Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Moment Passes: coma dream #4

A moment passes, then is gone.
A week ago, I could feel August dragging its heels.
Today I saw October peeking over the hills.

I missed this time of year while I was in the coma last year. It is still unreal to me... to be out for so long.... to wake up and unable to speak or move... to have lost so much muscle... to be broken in more than just body parts...

It has been a year since I went into the hospital for my first abdominal surgery. I closed my eyes on the eighth day of September, 2009, and woke up a month later, on my anniversary. A month later I would leave the hospital terrified of what lay in store.

A year ago I thought I would be home a week after my surgery. Ready to make pots in a few weeks. I had everything laid out and ready to go.

It was around Thanksgiving that I finally mustered up the courage to go into the studio. The cobwebs had taken my place at the wheel. Everything was so quiet. There was no music playing in the studio. There were no cars in the driveway. The phone seldom rang.

In the early days of my recovery, I was so sure I would return to my routine of making pots and essentially going back to normal. I am sure a good chunk of that was just denial. To this day I still feel like my body went through one ordeal; my mind went through something completely different.

I like closing my eyes during the day, when the wind lifts and I can feel the moisture moving fast through the air. I can remember things I shouldn't remember. I lived in the mountains out west, back in the early 1930s. I still can feel the cinders under my bare feet as I walk along the ice crusted road, uphill towards the shed.

So many late afternoons I would watch the sun fade into greyness as the icy sleet raked down and glazed the road. The pain of the cold against my shoeless feet was nothing compared to laying down against the far wall in the shed, my back to the earthen berm... a tiny space scraped out where the sheep and cow would part ways and let me lay. In the morning my eyes always stung as the frost clung to my eyelashes and refused to let go easily.

If it was windy, morning came angry, with the doors of the shed pulling at their hinges and the animals restless. Still dawns were such a sight. The clouds would hold their place in the sky just so I could look at the them longingly. I would have given anything to take flight. Some days, on my way back from town, a kindly man, who worked for the town, would offer me a ride in his truck. We'd drive the few miles up the road in relative quiet, our bench seat creaking if it were cold.

He wore a wonderful hat with flaps that came down over his ears, felted green on the outside but lined with a cherry flannel on the inside. The red had started to fade at the edges of the brim. I stubbed my toes often on his tools that he left tossed into the passenger-side footwell. More than once, I open the door only to have a monstrous pipe wrench come down right onto my foot. Always apologetic, we reached agreement that someday, when he had time, he would bring the truck by the barn and I would take the tools out, wipe them down with bitter smelling oil, roll them back into the red fabric bundles... it never happened.

The last time I saw him, I had just finished cleaning the counters and the floor at the diner. The fumes from the piny wash water in the metal cleaning pail was still burning my eyes. A thick wet haze covered the windows. I could tell from the quiet of the road that the snow had made the road impassable. No one was out driving in this weather. Closing early, I figured I would make it up the hill before too late. It meant forgoing my dinner meal which came with the end of my shift, but more importantly it made the cold night longer.

The gentleman's truck kicked up gravel as he pulled into the parking area and quickly knocked on the door of the diner. He knew we were closing up. Heck, he probably knew the hours we kept better than I did. I also remember Ruthie having left a pot of coffee on just for him. I dont think his thermos ever had ever seen soap and water... just coffee. He thanked me for the coffee, pulled the door closed and quickly poked his head back in to see if I wanted a ride. Ruthie allowed as how I had already mopped the floor, the rest could wait till morning. Free to go, I pulled the door of the truck closed behind me and looked over my shoulder. The lights inside were slowly winking out as Ruthie took care of the last bits of the day. The bacon grease didn't need to be emptied tonight. It could wait.

Looking up into the tall pines above the diner, I watched as the wind tousled their tops and shed snow in faerie winds. I had no idea it was my last night there. If I had known, I would like to think I would have asked the man his name. Maybe said goodbye to Ruthie.

When I awoke, I was hot. The barn was gone. Replaced by hospital walls that were far too close in. One window out, and there was snow outside. As Nancy began to explain how long I had been in the coma I felt bits of the dream tug at my heart. I was back on this side again. I never did get to finish cleaning up his tools. My hands can still feel the rust and the oil and the threadworn fabric.

On night like tonight, when I can hear the winds lift and our pines creak enough to make themselves known, I wake up. My ears listen for the sound of the gravel road I no longer live on. Wishing that truck back down a past I knew only in a dream.


  1. Alex, this is INCREDIBLE writing!! I stumbled here, following a comment Nadra made on your Facebook page. I wish you well in these challenges that you are meeting. Strength to you and your family!! Oh, and your writing is really good. Really. Good.

  2. Thanks Jenny. Glad you liked it. Suffice to say, there's plenty more where this came from. This was all of one tiny slice of what, for me, lasted many years. Thanks for posting! Glad to know someone out there is reading this stuff.