Sunday, March 29, 2009

eye stuff

Sometimes I forget that this blog began with a grim diagnosis coupled with a car crash. The eye and the car have both been replaced, with varying degrees of success. My car is pretty fabulous: a little white Toyota Rav-4 with a pug nose and sexy lines (in an athletic sort of way).  It goes pretty fast and, with my many custom-cool mirrors attached, my visibility is really good.  Weirdly, I can parallel park better than ever.
My prosthetic eye is another story. It is beautiful, that is for sure.  Michael painted it for me, following some vague directions about echoing the colors of my favorite turquoise ring. I was hell-bent on an artistic prosthetic. It is a work of art, I thought. It is but another way to express oneself, I reasoned. I can tell you that the usual responses to it are 1) wow, it sure looks real! and 2) why is it a different color?  So, in terms of aesthetics, mission accomplished, sort of.
What is lacking, to some extent, is what opthamologists refer to as "horizontal motility", or the ability of my prosthetic to move from one side to the other.  The up-and-down movement is pretty good-at least within the realm of normal eye movement.  We just don't peer WAY up or WAY down that often.  The problem comes when I am looking at you from a slightly sideways perspective. My artistic prosthetic stubbornly stares off somewhere in the distance while the real one works the way it should, giving me a rather cross-eyed appearance. 
My friends assure me that this is not noticeable with glasses on, but I am aware of it, and no more than when I am a close huddle with my little guys at school. It just looks a little weird.
Fortunately, there is a solution: the peg.  Here is what happens: the occular surgeon drills a little hole in your implant, and inserts a titanium peg in it that sticks out a little bit.  Then, the occularist, Mike in my case, makes a little dent in the back of my prosthetic, into which the little peg fits. As a result, the prosthetic eye articulates back and forth in concert with the other one, with a few adjustments here and there.
I consult with the surgeon at the end of April and we take it from there. 
A good day to read to all out there in the universe.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Annie Lane

I got pregnant again when Jon was only six months old. It was a surprise, but then again, so was Jon, so Mark and I, happy in our lives as young parents, looked forward to meeting the next little Hagar. It was an uneventful pregnancy. I knew that delivery would be by C-section, as Jon had been; that was just the accepted procedure. 

A week before the scheduled birth, I went to my obstetrician, who proclaimed all well and sent me home. The next day, I felt a heaviness through my swollen belly, and as the day went on, a quiet stillness came over it. By eight, the contractions had begun and we left for the hospital, leaving baby Jon with friends.  My joy evaporated as I watched the face of the physican who was moving his stethoscope over my contracting abdomen; he was searching in vain for a heartbeat.  Someone took my hands and lifted them over my head; still nothing.  An anesthesia mask came down over my face. "Count backward from ten," a voice instructed.  Their urgent faces told me that the baby was in trouble. I began to cry as unconsciousness overtook me. 
I woke up to see my doctor standing by my side, tears streaming down his face. He told me that our baby, a girl, had been stillborn. My husband Mark joined us. More words about autopsies and possible causes of death were uttered but of course we were beyond hearing such things.

I was placed on the surgery floor, away from the new mothers, in a private room. Later, a nurse came to give me a backrub. I remember that she was very kind and had gentle hands. As she kneaded my shoulders, she quietly suggested that I see the child I had lost. I hesitated, remembering something someone said about a facial deformity. I was afraid. She told me that in nature, mothers always inspect their young, whether living or dead. this made sense and I agreed to see her before the funeral.  My dad arrived, picking up the tabs for funeral and headstone and fighting back tears at my bedside.  He and my mom had lost two little boys in similar fashion and it brought it all back for him. 

Mark and a friend went about the business of buying a coffin and arranging for a funeral. We named her Annie Lane-Annie because it is a beautiful name, and Lane, after my mother. I found the christening dress that my mother had worn as a baby and we sent it to the funeral home for her to wear. We arranged for a private viewing.  My father, Mark and I entered the chapel and sat with her for a few minutes. She was quite beautiful, and all of these 28 years later, I wish that I had taken her picture. She looked a lot like Jon when he was tiny. 

