A Case for Noncompliance

I heard the ping of the text while I was in the doctor’s office – assumed it was a response from the message I had sent out earlier to my daughters – and chose to ignore it.  I did the same when my phone vibrated a few seconds later to let me know someone was calling.  My children, after all, have become accustomed to instant responses from me since I had to quit working two and a half years ago.

After the appointment, I hobbled (with the aid of my walker) to the elevator and rode down one floor to the exit where Ric was to be waiting for me.  No sign of our vehicle prompted me to pull out my phone to check the time.  That’s when I saw the text:

I’m at the hospital.  Broke my foot.  Waiting for a cast.

The call had been from Ric, too.  “What?” I said out loud.  I tried to call him back.  No answer. My mind tried to make sense of what was happening.

Ric had gone out-of-town that morning, and was going to pick me up on the way back.  Was he back in London, or still away?  The appendage he had injured two days before was his driving foot – how was he going to get home?

I texted him back:  Want me to come to the hospital?

Still no response.

I called a cab and headed home.

Ric showed up a while later with an air cast in hand.th-3

“I had to drive home somehow,” he explained.  He placed the cast on his foot and we were officially grounded once again.

Just weeks ago he couldn’t drive because of a triple bypass surgery.  We’d had to hire extra help then and relied on others to get us to appointments.  The day before he injured his foot, we had informed the company we were once again independent.  Only now we weren’t.

Ric didn’t leave the house for the next few days.  We both felt numb.  How many things can a man endure?  First it was Stage III cancer, then a torn quad tendon that required surgery (seven in all as infection set in), then my illness, two heart attacks and subsequent bypass, and now this.th

“I’m going to tell the doc I need a driving cast,” he told me the morning of his follow-up examination.  “If not, I’m going to rig my own.”

I felt my blood pressure rise – my husband suffers from acute non-compliance syndrome – but I didn’t say anything.

He came home from the appointment with a slipper cast.

“What did the doctor say?”

“I told him I had to be able to drive, so he changed the cast.  Said he didn’t want to know about me driving.”

A few mornings later, I saw the cast and Ric’s solo canvas shoe on the table.  Ric had gone to pick up groceries.  I greeted him at the door.

“So now your slippers are a cast?”  I said looking at the sagging moccasins on his feet.th-1

He laughed it off and said he hadn’t noticed.  The cast sat on the table for most of the day.

I might have been really angry with him, but here’s the thing:  in light of all he has gone through, what is one little fracture?  The man has been inundated by medical procedures, spends the better part of his week at doctor appointments, has been in pain for as long as I’ve known him, so really, I can’t blame him.

As I mentioned before, compliance is not in his nature.  So his foot doesn’t heal properly.  With his gait, who’s to notice?

What I would like to know, however; is how to get this target removed from his back.





Preoccupation with my own woes blinded me to my husband’s suffering, which culminated in a heart attack on Saturday night.  We are shell-shocked.th-2

“That’s what happens to caregivers,” a callous nurse commented.  Am I supposed to feel guilty?

Unable to either drive myself, or push my own wheelchair, I am reliant on the goodwill of others to get me to the hospital, although even then, my body’s limits scream:  Halt!

I trust that my husband is in good hands, and getting the help he needs.  Meanwhile, I am home, alone, processing a gamut of emotions and what if’s.

thThis is not his first heart attack.  The first was silent, and according to the specialists, all but fatal.  It caused sufficient damage to have us all on edge.  Thank God I saw the signs and called 9-1-1 this time around.  The hospital said they will not release him until either medications are in place, or surgery has corrected the issue.

Our dreams have been so focused on RV travel  that we have thought of little else, least of all the possibility that one of us would be gone and the other left to pick up the pieces.  As terrifying as it may be, this recent incident has forced me to face reality.  I am a fifty-seven-year-old, totally dependent female, who would not be able to maintain this lifestyle without the love and support of my husband.

I mentioned this to my son, whose words offered reassurance, but whose tone of voice conveyed a whole other message:  How has our strong, independent mother come to this?  Why can’t she just get better and get on with life?  It has been hard enough for my children to come to terms with my illness, and thanks to Ric, they really haven’t had to consider my dependency.  They still think of me as the super-charged single mother that raised them.  Weakness was never an option then.

I am angry too – the kind of anger that looks for blame and is seldom satisfied.  He is feeling it too, I know, because he lashed out at me for offering information to the doctor that contradicted his own answer.  I almost think that the separation is good for us right now, as it gives us a cooling down time.  th-1

Something as serious as heart disease requires major changes – all the doctors have said so – and I worry that he will be able to follow through.   My brilliant, big hearted husband, has slayed many dragons on behalf of others, but not so much for himself.  I only hope that he can turn some of that indefatigable fighting attitude inwards and value himself enough to make the hard, but necessary, shifts.


