I have a good friend who is retired and was happily exploring the passions and interests he had prior to his retirement. Then he had a stroke. The stroke destroyed his peripheral vision on his left side and he is left handed.
My friend is an artist so he has been working steadily to adapt to this permanent problem. He by law cannot drive and so he is limited now by circumstances beyond his control. His wife who I met after his stroke has become a good friend too. She too has had to learn to adapt.
I write about this because there are so many circumstances beyond our control and depending on where they occur in relation to us -we all experience the consequences. There is a domino effect as the reality of the scope of a consequence sends its ripples out.
A science series on TV that talks about visual phenomenon, or maybe a better word is attributes. It shows you examples of what appears to be optical illusions which are in essence your brain trying to make sense of the things you see based on what you know and have learned through time. There is something termed “persistence of vision” – a utility your eye and brain uses to complete a scene based on what you see in front of you and your peripheral vision. There is pareidolia, which is when you see images and faces in clouds and woodgrain and other inanimate patterns.
My friends who are victims of the stroke – both he and she – have a loss to grieve. Others who have not experienced this particular loss expect them to “get on.” It is not easy. LIfe has changed, unexpectedly and irrevocably and at my age the learning curve is impaired. From the outside my friend appears to be just like he was before. He has learned to position himself to avoid running into walls, doors frames and poles. He has learned to depend on his wife to take him places he needs to go. Sometimes I think it must be as hard as it is for me – for him to face a day. I really can’t imagine that kind of loss. I depend on my vision.
I know you see the analogy here. (Even this depends on sight of some sort) My friend will not regain his peripheral vision and I will not get my son back. We both watch our step. We both appear on the outside to be unaltered (except by age). We are adapting and somedays it just seems like too big a struggle. Yet his wife, family and I expect him to adapt and keep moving, and my family and friends expect the same of me and I of them.
But please don’t be fooled. None of this has become easy or fun. It is not the sort of challenge I would ever choose.
Fall has come and with it the art activities and preparation for holidays. I am busier because of things I have chosen and things like the basement fiasco that is beyond my control. While being busy I have less down time and yet I miss my son more, maybe because I don’t have time to stop and think about him. The cool days, the quickening of days towards winter make me yearn for him.
I realize that though I may not focus on him directly every day he is there in the peripheral vision of my heart. Always there ready to step into view. I don’t push the memories away but i also try and keep from allowing myself to break down and loose the day totally to a situation I cannot change. I am altered. I am changed. I am coping as well as I can.
We are adapting to our situation because we have no choice. And not having a choice is infuriating.
The other day in all the busy activity of cleaning and working to get the space that was flooded by the burst water line back into shape I heard my son say, “mom, you are crazy.” I had to smile. Yes, by his standards the way I go at some things are crazy. It was nice to hear him out of the periphery of my memory.
I think we all tend to believe that if we do the right things and make good decisions, that everything will work out properly. No one ever warns you that random events beyond our control can happen to us, no matter all the “good” things we do.
Or perhaps none of us believe that those bad things will ever happen to us or our loved ones, because we have “earned” a special bubble of protection. We expect it and believe it is our right.
And yet, as you point out, things happen over which we have no control and no choice. And then all we can do is learn how to cope. I’m trying so hard to figure out how to live a life for which I never prepared. Right now I’m just in the “one day at a time” mode because facing this new future is overwhelming.
I suppose that, as you are doing, part of coping is learning to sometimes keep the memories in a little pocket in order to function and get things done. At least for a little while. And how nice that you heard your son’s comment about your activities. From what you’ve written, he was always so supportive.