When I was in my early twenties I had a very painful tonsillectomy. As soon as I was in the hospital I had to change into the soft, faded blue and white hospital gown. I had my plastic ID bracelet branded to my wrist and I became another person. I felt it as soon as I sat in the patients’ lounge; I was no longer the same person, I was a patient. We were in a special club, wishing each other luck, asking each other what surgery we were having, social rules had changed dramatically. There were no expectations here and our uniform bonded us together, the rules had all been changed and we intuitively knew that.
I hadn’t remembered that strong feeling of changed identity until recently, when our house was deemed unlivable due to prior and present damage and destruction. Two days before we supposed to move to a motel, my husband broke his Achilles tendon, We waited hours in the ER and he needs surgery, very soon. He has been on crutches in the motel for the last five nights.
We are living in one room in a neighboring town’s motel. Two parents, our seventeen year old daughter and our nine-year old dog. It’s tight and airless, the windows don’t open. Our clothes, shoes, food and drinks all over the room. We look through big, black garbage bags with holes to find things; there is no organization just disarray. Right after that, Hurricane Irene came blustering through, roads are closed, electric wires are down, basements are flooded and fallen trees block the roads. I take our dog on many mini walks outside to see a different scenery than the pulled curtains of our small beige and brown room.
I am not the same person I was. I find myself wearing one or two tee-shirts with sweats, I brushed my hair once or twice in five days. I wear it in a very loose and messy ponytail and I don’t care what I look like. I lack affect. I can barely remember to brush my teeth. I am in another world. I walk differently, talk differently; I am quick to feel anger and frustration and unfortunately, it shows on my face. I am not charming, I feel happy about nothing, I don’t chat on the phone unless I absolutely have to.
As a chronic patient myself I find it physically and emotionally draining. I have been working through my pain, I have no choice. There is no one who can help me. I am trying to hold my family together whose inner souls have invisible cracks; at least the cracks in our house are visible.
When we went back to our house yesterday for ten minutes to pick up more clothing I felt detached and distant. This was not my cozy nurturing home anymore this was a house that had betrayed me. Tomorrow we check out of one motel and into another, with empty hours in-between. Tomorrow might be my husband’s surgery, we won’t know for sure until the morning. Sleep gives us all pleasure, it’s the passing of time to ease the pain.