Real life has been rough lately.
I’m not sure I have words for it all…
My father’s been in the hospital since Thursday, 26 June.
I had to have him taken there by ambulance, after going to his home in Milwaukee with the intention of moving him to live in my home. He’d finally gotten to a breaking point in living with my brother, and asked for help. Due to his condition when I got to Milwaukee, my help turned out to be getting him health care that he desperately needed. The plan is still to move him in with me, once he’s recovered enough to go into a home living situation.
In the meantime, I’ve been dealing with a lot of grief, guilt, anger, resentment, depression… Mixed in with odd moments of resolve and pulling it together so that I can keep going.
Part of keeping going has been sewing. My mind quiets at the hum of my sewing machine, soothed by the focus on the movement of thread, fabric and needle. I’ve expended a lot of energy and focus on the Winged Square quilt top, but last night the rigidity of the pattern and the strict repetition proved to be more than I could handle.
I pulled out a box of solid scraps, leftover from a (large) cutting mistake when I was doing the setting for my Farmer’s Wife Sampler. The scraps were already cut into triangles, squares and strips, so I just took what I had, and started sewing. Eventually, a sort of pattern emerged and I ended up with five strips, which I then tested against a Kona grey fabric:
They ultimately would not remain in this configuration. I trimmed these multi-colored strips to 4.5″ wide (unfinished) and then spaced them with that grey fabric, cut into 3.5″ (unfinished) strips:
It’s not large, a generous crib size at this point. I plan to add 5″ (finished) borders to the piece, and I’m thinking large zig-zags will form the quilting.
I feel a little calmer in having brought some order to the chaos around me, but sense that there will be another quilt top in this same vein shortly. I don’t expect that my calm will last.
Soon, I have to call the hospital and check on Dad – he went into surgery yesterday, after twelve days in the hospital, to have a suspect mass removed. In removing the mass, my father will lose 40% of one lung. The expectation is that the mass will be cancerous, but testing has shown that no cancer has spread into the rest of my father’s body.
It might seem odd, but I see this as a positive. My father is a veteran, who served twenty-one years in the Air Force. He served during an era in which cigarettes were distributed with one’s rations (a practice in the US military which did not end until 1975). Since his retirement, my father has been under the care of military doctors.
It’s a tremendous disservice to the men and women who have served our country, but my experience with the healthcare provided to our veterans seems to prove out that diagnosis and treatment are not actually priorities. Considering the scandals rocking the VA in recent months, my observations seem to hold out at a national level. Nicotine dependency within the military remains high, a result both of the tobacco industry’s influence and reach as well as of the need for coping mechanisms in high-stress positions across the military (combat, peacetime and support roles all included). Due to this, I’m disappointed that screening for cancer within the VA and DoD provided health care isn’t a higher focus. My cynical side declares that diagnosis of cancer leads to expensive treatments, thus the lack of actively seeking it out within such a highly suspect population of patients.
I am immeasurably grateful to the staff of the hospital in which my father is currently sequestered. Not surprisingly, it’s not a VA hospital. It’s a private hospital, with religious roots. Their care for him has been remarkable, and my father’s progress in returning to the man I remember, astounding.
Still, his recovery (while a gift) hasn’t been enough to relieve the negativity eating at me lately. I need to find a few moments each day to center myself, and try to purge the dark that chews at me. I anticipate seeking out a mental health professional when Dad is living with me, and we’ve all found a new normal as a larger family unit.
In the meantime, I seek solace in stitches, creating wholeness where I can.