think of me.
The last time she saw me, I was essentially unable to walk more than 10 feet, and I was using a walker, the one with tennis ball feet. I had barely made it home from the dreaded rehab unit, the place where they kept me locked in my bed, the place where they made me wear the burqa-sized diaper, the place with Fox News All. The. Time.
The last time she saw me, I was a wreck. I could barely get out a sentence. I couldn’t remember what was going on, what had happened to me, what had happened the day before, what had happened an hour before. She’d come half-expecting to attend my funeral.
So what will she think of me now?
How scrutinizing will her scrutiny be? Does she expect me to be the model of health, a perfect physical specimen, ready to climb Mt. Rainier, the local vertical challenge, or swim Hood Canal, the local horizontal challenge? Does she expect me to conquer the television game shows, her mother’s daily challenge?
Or does she expect me to be the same semi-comprehensible semi-drooling semi-smiling semi-clothed semi-conscious dragabout that I was last September? I’m not sure I can go back there. For one thing, I’d have to load myself up with an awful lot of Vicodin to drool like that again. Not to mention to smile like that again. Not to mention clothe myself like that again.
Not to mention feed myself like that again. Back then, I was eating mostly cottage cheese and mandarin oranges. I’m not sure I can look at mandarin oranges again for another year or two. Or three. Or even at Mandarins. Or at oranges. Or at navels. Or navies. Or at the navels of naval officers. The Mandarin Navy was eating mandarin oranges as their navels were inspected by midriff-baring naval officers munching navel oranges. Or some such modern nightmare.
But back to Peggy and that fast-approaching day-mare. Why aren’t there day-mares? I mean, you can look up the word and find a definition, but not much else, not a full and juicy tradition like you can for nightmare. Guess the sunlight kind of ruins things. Oh, yeah, back to Peggy.
Peggy will be my first repeat visitor, so to speak. Most friends and relatives have been around me all the time. I see them every day, or every week, so they have seen me morph back to where I am, more or less. Peggy will see me all at once to where I’ve gotten, less or more, in one gigantic plop. Will she think, “OH!!” or “ohh…”?
She’s talked to me on the phone, so I suppose part of what she thinks of me depends on how well my voice carries on the phone, which I fear is not too well. I know the croak doesn’t work well on Ma Bell. Even CF has to ask all the time if I’m OK when we talk. Strike one?
And it also depends on what CF has told Peggy about how I’m doing. I think she paints a pretty positive picture, except I know that they like to play a woe-is-me game with each other about how much they each have to do. (“I made 45 meatballs today.” “So what, I made 55 meatballs.”) That might work against me, if CF moans about taking care of me. Strike two?
And it also depends on what time of day Peggy’s plane arrives. If she gets in late at night when I am frozen stiff with exhaustion from M.S. anyway, all of the progress from the last year will be hidden anyway. Strike three?
But I’m going for the long ball here, and I think Peggy will score the winning run. I think Peggy will take one look at me, throw down her carry-on bag, fling her arms around me and say, “You look great.”
A note about a previous blog: The truly obsessive among you might recall my obsessiveness over the word “co-worker” a few blogs ago, and how the managing editor at a newspaper where I worked insisted that we always use a hyphen in the word, so that it never be read as “cow orker” by mistake. Wouldn’t you know it: in our local rag, The Olympian, just this past week, its printed edition ran an obituary with the hyphenated word “cow-orker.” I was so happy! Yes, I saved it.