I was out walking with Red this morning – Maria took Lenore into town – I saw Bedlam Farm out behind him as he explored a newly cut cornfield. I loved the juxtaposition of him, the cornfield, the farm in the background. We are on a busy road, but from several perspectives, the farm is quite alone and even isolated. We love the dichotomy, near people but apart from people. Red grasped the idea of the photograph, as he always does, it is a joy to walk with him, we are completely in harmony.
Red In The Cornfield, Bedlam Farm. In Harmony.
Thinking Of Dot: “How Is Red?”
Dot was not in cardiac rehab today, I was afraid to ask where she was. In cardiac rehab, we have become friendly, close, we share a common experience, we walk out for one another. People ask me if I am tired, Roger came in early to work on a machine he knows I like to use, we talk about our weekends, our lives, but there is always this thing in the room, this elephant if you will, that hovers over all of us, others perhaps more than me, perhaps not.
People disappear, some return, some don't. It is a familiar thing by now, it has a ritual all of its own.
On the treadmill, a nurse came up to me and told me Dot was back in the hospital, she called to say she missed everyone and asked "how is Red?" She asked the nurse to give him a hug for her. I think Red was looking for her at the end of our workout, as I was taking my monitor off. I am thinking of Dot, I hope she returns.
Recovery Journal: Red And Carol. “You Are A Farmer, Jon.”
I suppose it can be a lonely and disconnecting thing to have major surgery, I am in a community of sorts, of disparate people, most of them quite unlike me, yet there is a deepening sense of community about us, we root for one another, share the good and bad news of our healing, and of our lives. I have become friends with Carol, the wife of a farmer, they have a small family farm, she had her heart surgery a couple of months before me and we both approach it in much the same way, without much dread or "negativity," as Carol puts it. She has read some of my books, we talk animal talk – she has an imperious goat named Sadie, unruly roosters and hens, cows, six dogs.
She paid me a high compliment today, she finished reading "Saving Simon" and she said "you are a farmer, Jon, I know you say you are not, but you are." I was surprised – she is a very real farmer, along with her husband Ed – and I asked her what she meant.
"You have learned when to let go and not to let go," she said, and I realized she was talking about animals, not about crops. Farmers taught me that, there is no such thing as a no-kill farm, farms are not rescue facilities or zoos. Carol told me about a rooster she loved who suddenly and for no reason attacked her and her grandson, a farmer's grandchild, said, "grandma, why don't you just eat him?" I just can't she told him, so she gave him to her son who has a fenced-in chicken area.
Farmers learn to let go when they have to let go, their survival depends on it, so does almost any farm.
Carol got some good medical news today, she might have gotten some very bad news and we were all worried about it. I called her this morning at home and she had just gotten the good news, and I brought some non-heart healthy cookies over from the Round House to celebrate. Carol is advising me on my play, "Discarded Men: The Last Days Of A Dairy Farm," she says she will come if it is performed at Hubbard Hall in January.
I was pleased by Carol's compliment, but I am not, of course, a farmer, I have never claimed to be one, I could not survive one week as a farmer, I am a writer with a farm, and there is a big difference. