20. Looking for the blank spaces

Sticks ‘n Straws

I have a new VT exercise to do at home called “sticks ‘n straws.”  Basically you use a long pointy thing (like a baking skewer) to pick up one kind of straw (e.g. the blue and green ones) while avoiding the others (the yellow ones).  You want to spear each straw without touching its sides and without disrupting the other straws, so you really have to aim for the hole in the middle.

PT14 told me to “aim for the hole” when he helped me put on my socks.  I never wear socks in bed so as soon as I could move my arms and legs (although I still kept my eyes closed) I’d reach down and peel my socks off.  I needed to wear socks for whatever we were doing in Therapy that day so PT14 held a sock up at the foot of my bed and told me to “aim for the hole” while PT1 and I laughed (she laughed out loud while I chuckled inwardly).

When I was aiming for the hole as I practiced “ sticks ‘n straws” at VT before I started doing this at home, things got really interesting when I had to use the opposite eye and switch the stick to my left hand.  Thankfully, my VT helper, L, was seated on my right and was therefore not in the poking zone as I concentrated really hard to make my left hand do what I wanted to.  As I finished up I noticed OD4 sitting on a stool nearby and he commented that I was breathing a little hard.  I must have been holding my breath while I was focusing on my left hand.  I had to laugh, though, because not breathing is a big no-no, but I usually got reminded of this in Physical Therapy, not when doing a seated activity.

Another seated activity I often do at VT is playing on the computer.  They keep an extremely robust Commodore on hand, loaded with lots of different VT games.  One of them is Tic Tac Toe.  I’ll sit there and a TTT grid will appear on the screen, then a few X’s will flash on the screen, and once they disappear I’m supposed to remember their position and use the keypad to type their positions in.  Sometimes I miss the flashing of the X’s entirely and so just have to make stuff up so I can move to the next round, but what has become the more common challenge is that the number of X’s has increased.  Now we’re on 6, and on a TTT grid, 6 X’s means there are 3 blank spots so I’ve started employing the strategy of focusing on the blank spots since there are fewer of those to remember.  It works, I’m happy to report, although I still miss the flashing of the X’s entirely sometimes.

As I sat at the computer wearing my pirate patch a couple of weeks ago, I figured that there must be some practical application of this “Looking for the blank spaces” strategy for my life, and it didn’t take me long to think of one.  As serious as my illness has been I am so thankful for what didn’t happen.  Specifically, I have been spared the turmoil of knowing my injury resulted from an act of violence or carelessness on the part of another person, and I’m so grateful for that.  I also realized soon after we came home that when I was alone in the hospital my physical and mental state made me very vulnerable, but nothing ever happened to me.  I chalk it up to Divine protection that manifested itself (among other ways) in the form of the attentive and vocal advocacy of my family, who, whether physically present or over the phone, made everyone understand that they were monitoring the quality of my care so it had better be good…the best, in fact.

I had the opportunity to think about what happened to me since my friend D (from OR) flew in for a whirlwind visit.  She spent less than 24 hours in our house, and I told her she was crazy to come, but I’m so glad she did.  I hadn’t seen her since I was an inpatient over a year ago so it was natural to have lots of things to catch up on and I asked her to help fill in some of my information gaps regarding what happened.  I also told her of a conversation I had with Ai Ai a year ago.  At that point I was still polling people on the severity of my injury since I naughtily wanted to see if my surgeon had been exaggerating regarding the direness of my plight.  My father has since informed me that my surgeon would have no reason to exaggerate a thing like that.  Furthermore, I realized that all my data points were skewed since they were either related to me by blood or else were not there in OR when I first got sick so they weren’t operating from the same base knowledge.  I ended up throwing the poll out as statistically unreliable, but I proffered the following question to my sister, not as part of the poll, but as anecdotal evidence.  “Ai Ai,” I began, “I think this situation is pretty extreme.  Would you agree?”

She was driving and I was in the passenger seat.  It was like she pulled over mentally but she kept her eyes on the road and the vehicle moving forward.  “Okay,” she said, “Yes, we want to be very positive and encouraging, but let’s just all agree that this situation totally stinks.”  I thanked her for such eloquent validation and we rolled on home to rejoin the rest of the family for more Thanksgiving Fun – Southern style. I agree with her but as this situation stretches out longer and longer I’m also happy to keep looking for the blank spaces.