I was talking to the church secretary today about the operation, my recovery and why I see life differently now. I have filled in a series of forms to continue as a Lay Minister in my church but still have some misgivings about going back to doing all the work I was dong prior to the melanoma diagnosis. An operation of any kind is a watershed, a time when once again we are brought up against our own vulnerability. It has certainly been that way for me. I hear of a lot of people who have had the same thing and made a full recovery and others who have had a serious operation and then developed more melanomas or other forms of cancer that have finalised their lives. It reminds me of the same kind of stories we were regaled with when Ray had the strokes, someone's brother-in-law always had a miraculous recovery or someone's father-in-law had a similar stroke and it was the end of him!
I am counting my blessings chief of which is the many friends I have accumulated over the years. Some of course drifted away after Ray stroked and we both left work, me to look after him. Some of our then friends drifted away after he died but I now have some that I can identify as my friends. There are the widows some of them former caregivers like me, the old friends from the groups I belonged to while we were on the stroke journey and some from my past who have slowly appeared back in my life. Of course I do have more time to get out and about now so it is easier to meet up with people locally. I am that older lady sitting drinking coffee with a friend or friends in the middle section of the food hall in Bateau Bay Square. It is easy for me to do that it is only about ten minutes drive from home.. But we all know that freedom comes at a price, I have freedom but I also have loneliness. That feeling that when I come inside and shut the door there is only me here. And on the days I don't go out there is a chance that I will speak to no-one all day, the cross a widow has to bear. But at least I am able to drive and get about more now.
I have a greater respect for the people I meet who have leg ulcers or something similar that keeps them bed-bound and for all of those older ladies and gentlemen who I have visited in nursing homes over the years who never go out any more. I guess there are certain experiences you have to have to feel the impact of them. This is just one more to add to my list. It is a hard way to do it though. I now often hesitate to answer posts by stroke survivors as I can't say I know how they feel, I don't. I still answer some posts by caregivers but my experience is fading now and I still see the big picture but the minutae of every day living with a stroke survivor that is blurring now into an overview of what it felt like to be too busy, not have time to think, have too few moments to myself. I can still write to other caregivers about that. I am still welcome in my real time Stroke Recovery group not so much for what I say or what I share but for the fact that I have time to listen and sometimes that is all someone needs - to feel they have been heard.
We all live in a world of minor tragedies, all around us people have serious illnesses, old people die, younger people lose their jobs or their homes, suffer financial problems, divorces etc. I went to a funeral on Tuesday and met up with two ladies I had not seen for ten years or more. In an hour or so of sitting together over afternoon tea we tried to catch up on all the news of family and friends. I came home a little shell shocked as of course it was births, deaths and marriages, scandals and "shocking" news. I guess if I'd kept in closer touch I would have heard it all anyway but I would have had time to accustom myself to events that I could not do in an hour, so that had a real impact. We swore to see each other soon and maybe we will and maybe we won't but it was nice to catch up. Some of my "lost" friends I really miss as we were friends at certain significant periods in each others' lives. We were young Mums together, or worked together, were in the background in the Scouting movement or one of the many organisations Ray and I belonged to over any years.Now when I am alone more than ever I hark back to the good times in my life and those special people I shared them with. I would like to catch up with some of them and see if they still remember, before it is too late and we all have dementia...lol.
I am back into gardening, we have had a little rain and I have supplemented it with my watering can. I have tomato plants blooming, herbs almost big enough to pick and some seedlings I have just planted out. Unfortunately I have not been able to dig over an area I hoped to plant out this year so it will be a next Spring job. I have learned over the five years since Ray died that I cannot do all the work he and I used to do together. Prior to his strokes he was the back yard man I did the work on the inside of the house. Outside I was the gardener but he dug the holes, he kept the lawns nice and did the edging. I do have a lawn mowing man, have had a string of them since 1999 when Ray had the major strokes, they do the mowing and the edging but there is still a lot left for me to do. Since the operation that has been neglected so there is a lot to do before the heat of summer comes and dries everything out . I am still tired more quickly so am pacing myself and not worrying too much ( well I am worrying but trying not to if you know what I mean).
The way my thinking has changed is that I try to stay in the moment more. I am trying not to think about the future but enjoy the present. I am not sure what the future holds but know that the years fly so fast at my age it probably doesn't matter that much now. Christmas is coming, the decorations are appearing in the shops, the toy sections expanding, the cash registers starting to ring with the grandparent sales, we always used to start our shopping in October when the grandchildren were small now it is just money in a card except for Alice the five year old who still enjoys toys. And I no longer have a Christmas list. The things I need you cannot put in a Christmas stocking. I need peace, not peace on earth, although that would be nice, but personal peace. I need love, the love of family and good friends and I need joy, the joy that makes living worth while. My word for this year has been "ENJOY" I haven't a word for next year yet but it will have to be a practical one. Maybe during the run up to Christmas I will find an appropriate one. It is good to be able to think a little way ahead but I am thinking that there may be a lot of changes in my way of life , I hope I will be able to deal with them.
Some of my friends are still flitting around Australia or around the world. I no longer envy them, without a partner to enjoy travelling with my travelling is to visit family and friends. I still remember the Hawaii trip to meet up with Sarah, that was a special highlight of 2017 for me. There have been the short stays with my daughter and her family and the trips I have taken out to Broken Hill to visit Trevor and Alice to remember with a smile too. I will do another trip to Broken Hill before Christmas. I don't plan to do any new activities, swimming is out for this season except for maybe a walk in the surf. It would not be good to go out and get myself knocked around in rough surf conditions so maybe a visit to a friend's pool will suffice. I need to take some "me time", thinking time. I have told so many people to do that over the years on here. And caregivers still need that reminder from time to time. A moment or two to put down the burden of care so many of them carry. I just have to take time to make sure my ideas are maturing. I've always said that everyone plans for retirement, no-one plans for old age, maybe it is time for me to do just that.