Thursday, June 19, 2008

Goodbye, shoulder: In just hours, I become a bionic man

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.

Pistol on my chest.


Sandy said...

My dearest Bill,

Our world revolves around two major things - 1)Inter-dependence &2)Hope

We are all caught in this web...
So,please do not lose heart...

We all love you.

God Bless you & get well soon.

Barrels of Love from far across the seas,

Khena said...

What a beautiful post. I am sorry about your shoulder, but I am sure your new one will serve you just as well. Your shoulder of bone would have been nothing without the man who used it so well.

Varsha said...

Oh Bill, I simply had no idea how serious this was! I feel really sad...I believe God loves to play such tricks on us...but please don't ever give up! You are a wonderful photographer and a great writer!! I'm sure the doctor will do a great job on your shoulder and please don't worry. Things will be back to normal very soon :). I wish you a speedy recovery! I can wait on your next blog entry for as long as it takes for you to be comfortable...and I'm sure millions of your readers will do the same! :)

springfang said...

I should have known you'd still be blogging. You may want to invest in a one-handed keyboard... I actually just bought one, but it was broken so I have to return it...

Sorry to hear about all this. Mom called me to tell me about the new operation. I hope it all went well.

I also wanted to say that I'm enjoying your blog. I've been meaning to post a comment or two, particularly in regards to the post you made about my cats, but, well, it turns out I suck. :)

Best wishes for a speedy and successful recovery. Be sure to let us know if we can do anything for you.

...oh yeah, this is Thos. :)

A said...

I finally found your blog, but upon the news of your injury. I am upset you must say goodbye to your shoulder. I hope you will not miss it for long and will grow to trust your new one, but I remember how I was a little sad when my wisdom teeth were removed, and those were nothing more but afflictive bits of bone. Obviously they did not deserve any sense of loss, so I can only imagine how deeply you must feel. I wish you a full recovery. with much love,
-Amber said...

Oh my, Bill! Add my name to those who hadn't emailed. I hesitated only because I didn't want to cause you any more pain than necessary with a reply which would only have been repetitive "well wishes."

I'm so sorry that you have to exchange bone for plastic, but as you said "what is, is."

Take your time trying to get back to blogging; as other of your friends and fans have said, we'll wait for you, and we will still be here.

Gentle Healing Hugs,


Toast Ed said...

It has been a good trip to AZ, baby Wry has had many wonderful experiences. Alas our favorite Grandpa/Photographer/biographer could not accompany us. Each & everyday you have been in our thoughts, and it pains me that we didn't call more while we were away. Strange, we would talk to mom and she would say she spoke to you, and it was enough to know you were on the road to recovery, in pain we didn't want to bother you and cause you more physical discomfort. Had I known the anguish you were going thru just not being able to hear or read from a friendly source we would have done so immediately. As it is, "what is, is". That said we cannot hardly wait to see you tomorrow, if only we could give you a giant hug. For now I suppose you will have to settle for smiles and stories of Wry's adventures. Till then the family Tryscuit, Nabseko, Wry, Blossum & Toast Ed send all our love from a crowded motel room in Tempe.
C U 2morrow ;)

Shaela Ann said...

Dear Uncle,

My throat is tight and my heart is heavy from your post. I wish I could give you a big hug and make you a delicious dinner. Although you have shared many beautiful moments with your shoulder of bone, you will create many new ones with the plastic one. Khena said it best, "your shoulder of bone would have been nothing without the man who used it so well." You provide the magic and experience behind those memories. Much love and well wishes. - Shaela

Charlie Earnshaw said...

Hello Bill, I am still in Erie, Colorado and am awaiting my plane ride home to Alaska. Its about 96 Degrees here and I am excited to get back to see everyone and pet some familiar cats. I have finally pet two cats yesterday in between Casper and Glenrock Wyoming.

I am glad that you are out of the hospital again and I wish you a speedy recovery. I will be out to see you this weekend. Maybe we can hang out at the Airshow if you are up for it. Well take good care and keep your spirits up. Listen to some good old rock and roll if you have to. I will be out to see you and the cats soon!


Grahamn Kracker said...

I thank all of you for words of support. It feels too overwhelming to respond to them all them all, yet I feel a need to, so, in order of appearance:

Muse: Your words do so much to help keep my heart strong. So much!

Khena: What fine words for a man to hear from a beloved niece. Yes, I read your words, so technically I did not hear them, yet I did hear them.

Varsha: Yes, God does so seem to enjoy being the trickster at times. Nice trick to bring the beautiful smile of you, a complete stranger to me just one month ago, to me right when I need it most.

Springfang: Yeah, I knew that was you. I've always known it was you. Keep those three kitties purring!

Amber: Nice to see you! Glad you found you way to my blog! Beloved niece. Now you and your great adventurer must come together to Alaska, so that he can dangle from the ice that tops a 10,000 foot rock, and you can do more masterworks on northern kitties.

Franny: I knew - know - you are out there - roaming about, meeting cats yourself, doing what you can to help the felines and feline loving people of this world. Thank you for your words and work!

Toast Ed: Now you are back and baby Wry is back and I have seen the pictures of he and the Crown Dancer Clown who so honored him and I will feel sorry forever that I was not there to witness this special moment.

Shaela Ann: Wish I could have eaten that dinner! Oddly, my appetite has never left me during this ordeal. This is dangerous, as I doing very little to burn off the calories. Thanks for the warm thoughts, beloved niece.

Charlie: Now you are back and today you will be on the blog, discovering a new, very old, cat!