It is daunting to be reorienting on so many levels at once. In this new environment I can see how much more physically compromised I have become. My MS symptoms have increased in terms of losing my lumbar, sacral, and gluteal muscles or my ‘truncal ‘muscles as my new neurologist called them today. I can hardly stand or sit or walk very far anymore, even short distances. Kendal at Oberlin is a sprawling complex with long hallways to access the range of dining rooms, activity rooms, and adjacent buildings. There are places I could never reach with my walker alone.
I am going to be fitted for either a scooter or electric wheelchair soon, and in the interim, the PT staff has loaned me someone’s old power wheelchair. It moves very slowly, which is fine as I am learning to be a good driver, slaloming around others moving at their own glacial paces. I have named it Turtle, of course, (in honor of the turtle and her friend the cement frog that I brought with me from Woodstock. The two ‘aquanauts’ stand just outside my bay window among some lilies) and I am very grateful for my slow aide de camp. Adapting to the major changes in my body in an entirely new landscape while orienting emotionally and psychologically is fatiguing.
There are many intelligent fascinating people all around me. My nearest neighbor becoming-my-friend is a woman 88 years old who lost her husband of 68 years just last year. She is nearly blind from glaucoma but has readers both mechanical and human to take in the NY Times and other interesting stories and articles that come her way. Her breakfast companions have been her friends for many years and they often have a lively political morning discussion that I eavesdrop on because they are so smart and incisive in their observations of the daily news.
Because I am chronologically younger than most in this senior facility, and appear young looking for being in my mid 60’s anyway, someone asked me if I was here touring Kendal with my mother. I replied, “No, I am the mother.” The topic of my older daughter always elicits a conversation because she is a professor at Oberlin and the reason that I am living here of all the places in the world from which to choose. There are many graduates of Oberlin at Kendal, and all are interested with how Oberlin has evolved. There are also retired ‘Obie’ professors and so far everyone I met got their degrees from top schools and are proud alumni of wherever that may be. They are an accomplished group of multi-talented innovators, educators, researchers, activists and artists.
I am lonely for intimate companionship. Richard and I would have had a lot to share with so much new life to investigate and integrate. But he is not here. Nor would we both be here if he was still on the planet. I endeavor to convert the intense longing I feel for Richard into the longing I feel for being with my newly gathering interior silence, my spiritual heart. There are moments when I don’t feel that I am longing for something missing out there. Rather I feel the silent awareness is longing for me to fall into the vast quiet, to lay back upon it, and to simply be still. Interacting with my old friends on Face Time is a huge help in twanging my tuning fork, resetting my true pitch.
Today I had a cranial-sacral massage in the PT pool down the hall from my room. With a U-shaped water cushion under my neck and a foam noodle under my legs, I float easily. The woman giving me the massage is very good. She gently finds her way to where I need the most work leading me into further release. I am not sleeping, but drifting inwards and down, down into her hands, down into the buoyant warm water, down before I was a mammal or amphibian or even a one-celled creature. There I am held and am not holding. Or am I the one holding and aware of she-who-is held? All boundaries are fluid, and the afternoon sun shines through the windows making shadowy undulations on the high ceiling above my head.