The Bathroom Blinds
“I knew something was wrong when your bathroom blinds were open.” That’s what my neighbor Shelley said to me when she arrived at the hospital as Pete was dying. Shelley lives next door, and we try and keep an eye on things for each other. She is especially diligent because Pete and I were on the road so often, and she obviously knew my habits and sensed something wasn’t right. As soon as she told me that, she also pressed a small family heirloom into the palm of my hand. A beautiful crucifix. I immediately put it in my pocket where it stayed for days. The cross remains on my dresser at home, but the thing that really stuck with me was what she said about the blinds. Now, every night when I close those bathroom window blinds, and every morning when I open them again, it instantly takes me back to that moment in the hospital. Every single time. Two years later.
It’s strange how certain things have burned into my memory like a bright light burns into your retina. The residual effect just lingers. I’m aware that when a person’s senses are in a heightened state, like they would be in a life and death situation, they’re very receptive to suggestion. It’s difficult to reprogram myself from these triggers, although, I don’t know that I would want to be reprogrammed. Having those flashbacks, or memories, help me understand the state I’m in all through the day. Why do I feel uneasy, anxious, sad, tired? All these triggers take me back in time and remind me that I’m suffering a loss. “Oh, that explains it.” Just like certain things remind me of wonderful memories of my “alive time” with Pete, certain other things remind me of the terrifying times. But it all adds perspective and context, and helps me come to terms with this dizzying experience that is now called everyday life.
There’s a particular oversized sweater that I lived in for that last week in the hospital. I think of that time every time, I put it on. I guess that I could quit wearing it, but it’s neither good nor bad. It just reminds me. It may even be a little comforting–can’t say that I understand why that would be.
The baskets that I now use for glass recycling–my sister used them to bring food into the hospital room. I think of her every time I put glass in the basket. Am I a freak? Do I attach too damn much meaning to everything?
I appreciate that Shelley was so aware. She knew what Pete and I had been through over the years, and it is kind of her to care. I look at the crucifix every day on my dresser and I think that I should return it to Shelley. Then I think, one day she is going to really need this, and I will return it to her in the same, caring manner that she handed it to me. And it will be etched into her memory, hopefully with the same gratitude it etched into mine.
Do you think that these types of memories are helpful with healing or not?