Self-portrait - me lying in bed, Pistol behind me.
Everyday since my return from the hospital, Sunday, June 15, it has been my intent to sit down and to use my left hand - the only hand I can use - to slowly peck out the story of my injury. Each time, I planned to go back to the evening in Barrow that I spent with Watson, the black short-haired cat and his oder brother, Jumper, the Tuxedo.
I planned to layout a nice selection of their pictures and to tell their stories of discard, woe, love and triumph. From there, I would move through the accident, the 800 mile jet-ambulance ride from Barrow to Anchorage, the gathering at the hospital, the three-hour emergency surgery that went very well, the return home, and I would show how cats weaved themselves in and out of the whole process.
But each day the task proved too hard, too painful, and it did so today, as well. This morning, I had thought that I would do it immediately after I ate the oatmeal that I cooked for myself - for I am alone now - just me and my cat buddies. Instead, I returned to my room where I laboriously and painfully built myself a little platform out of cushions and pillows to give myself some angled support over the bed. I then eased myself down upon my back to rest.
I have been absurdly hot and sweaty and so I had both windows open. A light breeze blew across my bare torso and it felt wonderful. I could hear the chirping of many birds and the shuffling of cats as they shifted positions about me. It seemed almost heavenly, and I dozed in and out of peace, punctuated by moments of pain, both sharp and dull, brought on by the wrong movements.
In time, I got up, fixed myself lunch, then escorted Jim and Royce out into the backyard, where, using my left hand only, I clumsily took a few shots of them playing in the grass, dandelions and the wild Alaska roses now beginning to bloom.
Again, I grew too weary to do anything more and so turned on the radio, lay down once again upon the structure that I had built upon my bed and then dozed off again to the NPR programs Fresh Air and All Things Considered for three hours, followed by half-an-hour of Alaska Statewide News. I have no idea what happened in the news today, except that two young women from Outside who had gotten lost in Denali Park called someone from a cell phone and were rescued.
I am so glad.
After that, I fixed myself dinner - all microwave - and then fell into a deep, dark, depression. My surgery, you see, has come apart. At 6:30 AM I return to Anchorage and the hospital, where the highly-skilled orthopedic surgeon will remove all the hardware that he put in just one week ago - the metal plates and screws - and this time he will remove bone as well. Either half or all of my right shoulder, depending on what he finds when he opens me back up.
I love that shoulder. It has done many things for me. How many baseballs did that shoulder set in motion? How many stones did it help skip across the water? How many kittens and cats have ridden upon that shoulder? Little Guy just loved that shoulder!
Did I not once use that shoulder to drape my whole arm over the shoulder of the beautiful, dark, black-haired Apache woman who, in these pages, I call Sunflower, after the flowers that in late summer and fall cast such a lovely blanket upon the Arizona reservation from whence she comes?
Did not her head subsequently begin to appear upon that shoulder every night before I fell asleep and then again every morning when I awoke? Did not babies then soon appear, squirming, crying, laughing, pooping and peeing, to become scampering toddlers who themselves rode about and hung upon that shoulder?
How about the airplane that this shoulder helped to guide across the wild north, the snowmachines that it directed across the Arctic ice, the bicycle that it has been steering on what, just before I left on this latest trip to Barrow, had become daily 20 mile rides?
And now I must give up this shoulder and accept plastic in its stead?
Oh, well. What is, is.
But I did become terribly depressed. As I say, I am alone with the cats. And all day, I received not a single email, except from Barack O'bama and he just wanted money, and from the lady in Fairbanks who daily sends me the same multitude of humorous, inspiring, political and sometimes just plain absurd forwards that she sends to all the multitudes of people that she meets in this life and she wasn't even thinking about me particular when she sent it. Still, she did cause me to laugh.
Not a single phone call did I get, except from a Special Olympics lady, and she just wanted money.
I knew my Sunflower would call though, from the reservation, just as she has every night since this happened. And finally about 9:00 PM, she did, from a white pickup truck that Tryskuit was driving from the ceremonial site down the hill from Fort Apache, back to my sister-in-law's house, up the hill, in Hon-Dah. Even though she wept, I have felt much better, ever since hearing her sweet voice, as well as that of my beloved Tryskuit.
I am supposed to be at this Sunrise Dance, too. The whole extended Apache family, including the branch that this ceremony has given us, was counting on me being there. There will be others with cameras, but they will not do what I would have done.
How many cameras, over how many miles, has this shoulder of mine packed?
And now, in just six hours, I will check myself into the hospital to get it cut out to be replaced by plastic.
Sometime after I get back, when I am strong enough, I will back up to that sun-shiny night that I spent in Barrow with the cats, black and Tuxedo, and I will tell you the whole story. It will be worth the wait. Invite your friends over, and microwave some popcorn. Gather your kitties around.