Mark chose a plot at the Lakewood Cemetary, across from the elementary school. He told me that he wanted her to be able to the sounds of children playing. We chose a line from a Shaker song for her headstone: "Tis a Gift to be Free." Someone cleared out all of the baby items. I never found out where they went.

We buried her on March 19th, in a drizzle of cold rain.  I still remember how it felt to stand there shivering and looking at the tiny white coffin going in to the ground.  Afterwards, my friend Patti DenUyl, who was nothing if not generous, arranged for half the staff of Point West to come to my rented cottage, setting up tables loaded with a huge buffet dinner. She brought with her a large basket overflowing with personal things for me: bubble bath, lipstick, scented oils.  She was pregnant, too, and her grief nearly matched mine that day.  A few weeks later, her Mia was born. 

Of course, time heals, and now I mark March 16th by visiting her with flowers, and talking with her for awhile.  Early on, of course, Mark and I went together, and took Jon and then our beautiful Annie Elizabeth, born 54 weeks later, with us.  They would find pinecones and beautiful sticks to put by the stone. Later, after the divorce, we would show up separately, one of us adding flowers to those left by the other. 

When Annie Elizabeth was born, we had the same team in the delivery room; the nurses joked about putting "pink juice" in the IV to assure that a little girl came out. Tears of joy reigned as she entered the world loudly and confidently, looking slightly Asian and very pink.
I spent a week in the hospital and she rarely left my side (I  marvel that my insurance company paid for that now; how relaxed it all was back then.)  

I sometimes wonder about what Annie Lane would look like.  I try to imagine a collage of Jon and Annie. For some reason, I think that her hair would have been more like Jon's, darker and coarser. I see a taller and somewhat more lanky version of Annie Liz.  I think that she would have loved music.   

To all those who have been close to the death of a child, there is this kind of dreamy wondering and speculation.  In one way, we feel that we knew them so well, as they nestled and swam inside of us. In another, they barely touched this earth, and what is left is what might have been.

The picture was taken when I was about seven months along with Annie Lane.  I marvel at my youth and I marvel at the resilience that we all have to have when walking through this life.
I am not sure how to close this post, except to say that tomorrow, when I visit Annie Lane, I will tell her once again how she would love her brother and sister, how beautiful the trees are around her, and how much her spirit sings inside of me still. 

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Earning our place

From Parker Palmer:

"Our inner world has a reality and a power that can keep us from being victims of circumstance and compel us to take responsibility for our own lives."

This distinguished author and thinker wrote a book called THE COURAGE TO TEACH. 
Here is another quote from that book:

"Authority is granted to people who are percieved as authoring their own words, their own actions, their own lives, rather than playing a scripted role at great remove from their own hearts.  When teachers depend on coercive powers of law and technique, they have no authority at all."

Palmer's message is good news and bad news for all of us, whether we are educators or not. 
The good news is that investment in and commitment to our inner lives-turning our compassionate attention to what is in our hearts- will lead to affirmation and authentic success in our personal and professional lives.  The bad news, of course, is that this work is necessary if we are to truly succeed in our endeavors.  Remaining in the hole of victimization and spiritual blindness is what in AA we call the "easier, softer way." It may be a seductive path initally, when we are in pain or facing huge challenges, but it will lead only to more suffering.

I think of all of the years that a false and pretty two-dimensional Mrs. Hagar has posed and functioned, sort of, as a teacher of art. Of course, she can and does take over immediately, should I decide to leave.  Going through the motions, relying on "powers of law and technique", I really can do a great imitation of a teacher.  The hollowness and lack of fulfillment of that path are hard to describe and harder to live with. When Claudia shows up for work, and true connection with students then occurs, I can tell you sincerely that there is no greater joy for me.