Sep. 22nd, 2006 Letter from Billings
It’s about 11:30 at night here in Montana in the oddest hotel in the world. The Cherry Tree Inn is across the parking lot from the hospital and it’s like Ronald McDonald house for desperate grownups. If you are familiar with H.P. Lovecraft’s strange sci fi fantasy writings you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about on the weirdness scale.
The motel is two stories tall and its very tidy and clean. Each floor has rooms located off one really long corridor. Smoke leaks out from under the doors like a magician’s special effects. The elevator is small, brown and has buttons for three floors. There are only two floors and I have not been brave enough to push “three” to see what happens next.
There are old things masquerading as antiques strewn in the long hallways, like a kitschy little heating stove without a chimney. The stove is painted white and an old sewing machine further down the hallway is draped with plastic ivy and its also painted white. I assume this is “decor”. This decor is chained down with big silver chain and padlocks, and right over each antique is a Home Depot signs that say NO SMOKING. In Montana this seems to be just a suggestion. I’m guessing this because of the smoke plumes seeping under the doors and drifting down the hallways.
When I come back from the hospital I come in the side door and head up a set of curving stairs, the closest access to my room on the second floor. As I leave the motel office and head up the stairs, which feature a tasteful wrought iron banister, I pass one set of double doors on the right that look like doors to a 1950s era Hollywood apartment. Outside the doors a yellow lamp is lit. It dangles from a brass chain appears to be made from marbles .
It feels like I’ve stumbled into the late 1960s, perhaps the set of a Hitchcock movie…and the staff are all a bit odd too. They seem to have physical deformities that are subtle–glasses like bottle bottoms on one lady, tiny sausage fingers on another, and one or two just seem a skosh shy of being droolers.
I imagine you can tell Terry is getting better because I finally looked up and noticed this place and its denizens. In the halls I see bow legged old Cowboys carrying small dogs, poodles and pinschers mostly, doddering out of the building with their blue haired wives. Once in a while I’ll see an old cowboy downstairs smoking with the motel help, escaping from either the dog or the wife for a few minutes I suppose.
I went to the hospital tonight after shift change and watched teevee, ER, while I gave Terry a manicure because his poor hand and a half–one is in a cast–are/is? chewed up and grubby. I noticed he was picking at his finger and when I held his hand I realized one nail had a big chip out of it. Ouch–so he had a lovely vanilla hand cream rub down and manicure and last time I saw him tonight he was purring and falling asleep.
We had a really good day today– I think I wore him into responding! I was listening to the physical therapist yesterday and cornered her for some tips–I went out last night and visited Toys Galore and bought 5 bright colored foam balls of different sizes and this morning I spent an hour or two asking him what color he wanted and trading him the balls and making him hand them to me.
The therapist, another Roxanna, so help me, sat him up and he sat with his feet on the floor for the first time today–accompanied by much groaning caused by the ribs but I think it really helped. After that we got him up in the chair/bed thing and he stayed upright in it for about two hours–during which time I talked to him constantly.
He brushed his teeth–sort of –and it dawned on me tonight that of course he couldn’t do it. He’s not left handed and his right hand is in a cast. Hell, I couldn’t brush my teeth left handed even without a bonk on the head. Thank you Don Bowman for that duh moment. He still has a tube in his nose and various tubes and leads annoying him on a regular basis, one or two of them come out a day lately. He has a mullet and I told him I was going to take a picture and send it Joel for the Mullet Hunters page. He smiled at that one–
I went over to the Beartooth Harley store here in Billings today and got him a beanie to cover his stubble and stitches, he looks more like Terry with it on but it didn’t take him long to want it off to scratch his itchy head. He had a really nice spit bath courtesy of Wonder Nurse Libbey and was much happier about life after I trimmed his mustache. I cannot say enough about the nurses and staff here. I have never met anyone like them and feel so blessed to meet them all.
Today, I really believe Terry is coming back. He could pull out abstract concepts. Oddly he couldn’t tell me what a ball was called but I asked him what it was for and he said, “To throw.” I told him his boss had said he has to come back because John can’t keep up with all his work–and that got a real grin. He has recognized everyone’s name and I’m sure everything is still all still there–except the accident itself. The doc said with brain injury that things on the fly are easy to retrieve; it’s the ones that you have to stop and think about that slow things down. I can see that and little oddities pop up. He told the nurse when he saw my picture that my name was Roxanna and I was his fiancee–I showed him a photo of us together and asked him who it was and he said, “You and me.” Hey, works for me.
I can’t list all the changes; they are coming so fast now. His eyes are wide open and he is in there. He uses almost complete sentences and still sounds like a very large frog. He HATES the cervical collar and when he pulls me close enough to kiss him and I bash my face on it I can’t say I’m real fond of it either. They are giving him some percocet now, which is great because he can actually relax long enough to sleep. Tonight when I left he was getting antsy and I asked him if he hurt and he said yes. I asked it was on the top (ribs) or bottom (old back injury) and he said top and bottom–he got the percocet, the Ipod speakers on his pillow with my Ipod and some nice sleeping music, and hopefully he stayed asleep after I turned the lights down to come back here.
Another analogy (bet you wish I’d bloody stop with the analogies by now) Think of skipping a stone. When you first start you don’t get many skips and you aren’t very good. Terry’s mind is like the stone. The things he can bring to the surface are the skips of that thrown stone. As he practices he can get more skips and much further but all that work skipping stones wears him out. More and more and better and better every day though.
Tomorrow, a new room out of ICU (we hope) with a WINDOW. I have told him everyday what the weather is like and he does not want the curtain closed and motions to open it so he can see what’s going on at the nurses’ station.
Best of all, it looks like Wednesday we will be flying home to Olympia on a medical flight. He will go right to rehab at St Peter’s and I don’t have any details yet. One day, one minute, one hour at a time. I am so grateful he’s alive and getting better, it makes the hard part seem easy.
On Friday I’m finally getting my tattoo. A feather on my right leg just above my ankle with the words “Hope is a thing with feathers.” I have worn a Navajo silver feather bracelet every day since Terry gave it to me for our anniversary a couple of years ago. We found it in Amador, California coming home from our first big motorcycle trip together. I called it my dumbo feather, the joke was as long as I have it I can fly and not fall down. Now I’ll have it on my leg and never lose my feather again. Corey is going with me, I am excited to mark this phase of the journey with something so fitting and permanent.