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A year ago at this time

They played a song on the radio the other day, a tune from an album I had just purchased and was listening to on repeat (as I tend to do with most of my new music) around a year ago at this time.

I’ve heard the song many times since then, of course, but as I was listening to it this past Tuesday – a September day with that certain early autumnal crispness in the air – I was stopped in my tracks and flooded with memories.

I knew exactly what was happening in our lives around a year ago at this time (if you’re a long-time reader of Alphabet Salad you may remember as well) and so, curious about the details, I scrolled back in my calendar to check the specific date. Much to my surprise, I discovered that Tuesday – the day the song triggered that onrush of memories – was exactly one year to the day since Peter was admitted into the hospital for his first surgery.

Cliché or not, time certainly flies.

I have always been amazed at the power in a song, a smell, a feeling in the air, a photograph – power that instantly transports you back in time and stirs up feelings as clear and piercing as if they were still fresh and new.


As the song played I was reminded of driving to and from the hospital, daily, for nearly three weeks… of each time I reluctantly left the fresh, cool air on the other side of the automatic doors that opened with a whoosh, and was enveloped in that queasy-making aroma blended from sickness and antibacterial liquid and industrial kitchen steam counters… of feeling isolated and sorry for myself and so, so tired… of seeing Peter’s face, mostly smiling and happy to see me, but sometimes contorted in pain or burdened by weariness… of returning home each evening to an empty (except for the cat), messy, lonely house… of sleeping and eating by myself… of waiting, wondering, worrying… of the overwhelming knowledge that this was only the beginning – only the first of two surgeries that were to take place within months of each other.

And yet, we made it.

We made it through both surgeries, and both sets of recovery. We made it through the disappointment of thwarted holiday family plans. We made it through more than three months of Peter living in our main floor dining room, which we’d transformed into an improvised bedroom and bathroom, as he was unable to manage the stairs after his first surgery and for a time after the second. We made it through embarrassment, humiliation, shame, pain, withdrawal. We made it through lack of privacy, restricted freedom. We made it through an adjustment, temporary yet challenging, to unfamiliar, uncomfortable roles.

We made it, and I believe we are both stronger for it.

For my part, I think the most valuable insight I gained from the events of this past year is the knowledge that I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for. Yes, it was Peter who had to deal with surgery and recovery; yet I had my own set of tests to pass – different, but every bit as demanding – as we made our way through the past twelve months. I am proud that I did what needed to be done, and thankful that we made it through.

Here’s to the next year – may it be healthy and happy.

Laurel Storey, CZT – Certified Zentangle Teacher. Writer, reader, tangler, iPhoneographer, cat herder, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, needle felter, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.