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The "Wu Word" Blog

October 2014

The man in the blue jacket

The first time I saw the elderly man in the blue jacket was four weeks ago when I was released from the hospital and forcing myself to eat breakfast.  Food had lost its flavor to me.  I was eating to survive, but not eating toenjoy—very much unlike me. 
While trying to chew on the buttery croissant that tasted rather dry to my dormant taste buds, I flashbacked to when I was still living at home about five year earlier.  I had this routine to walk up and down my parents’ residential street with gusto and vigor as way to get in my exercise.  Nearly at the end of the street, this man had shown his fenced in garden of tomatoes with pride to me.  He still wore his blue jacket back then. 
I looked outside, and saw he was still the same in his blue jacket, thick and black-framed glasses sliding down his nose, and tan hat with the orange rim.   He just looked older with the delicately etched wrinkles and his back hunched over more than I remembered when I last saw him years ago.
 I asked my dad, “Dad, do you know him?  What’s his name?”
My dad shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.  The only thing my dad said was, “I just know he walks every morning.”
I looked out the window, watching the man in the blue jacket with intrigue and interest.  A bubbling feeling began to simmer inme.  It was a sixth sense feeling aboutthis man.  I think we all get those feelings about certain people who are somehow meant to play a part in your life at certain times.  I strangely and unexplainably believed that my path was going to cross with this man.  I didn’t know when or how.  But, I felt in my gut feeling that it was going to happen now that I was back in the luxuries of my parents’ home.
Without expectations or thinking much more about the man in the blue jacket, though, I continued with my forced and unnatural routine of getting up every single morning to go for a walk rather than go to work. Luckily, this time of the autumn year is my favorite with the crisp fresh air and gorgeous golden leaves. 
Every morning since I was cut into has been the worst.  Getting up and out of bed is an obligatory struggle and hurdle that I overcome daily.  I have to sit on the edge of the bed for a moment before I unfold myself.  As soon as I unfold is when the punch in the stomach or the abdominal muscles being plucked abrasively by an angry and belligerent child who is abusing a musical instrument begins.  I often wish there isa magical button I could push to tell me to disappear for the duration of pain and then push the button again when the pain is gone forever for me to return then.  I would love a life of simple,easy, and surfaced shortcuts—a life that I have never really known. 
My morning walks are a source of great comfort and happiness to me. It is in the surroundings of simplicities and natural beauty of Mother Nature that I am at restful peace and pain is somewhat waned.  I’ve also been so greatly fortunate to have dear friends walk at my slow and nearly shuffled pace.  On our walks, we discuss deeply and laugh lightly as to not aggravate my sore belly.  However, during this time of healing, I am discovering that my greatest sense of contentment derives from listening.  I do not want to talk or speak as much.  I just want to listen and hear my friends, my family, and my everything around me living and breathing life as it goes on.  I want to be still with my quiet will that fills me up with fulfillment.
I do not recall on which one of my walks I bumped into the man in the blue jacket.  I just know that he was walking around the corner to return back home, and I was about to walk around that corner to continue my serene walk.  We nearly smacked right into each other.
He lifted his head.  I could no longer see the tan hat with the orange rim.  Rather, I saw a wide grin and crooked teeth on a beautifully wrinkled face.  His eyes brightened and he exclaimed, “Miss Mary!  How are you?  I see you are walking quite a lot now!”
I paused.  I was internally mortified that this gentleman who must have been in his late 70’s remembered my name, while all I could remember was him showcasing his proud tomatoes to me years ago.  I tried not to reveal how badly I felt that I forgot his name, and racked my brain of how I could find it out.  But, instead, I said, “Yes, I’m staying with my folks now to recover from surgery. Walking is helping me to recuperate.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry tohear that you had surgery.  Good thing you are with your folks.” 
“Yes, it is!  I’m really lucky!  I see you walking a lot and all the time,too!”
The man in the blue jacket told me, “Yes, you know, I live all the way down there, and that dang incline all the way up here is so difficult at times.  I don’t want to walk up it, but I have to.  I’m hoping that it will get easier someday…one day. But, it’s okay and worth it because I get to see so much on my walks.”
For the average person, his statement would have meant nothing. Not a second thought would have gone into it.  Me?  I am the painstaking over-analyzer that practically inhaled his statement with a strong need to chew on, digest, and interpret. His statement made me stop in awe and amazement that what he said rang true with what I was going through now.  I was probably at one of my lowest physical, emotional, and mental points right now, but I was forced to go through it and forced to go up and through this ‘incline’ in life with every hope to hold on to that this long journey was going to get easier. 
It would be so much simpler and easier if there was a shortened and shortcut version of this journey, but would it be worth it?  Would it be better?  Would I be better?  Would I be as grateful for all the gems of joy and people who have surprised me, for the hardest hurdles I’ve faced and overcome, and for a person of character and substance that I strive to become?  I think not.  And, so this long journey was and process was going to be scary and difficult, but it was all going to be worth it when this was all over with. 
My prediction that my path would cross with the man in the blue jacket was meant to be.  Life, or some kind of higher power, was remarkable and magical in bringing certain people into our lives at certain times.  This man from my past was someone I had nearly no contact with, yet here he was right now for me with a gifted statement, reminder, and presence of ‘hope’ to go forward into and with my future. 
Just when I was about to dig deeper and say more, the man in the blue jacket said that he best be going now.  I wanted him to stay.  I nearly stopped him.  I wanted us to discuss in-depth more.  But, just as quickly as we bumped into eachother, he was suddenly gone.  
And, I suddenly felt very alone and lonely. 
The catch about long journeys is that they are handmade and homemade gifts that do not have theglitz and glamour of purchased items, but they are full of love and sweat to create into a final masterpiece. Journeys are also very lonesome—no matter how many loved ones are there to be by your side and support you the best they can, you are still the one that must go through it all alone with your own inner demons to face and fight and/or sit and be still with.
It has been going on 4 weeks since my cantaloupe cut-out.  I’ve been counting every single day.  I’ve been taking in and living every day, trying to find my spunky and energetic self who has been temporarily wiped out. 
4 weeks with my parents and sister who I am eternally grateful for.  4 weeks of being in the cozy comfort and familiarity of my parents’ home. 
4 weeks of walking every single day alone and with others who have been generous and kind with their precious time with me. 
4 weeks without work for me, and waiting for me to recover and for ‘normalcy’ and ‘routine’ to return. 
4 weeks of trying to come back fully to the living world again. 
4 weeks, and I only had this one short-lived and long-filled encounter with the man in the blue jacket who lives down the street.  He forces his aging body and himself to walk up the incline every day with every hope that it will get easier someday.   I force myself to stay focused on this unexpectedly long and slow journey that has been laden with hurdles, happiness, and hopes. 
We both walk.  We both keep the hope that it will get easier.  Someday.  One day. 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-)

Still the Same-Yet Different

“You will stay with us after this hysterectomy procedure,”my dad said with comforting finality.
I winced.  I had not lived with my parents for at least five years. I was accustomed to being the gung-ho, gusto, and independent woman who could do it all AND all alone.  I felt like I was intruding and bothering my dad and stepmom yet again—especially my dad who had been the brunt of my health ailments since I was pretty much born.  I hated depending on others.  All I wanted to do was live my life the way I wanted to.  It seemed all these health bumps had to pop up to slow me down again and turn to others for help. 
I pathetically mustered, “I’m sorry about all this.”
“Why are you apologizing? Things happen in life.   Not your fault. We try our best to deal with everything the best we can,” my dad said.   
Throughout my life of the unpredictable health bumps in the Mary Wu road, the steady stream of comfort, force, predictability, and loyalty was my father.  He was always the first face I saw and the first set of hands I held on to and squeezed when I was rolled out from the operating room and into the recovery room where I was all doped up.
This time with the ’unwanted cantaloupe’ was no different.  With a foggy head, a foley catheter tugging on my urine hole making me want to pee even more, and a dry mouth, I felt warm hands squeeze mine and opened my eyes to the warm, round face of my father. 
In my raspy voice from a tube that had been stuck in my throat from the general anesthesia, I kept repeating, “I have to pee.  I have to pee,” or “Ice chips.  Ice chips, please.” 
With one hand gripped tightly to my hand, my dad fed me ice chips with his other hand.  I was desperately dehydrated.  I greedily sucked and savored the frigid ice chips that quickly melted in my overheated and dry mouth. 
That first night in the hospital, my dad slept uncomfortably upright in a stiffly cushioned chair by my bedside.  Whenever I woke up due to pain or the IV bleeping annoyingly, he woke up and fed me ice chips and put the straw to my mouth for me to slowly sip water. 
When the foley catheter was removed, my dad was the one to guide me to the bathroom with the IV pole decked out with hefty bags of narcotics and pain relievers Abouta day later when I felt more adventurous  and was told that the best thing for me to do was move, my dad walked me to the lounge that had a beautiful view of picturesque New York City and with the warm sunshine streaming through. 
“See this gorgeous view,” my dad said, “All for free you get vitamin D and a great view.” 
My stepmom’s loyalty matched my father when she drove intoand battled Manhattan traffic for the both of us.  My stepmom is not a Manhattan kind of gal.  Yet, because she is the epitome of cool, calm, quiet, and collected, she was a prime candidate to battle the jungle of NYC.  I greatly appreciate and value how, in many ways, it can be and is much harder for my stepmom who has been placed in the role of dealing with us wacky Wus.  She did not sign up for the situations that us Wus have had to survive, yet she has handled these situations and all of us with a quiet and unreadable grace and strength. 
After four days of being in a NYC hospital, I was more than ready to return home.  But, it was not my home.  It was my parents’ home. 
I was too weak to analyze more of this, but I felt wrapped up in warmth, comfort, and gratitude to have my parents’ here for me. 
Being back in the house I grew up in and with the people who raised me has been nothing but the greatest gift.  My parents’ spoiled me with letting me sleep in their bedroom on the main floor while they trudged upstairs to my old bedroom, which was still decked out with the sunflower clock and cookbooks scattered everywhere.  My dad and stepmom cooked me my favorite foods: chicken in a rich and salty soya-sauce infused sauce and then drenched in fluffy and steaming white rice, pasta with goat cheese, and eggs with shrimp. These were staple and favorite foods that I grew up with. 
