I open the strong wooden door. It reveals a four-sided room with only a few cobwebs and bright sunlight. Three of the walls are painted a soft pastel purplish-blue. The fourth wall contrasts with a rosy pink color and holds the window. There are two desks, a couch and a rocking chair with a comfortable handmade afghan blanket. On the side by the door is a large black trash can. This room resides permanently in my heart. I can choose to visit it anytime I want to.
One desk has binders, x-rays, CDs, and prescriptions. Leaning against it is a transfer board with a wheelchair (folded) next to it. There are also the usual pens, papers, and a photo. That photo shows a man smiling with a dog. There are two drawers. One is for sad memories. One is for happy memories. There is a third smaller drawer up in the front and has nothing in it.
The second desk also has medical papers, medications, and supplements. On its side is a child’s hand-drawn painting of a woman, a man in a wheelchair and themself. On the other side of the desk is a hole from where the child hit it with a toy. It has a few pens, a calendar, a schoolbook, and two photos. One of a happy child and the other where the child looks distant. It also has the same two drawers of happy and sad memories. The third drawer up in the front also has nothing in it.
The navy blue couch centered between the two desks faces the window. It is an old leather couch with an occasional small hole and several creases established from time. There are several throw pillows of various shapes, sizes, and colors with different statements on them. They say, “Past stays there; now is what you make of it, and your future holds many great things.” There is also a stuffed bear whose matting is flattened but its ribbon still brightly shines.
Oh yes, there is a shelf! On it sits many awards, books, and mementos. The shelf has binders holding documentation, business cards, and workshop notes. In between are books notated with the word, “Blessings,” on the side. Some of the books hold my stories. One is a workbook written by me. At the top of the bookshelf, there is a small lamp, a backup drive, and a ball. There is also a compass from a conference long ago attended.
I grab the whisk broom from the bottom of the shelf and sweep away the few cobwebs, adding them to the trash can with the others. Then I grab the cloth nearby and dust everything off. Tears and smiles are felt on my face as I feel and look at each item. Before I sit down in the rocking chair I pick up the afghan, smell its fragrance, wrap it around me and then sit in the chair with my legs curled up underneath surveying all that is in the room. I look to the window and smile with weathered confidence.
The first desk represents my husband who passed away over 7 years ago. He had tetraplegia and three rare neurological disorders. (The drawer of sadness.) We were married just shy of 27 years. He was my best friend. (The drawer of happiness.) The second desk is for my child who only a few years ago was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder. For two years the toxin in her brain made her a very angry aggressive mixed up someone who no one would ever recognize. Now, though not quite fully healed, she has gone from a failing student to a happy grade A average student, in the pep band, joining theatre and has friends.
The couch holds all the sweat and tears from my caregiving roles. It also holds a flattened cushion where all the thoughts of how to help other caregivers in disasters were created. A piece of paper lays haphazardly out on the couch that says, “subject matter expert.” I take a step out of the rocking chair, read the pillows again and grab the bear hugging it in my arms knowing that it is the last item my child gave directly to her father and now stays with her. Sitting back into the chair I catch sight of a ball that had been sent to me in the mail and on it, it says, “Have a Ball!, from Caregiving.com.” As I begin to get comfortable in the chair, I close my eyes and focus on the empty two desk drawers which represent all the hopeful thoughts that could be placed into them. A slight grin comes about recalling that they were intentionally left empty on the thinking that if they were empty I could never ever run out of hopeful thoughts to put into them.
I look to the window and smile.
– The Roaring Mouse