Alright Already!

th-1There’s that moment, just after having been flat-lined by a wicked cold or the flu, when you know you are on the mend, even though your energy is still low: a restless impatience to be ‘done with it’ so you can get back to life.  I find myself feeling that way often, only I don’t have the flu and am in my second year of being ill.  Emotionally, it is the hardest thing about being sick – the driving desire to ‘get over it’.

I could blame it on spring – it is far easier to be home-bound in the inclement weather – or, maybe it’s that any day now my daughter will be giving birth to her second child – and I can’t wait to hold that precious new bundle.

Or maybe it’s the way my new doctor listens and explains and sets out a plan of action that has me feeling like a horse at the gate waiting to get back in the race.  Perhaps it is hope boosting my adrenaline, picking me up by the shirt collar and setting me back on my feet.

Whatever it is, I am no longer content with the usual distractions, my mind reeling off  possibilities, my emotions bubbling just under the skin.  th

Change, I have long known, is the only certainty in life.  I’m ready for it; can feel it coming.

A Reflection on Need for Reform in Education

Having been absent from the school system for the better part of two years has not fueled a complacency about education; it has given me a lot of time to reflect on my experiences.

As indicated before, my passion in teaching was with special needs student, and I spend many days thinking about one or another teenager and how we might have served their needs more appropriately.

Adolescence is a crucial period in the development of a citizen of the future: which is how I approached my work:  How could I best help prepare this child for the life that awaited him/her?
th-1I came into teaching at a time when building self-esteem was the all important goal, which really translated into:  let’s give children an inflated sense of self, build their reliance on external signals, and teach them to doubt their ability to overcome adversity, giving them a false sense of protection and entitlement moving forward.  Sorry if that is harsh, however; as a parent who raised my children on the principle that I was responsible for helping them finding their wings and ability to fly (i.e., be responsible and accountable), I shuddered frequently over the disservice we did to many students.
thWhile I do not have answers, I do believe that we need to enter into a serious dialogue that addresses current issues.  At the point in which I fell ill, the trend was swaying towards a recognition that resiliency is the best thing we can foster in students, and there was a movement towards looking at ways to change the instructional format and expectations for assessment, in order to define “success” in a way that defined more personal outcome than an assimilist attitude of mass conformity.

Forty years ago, I was invited to participate in a panel composed of educators, parents, and former students of the high school I had attended.  The question they put to their alumni was whether or not we felt that our experience at the secondary level had helped prepare us for life beyond.  The resounding response was “no”.   This was before the age of technology changed the landscape of the post-secondary world.  Success today requires adaptability, versatility, and a willingness to engage in life long learning.  Are these the skills our high school students are pocketing during their high school years?

I know I am ranting into the wind here, but the haunted memory of so many children, who lives touched mine, lingers with me, especially how inadequately their needs were met.

This post is dedicated to all those students who spark was extinguished by bureaucracy, failed initiatives, and a system whose mandates often have more to do with keeping “bums in seats” than actually making a difference.

Ken Robinson’s take (although focused on the U.S. system) speaks much more eloquently about the matter:  (If you haven’t time to watch the whole talk – please skip to the last two minutes – this is the part that brought tears to my eyes.)

Anniversary of a Diagnosis

th-2      It has been two years now since the diagnosis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) changed my life.  The disease, recently renamed Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disorder (SEID), has also been known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, although the latter is really a misnomer.  ME affects muscles,  the spinal cord (nervous system), and the brain stem. I wrote about the early stages and diagnosis process in my other blog:  Character Counts.

While I knew that something was wrong me at the time, I could not have imagined it would lead to a life confined mostly to bed, sandwiching activities between quiet and rest, total dependence on others, and a compromised brain.

“How have you survived it?” a friend asked me recently.

It is a fair question.  How does one go from full-time teacher, parent, and grandparent, actively engaged in life to a slow crawl?

The answer is you just do.  What more can we do but embrace the experiences life throws at us and adapt?

“I’ve survived worse,”  I responded.  “I’ll survive this.”  Even as I said it, I knew it was true.

Yes, life has changed. Yes, it bears no resemblance to the goals and ambitions I had for myself in the past.  Yes, it is deeply depressing at times.  And yet, I face this challenge as I have many challenges before, with acceptance and faith.

Guess I’m made of stronger stuff then I’d ever imagined.  Or, as Martel suggests, I am just mad.

Yann Martel

All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive.”
Yann Martel, Life of Pi