People who work in the “helping professions” are earth-bound angels and I am lucky enough to have met several of them on my road to recovery these past few weeks. That road, which I should add, would have been a whole lot rockier without them.
I didn’t realize just how many of these angels there are until I found myself in a rehab facility working off the after effects of surgery. I won’t bore you with the details.
Angels, yes. Doctors, nurses and aides for sure, but so many others who are called to serve – physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and social workers who help return their patients to the lives they lived before illness or injury hit the fan.
Then there are therapists who use activities to occupy people’s hands and minds and keep the spirits high or at least distracted. Then there are art and music therapists that help chase the boredom and the blues until life can beat to its normal rhythm.
But all this helping and caring is an odd thing to encounter for an independent adult not used to being the focus of attention. I found that out a few days after I arrived at this wonderful skilled nursing facility.
There are people who pay attention to you even when you think you have floated along under their radar.
“We’ve noticed you eat in your room instead of the dining room with the others,” the nice woman in charge of mental health of patients mentioned to me one day about a week into my stay.
Who knew we, the lame and sick, were permitted to mingle with the general population, I told the smiling angel posing as a recreational therapist.
“But I’d just as soon stay in and focus on getting out of here, no offense,” I added, but she persisted with another observation. “We noticed you don’t participate in the programs either, don’t you want to make new friends?”
It was a startling question and a trifle off putting. I don’t mean to be rude or standoffish, but I’m not here to rush a sorority or relive the glory days of summer camp, I wanted to say but didn’t.
Should I tell her I was a born loner, a personality trait which was so apparent as a child that my dad’s nickname for me was “Lonesome Polecat” after the Al Capp cartoon character.
Not all of us are social butterflies, I wanted to say in defense of my loner-ness.
“I am not a snob and I am not sad, depressed or friendless,” I told her in a thought cloud I launched in her direction.
The goal, I wanted to say, is to hit all the healing benchmarks set out for me and to go home and away from this cloistered society of the unwell.
Or should I channel Greta Garbo and her dramatic delivery of the line of dialogue that made her famous. “I want to be alone,” she said as the Russian ballerina in “The Grand Hotel.” Me too.
I miss my dog and my house and my car as dirty as it was the last time I saw it. So please don’t think badly of me because I am not a joiner or up for an afternoon round of bingo. I didn’t play bingo before all of this, why should I do so now?
The message got through. This sturdy band of angels got the message and stopped suggesting how I could benefit from a lesson in flower arranging, rock panting or singing along with a visiting piano man.
No disrespect intended. I am forever grateful for their caring and eventually their understanding that patients are not a monolith and some of us want to keep on keepin’ on in our own way, on our own terms and in our own sweet time.