Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Letters to Kim

On March 23, 2012, my sister suffered a massive and devastating stroke. She is slowly waking up from a coma in Massachusetts General Hospital under the watchful care of incredibly dedicated medical folks and my good and loving brother-in-law, John, and nephew, Ben. I spent a week there, 4 nights of which I  stayed in her room in ICU. I wish I could do so much more.

I may start writing letters to my sister in this blog. Here's the first.

April 4, 2012

Dear Kim,

This morning the air in Portland is cool, nearly white like Pond’s Cold Cream. Remember the blue containers? There was something mesmerizing about gathering the cold on to your fingers in a swirling motion. It felt too light for face cream, too light for something you could see collecting on your fingertips. And the smell was spring but a contrast to the cold in the jar.

One time when I was staying a weekend in the office, where Dad lived when Mom and Dad were freshly divorced, after the fire at our house, I smeared Pond’s Cold Cream on the back of the toilet tank in the bathroom upstairs. It was cold on cold, and maybe that’s what I was trying to do: fit things together that made sense together. When Dad raged and asked me why I did it, I said, “I didn’t know. It felt good.” And those were both true statements. I was so confused when he punished me because, after all, I was telling the truth.

Truth is it’s hard to be here in Portland. Walking around, I’m more cold cream than flesh. This is my second day back, and it’s your day 12. On day 11 you left ICU, which is a really good thing. They were incredibly good with you, and in your single room, you had floor-to-ceiling windows. The light flooded your room, which is a really good thing for your circadian rhythms. The view from Lunder 624 was expansive. The gold dome of the Mass. capitol beamed. The streets of Beacon Hill sped away on a slight diagonal. At sunset I could watch the shadows cast on each floor of buildings on the east side of the streets and then tip up, recede. One of the things you’re missing, which is hard, is the blossoms. The delicate branches were reaching through all those brick buildings. Now that you’re on a new floor, I don’t know what the view is like or what your room sounds like. It’s harder not being able to see and hear and smell where you are.

Here’s what I said to you every morning:
--I love you, Kimmy.
--John and Ben are doing OK.
--John is a rock. When he comes in the room, he says, “Morning, Darlin’,” a little like John Wayne, but softer. He’s taking good care of himself and of you. John comes around 11 every morning and stays to about 6 every evening. He’ll be here soon.
--Ben has Maggie, who clearly loves him. They seem to be a good team. And as you know, Ben and John are an unflappable team. Ben comes for a few hours every day. He’ll be here around lunchtime.
--People are praying for you all over the world.
--Did anyone ever tell you you have beautiful ears? How did you get those ears?
--You have beautiful hands.
--You are the best sister ever.
--I am your favorite.
--You love Obama. Really.
--You’re doing great, and I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but keep fighting, Kim.
--You’re not alone. I’m right here.

The white sky this morning has pink and white blossoms reaching into it. It’s pretty cold here in Portland, about 38 degrees. We’re all ready for warm weather. Maybe next weekend, Easter. You may feel real air today if you get moved to the rehab facility. You love the outdoors, and for the moments you are transported from Mass General to Spaulding, I know you’ll feel the cool Boston air pass over your face, like something refreshing, like something that saturates your skin and feeds you.

I love you, Kimmy.

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