The Way Things Were

In contrast to my own fortunate circumstances of having enjoyed a steady stream of face-to-face visitors, online interactions, and outside visits, many of the people here at the hospital/rehabilitation centre lead rather solitary lives.

For example, there’s one man with whom I’ve shared a room, who has only had one visitor during the entire eight weeks he’s been in rehabilitation. At 80 years old, he lives alone in what seems to be a single room. He usually relies on meals from a soup kitchen run by a local church. When asked if he can prepare meals himself, he revealed he has both a microwave and a fridge, but neither of them works at the moment. In addition to this, he’s battling a serious cancer. Fortunately, the hospital staff are aware of his situation and are doing their best to assist him, as he greatly wishes to return to “the way things were”.

Another man of a similar age expressed a similar sentiment. Struggling to move around even within the hospital, he kept talking about his plans to “return to his apartment to watch TV all day, with meals brought to him by my ex-wife”. His ex-wife had been a frequent visitor, occasionally joined by his son. As I’ve chatted to people, it sounds like the the scenario “ex wife still taking care of the ex husband” is not uncommon. He was also fiercely independent, often declining pain relief and assistance to use the bathroom until both became absolutely necessary. When he finally did have a “pooh” after four days, the smell was unbearable.

I’m uncertain whether they voice these sentiments due to awareness that others can hear them, a desire not to appear “weak”, or perhaps a lack of realization regarding the challenges they now confront. Then again, they might understand their own circumstances better than I do. Maybe they’ll find a way back to normalcy. Making assumptions and judgments about others’ lives can be misleading.

For me, it’s been nearly ten weeks since I arrived at the hospital. Accustomed to brief hospital stays or day surgeries, a stay of this length was hard for me to fathom before now. And then last week I learned that one older man who I’d become friendly with was leaving hospital (perhaps prematurely) after five months.

While I’m not exactly counting down the days, I’m eagerly anticipating my return home. They’re planning to cast my leg for the prosthetic limb on Thursday, and if all goes well, I should be home in two or three weeks.

One thing I’m certain of is that life won’t simply revert to the “normal life” that many of my roommates have spoken about.

6 Replies to “The Way Things Were”

  1. As we chatted about last week, ‘normal life’ isn’t static for a lot of us so your new ‘normal’ will feel habitual soon enough!!
    There’s some sad stories in your compatriots – although, as you say, we don’t know their entire story so perhaps they find their lives quite satisfactory even if we may not??

  2. We’re all hoping I’m sure that loss turns to gain. The new life will be just that. New. Write your story now. Then live it!
    There’s a book/podcast/show in this!

  3. Hi James, just re-visited your blog after a long absence. When you’re out of the hospital and up to it, would love to host you on our Chinatown food tour. While life won’t return to “normal”, I’m sure travel in some form will still be in your future. All the best.

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