It’s amazing how quickly an ordinary day can become an anomaly.
Saturday for example: one minute I’m trying to find a quiet place in the house to get some writing done, helping Maile move some furniture, and thinking about finishing the chicken coop. Ten minutes later I’m driving into the hospital to see my grandmother who just had a stroke.
Or two days before that: Lucy and I were coming back from a little date at Target and Panera (the girl loves their broccoli soup and whole grain bread – she has her mother’s taste buds and desire to eat healthy, even at 6). On the way home we passed an accident. Cruising slowly by, I saw two cars with very little damage. But in the grass a fireman was giving a gentleman chest compressions.
There was an urgency in the scene that didn’t match the calm state of the undamaged automobiles resting innocently against the curb. Today, while in the hospital with my grandma, I found out that man was a family friend. He died from a heart attack. He was only 57.
* * * * *
I’m sitting in the hospital room with grandma right now. Her wiry, gray hair reaches to her shoulders – having grown up Amish, she usually wears a covering, and I’ve never seen her with her hair down before. Someone came in to talk to us about her swallowing, now that one side of her throat might not cooperate. Some of her kids, my aunts and uncles, are in and out. She’s excited because she finally gets to eat.
She tries to lift food with her right hand, but the stroke has limited her mobility on that side, so her hand trembles and stops about three inches short of her mouth. She leans forward and uses her lower jaw to lift the food the rest of the way into her mouth. We want to help her eat. We tell her to use her left hand.
My cousin gets ready to leave the room. She’s recently had her own surgery and can barely walk. She leans in and hugs grandma. Grandma kisses her cheek a thousand times, holds on to her face with her still-strong left hand (as if letting go would be the end of her) and says over and over again in her slurred voice:
“Whatever hurts us makes us stronger. Whatever hurts us makes us stronger.”