The Barber Strikes Again

Yesterday at the hospital, I noticed David’s haircut has finally grown out. Last time I cut it, I forgot to put the guide comb on and swiped at him with the bare clippers.

“Whoa! What happened?” I said, horrified.

He pointed to the forgotten piece of equipment sitting on the table. Then he studied himself in the mirror.

“You know,” he said. “Some people pay extra to have shapes like this shaved into the side of their head.”

It’s all what you call it.


The Fan Club

Friday morning, I watched the EMTs load David into the back of the ambulance and drive away. Then I went around collecting the sort of things you take for a day at the hospital. Jacket, book, list of meds, fig bars.

For David, the day meant pain, waiting, x-rays, waiting, cat scans, waiting, questions, waiting…. If you’ve been there, you know. For me, it mostly meant watching the man I love choose to push past all those negatives. No grouching. No impatience. At one point, I came back from searching for food to hear him asking the ER nurse, “How can I pray for you?”

By the time he was given a room on the 5th floor, he’d made friends throughout the ER staff. And yesterday, when he was to move upstairs to inpatient rehab, nurses and CNAs gathered to say good-bye and declare how much they would miss him. “He’s a pleasure to take care of,” one told me.

It’s true.

I thought I would enjoy the break. Sometimes I get tired of the care involved with his spinal cord injury. Everything takes a long time to do. Now I leave the hospital each evening, drive home, and am in pajamas and tucked into bed in a tenth of the time it would normally take to be ready for lights out. Or I can leave the light on and read as late as I want. I have no one to think of except myself.

And that’s the problem. I’m David’s number one fan. Trading the burden of caregiving for the emptiness of self-indulgence just isn’t worth it.

Time to come home, darlin’.

The Magic: Story’s End?

One morning, vivid and unusual colors showed up in the moon carrot. I stopped for another look. Six enormous striped caterpillars were lounging in its curly foliage, which had obviously become their bed and breakfast.

My first thought was how gorgeous they were. The sight brought back good memories of childhood, of those endless summer days when I spent hours tracking the tiny creatures that lived in our backyard.

Next, though, came a vision of these particular caterpillars chomping their way through every plant on the berm. I put on my gardening gloves and gingerly dropped their chubby bodies into a cardboard box. First I took them in the house to show David. He was fascinated. Then I carried them to the alley and rolled them out into the weeds.

“Here,” I told them. “You can eat these.”

Back in the house, I googled “caterpillar black and green stripes with orange dots.” Amazingly, I got an immediate answer. If life went well for them, our chubby plant-eaters would turn into Black Eastern Swallowtails.

I showed David the picture. “I’ve seen those around,” I said. “They’re beautiful butterflies.”

But according to the website, they’re extremely picky eaters. The alley weeds are not on their diet. Moon carrot is. I put on my gloves again, searched through the weeds until I found all six, and returned them to their B & B.

Over the next few days, they disappeared one by one. From a bird’s point of view, they would make a scrumptious mouthful, but we hoped they’d instead gone off to pupate. Since it was so late in the season, they would build their chrysalises, wait out the winter as pupae, and emerge from this odd and wonderful sleep in May or June.

“That’ll be fun,” I told David. “Next spring we’ll have to watch for the butterflies.”

The next morning, I found a chrysalis glued to the inside half-wall of our little stone outbuilding. David wanted to see it, but his wheelchair doesn’t fit through the opening, and it’s hard for him to safely make the step down on foot. He asked me to take a picture.

“I’ll do it later today,” I said. “When the light’s better.”

He hesitated. “Would you take it soon? This sounds ridiculous, but I feel sort of urgent.”

So I took the camera outdoors and stepped into the little building. Near the top of the half-wall, a few inches above the chrysalis, a glossy black butterfly with dots of bright color clung to the wall.

It’s the mother, I thought, coming to check on her baby. I’d had no idea Black Eastern Swallowtails had such maternal sentiments.

Then, of course, I got it. The chrysalis a few inches below looked different now, smaller and crispier. The butterfly, slowly opening and closing her wings in the morning light, was much too big to have emerged from that tiny husk. But she had.

When I ran inside, David said, “You were gone a long time.” He was already smiling. As I held the camera out to show the image captured there, his eyes lit and he said, “I just had a feeling….”

I went out a few minutes later, and the butterfly had flown.


Back to the Magic: Moon Carrot

The joys of verbascum bombyciferum whetted David’s appetite for more. He decided life is richer if you can call its various facets by name.

I agree. That’s certainly what they tell you in writing workshops. “Some trees” carries a lot less punch than “a stand of sequoias.”

Wheeling out to the berm, he had me name all the plants growing there. When I finished, he asked, “What about that one?” He pointed at a mass of curly foliage. Recently the plant had sprouted a stalk as thick as my arm, topped with more curly foliage. Another Dr Seuss plant.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m starting to think it’s a weed.”

A few days later, something that looked like gigantic gecko fingers shot out of the leafy nest. David posted a photo on Facebook, and the opinions rolled in. The general consensus was “weed.”

More and more stalks and gecko-blooms emerged. When I finally cut one off and took it to the plant nursery, Edie said, “Sure, I remember selling you that. It’s a moon carrot.”

A moon carrot! What a wonderful name for a plant whose foliage does look as if a six-foot carrot could be growing beneath it. I carried the knowledge home to David like treasure.

The story could end here, and we’d both be happy.

But a week later, the real magic arrived.

Always Read the Instructions

We just learned that we’ve been regularly overdosing on one of David’s prescriptions. When I opened the most recent package from the VA, I read the invoice more closely than usual.


I’ve been using two. Sometimes even three.

Wonder if there’s a cumulative effect – this could be bad.