Upturn in the Dark
April 11, 2000
Jeanie Wylie's sweet head, now wounded again, looks like the map
of a warzone - scarred, cross-stitched, overlaid with the subterranean
shunt tube, and now a third shaved and fuzzy length of hair - yet she
remains unaffectedly beautiful. One of the nurses declares her gorgeous
and brings in a turquoise scarf to cover the battleground and make her
practically beatific. This morning her countenance - quick smile and
eyes full of thoughts she can't yet say - was so sunny it turned my mo
rightside up. It has not always been so this last week.
Yesterday was actually worst, though perhaps I gave in. She:
sluggish and slack, utterly nonverbal, acting only on command. Me:
dragged under with grief. I summoned my brother out of a Methodist
meeting in sobs over the payphone. The recovery, for which we pray, has
been slow and incremental at best. Doctors, even those we like and
trust, render diverse opinions, some dire and deadend: "If I had
classify her state, it would be 'dementia.'This may be what we're going
to get." Short-term memory seemed to be withering rather than improvin
Over the weekend, her Mom, sister and brother-in-law, on a marathon
visit would engage her joy. Then returning from a bathroom break, she'd
open the door, suddenly so pleased and surprised and full of welcoming
smiles all over again. However, today she rallies unaccountably.
Initiates conversation she can't even finish. Pushes me physically
toward the elevator on a stroll through the hall. Let's blow this
popstand, whatever it may be.
She is strong and stable enough to come home in the next day or
two. To that end, we reconvened the famous clearness committee to figu
the possibilities for 24-hour care (at least for the time being).
Personally, I believe being home will ground her in place and time,
allowing the brain to more safely reroute it's signals.
I'm six days into a fast. I know it's counterintuitive when I
need strength for Jeanie and the girls, but intuitive nonetheless. As
form of prayer, it seemed most in accord with my sense of powerlessnes
And a way of honoring the emptiness already in my gut. When I've felt
tired and weak, its really been from sleeplessness. If anything the fa
has lightened and energized me. I'm verified in the late night impulse.
And when that woman finally walks up the stairs and in the door here,
will feast in ways more than one.
Downstairs (I'm writing in the attic) the girls are noisily
dragging furniture - their way of preparing space for Jeanie's Mom,
Grandma Bea, to come for a longer stay. Earlier, I found Lucy quietly
crying in Grandpa Sam's sermon-writing morris-chair by the front windo
"Just too many changes!" she explains. O sweetie, you don't
have to give
up your room. But, of course, I've barely touched the real change. "No,
it's Mom needing so much help and care." We hold one another and
complete agreement. Later on the phone, Jeanie freely holds up her end
of a conversation with both girls. And now the furniture gets
I don't know. Usually, to be frank, I wait for an upturn of some
sort (like this morning) to write you all. But I don't honestly know if
what we get is increments turning a corner or simply what we get. But
you know what, dear friends? What we get is Jeanie Wylie through and
through. Even sluggish and weighed under, it's she. So far, even at the
worst, she knows she's loved. Even at worst, she loves from somewhere
deep it can't be covered over or knifed away. With nothing more than
that (but thank God blessedly more) we can live.
Til the darkest glass clears, Bill
Soar We Now
Two simpatico notes from California:
"You are chronicling a via crucis of the most intimate kind, and
words, like dropped tears, pave the way for all of us to follow.
Tomorrow, I'll fast with you."
"I will think of you especially during Holy Week and know you will
relating to the passion and suffering in a most personal way. I can only
hope for you the resurrection too. I love you."