I am right handed. For about a year and even before the stroke, fingers in my right hand have started to go numb. Today as I shaved I managed to carve a couple of small, bloody scars in my chin. I wore the scabs all day.
At the therapy center, I sat in the waiting area for an extra hour because they had failed to correctly reserve my session time. I hope no one blamed Melanie, sitting next to me, for the wounds I wore on my chin. Probably no one noticed because that place is full of wounds. When I finally was taken inside the gym to climb on an exercise bike there were people of every age working under the guidance of therapists all over the room. The youngest was probably 4 years old. He was trying to walk over a series of boxes of various heights. He did fine with that. It would be impossible for me just now.
I got to thinking the therapy gym was quite a bit like church. Lots of the people seem fine. Many walk in with no visible wounds. But they need help. The therapists patiently talk to all of us, describing an order of exercises for us to do. The ones who have worked with me have never lost patience with me, no matter how slowly I respond. As I pedaled away on the bike, I considered what the Lord might be telling me about how he wants me to conduct my ministry in the midst of such broken people. Especially when anyone who looks closely at me can see I have wounds of my own, many self-inflicted.
Toward the end of the day Melanie asked if I wanted to ride along on an errand. She was going to get her supper at Chick-fil-A. This was always a favorite destination for us before the stroke. I quickly got ready (“quickly” being a relative term, you understand).
When we got home I sat at the dining table with her to share company as she ate, expecting she would give me some ice chips to chew on. This she did. She also tore up one of the waffle fries for me. Then she tore apart one of the chicken nuggets. She put these on a plate along with the pretzels and guacamole, and some apple sauce. Then she added some items our friend, Nancy, had brought over to the house: some baby food spagetti-O’s and a squirt of a paste made from blueberries and carrots.
My stroke-scrambled tongue told me this paste tasted like bar-b-q sauce. I am therefore surprised to be able to report that the spagetti-O’s tasted like spagetti-O’s.
I promised not to write about my mealtimes again unless I had something to report. Stay tuned.
I thought, at first, that even the small portions were too much. And with the first bite of pretzel and guacamole I choked and created a display I will leave to your imagination. But I kept at it for the next hour. There was no more choking, perhaps because I developed a system of taking a small bite of food and then a small sip of thickened water. Then I chewed until my mouthful became, in turn, a chicken soup or potato soup or spagetti soup or guacamole soup. These mostly went down without too much difficulty.
As the hour mark rolled around (and Melanie had long since finished her sandwich) I was thinking I might be able to clean the plate and finish everything.
But it was time for my left hand to bookend the day my right hand had started. I don’t even know exactly what triggered it. But my left hand, barely under control since the stroke, suddenly sent the glass of water flying across the table. The food left on the plate was soaking in a puddle. The rest of the water was all over the table top and floor. Parents of one year olds are no doubt familiar with such a scene. Melanie began the mopping up. My supper was over.
I am thinking, the Lord can heal me, but he wants me to experience it all in the meantime. Maybe it is so I will thoroughly learn the patience and calmness I see in the therapists who work among my broken brothers and sisters every day.