Every morning, my stepmom has had breakfast waiting for me.   Every Sunday since I’ve been here for nearly three weeks, my stepmom has bought my favorite foods or protein-enriched foods that she was sure would fortify me.  Meanwhile, my father keeps saying:“You need to eat more.  Eat more fatty foods.  You’ve lost too much weight.” 
My childhood friends were the first to jump at the chance to visit me and walk with me.   One childhood friend lived a block away. Another childhood friend lived less than 3 minutes away by car. 
As one of them said to me, “Count me in to walk with you as you heal!  Oh, and we have to watch ‘Days of Our Lives’!  It will be like old times!” 
Just like old times. Familiar, comforting, cozy, and warm ‘old times’ and people who had been there for me throughout my life and were here for me yet again nearly twenty years later with yet another surgery. These people and their loyalty of coming through in my life and the predictability they provide make me feel safe and sane—and that in the midst of the unknown, uncertain, chaos, craziness, and even scary that everything is still the same.  My healing journey thrives because of those who are trusting as still the same. 
And, yet, there are subtle and quiet differences in my surroundings, certain people, and myself that are evolving.  Now, when I go outside to walk, it is the vibrant gold and orange leaves that crunch beneath my feet rather than the hot summer sun making drips of sweat form at the base of my neck.  The flowers that were in full bloom with fat and fuzzy bumblebees flying by them are now closing with velvety petals falling delicately to the pavement.  Certain people who I believed would be here for me have not been here for me because of their own worlds spinning uncontrollably. Certain new people who I never imagined would join me on healing journey have surprised me with their desire to be here for me in whatever capacity they can.  My work routine was taken away from me, and yet my workplace continues functioning without me.   Routine has become a questionable quandary for me that has left restless and void of normalcy. 
 Then there is me. 
I am physically different from the obvious that a nearly one pound multi-labeled growth (fibroid, mass, aggressive tumor) has been extracted from me.  This humorously named cantaloupe from my imagination and coping mechanism of laughter as the best medicine has resulted in a deficit of my hormones, episodes of extreme fatigue, and the absence of my monthly period (which I could not be happier about!).  Then, there are my abdominal muscles that feel like guitar strings being plucked and pulled with the plucking and pulling at the most painful in the early mornings.  A new 6-7 inch scar starting at my caved in and abnormal belly button from an over-abundance of surgeries brands me and solidifies my latest overcome health hurdle hiccup. 
I feel different.  I’ve always prided myself and was certain of my internal strength, but now I feel even stronger and more capable through an unexpected new sense of calmness and contentment that I have never fully felt in myself and in my life.  Calm and quiet acceptance has never been me, but I suddenly feel these qualities and embrace them with a renewed sense of hope and happiness. The evolution of the self and people never cease to amaze me.
What has remained the same for me is my sense of gratitude.  I feel extremely grateful for my ending to an unwanted cantaloupe removed from me to embark on my very own beginning.  Most often, when slammed with the most unexpected of news, we perceive our very own world ending when it actually is the greatest blessing of a beginning.  And, how much more of a blessing it is when our world of endings and beginnings are surrounded with constant comforts that make you feel that everything is still the same. 
May we always recognize and treasure the people who provide ‘home’ to us during our most ‘un-homely’ times. May we recognize those who may not provide ‘home’ and have the understanding and capability to love these people from a distance. 
Most of all, may we embrace ourselves and what and who are still the same—yet different.
Keep smilin’,
Mary ;-)
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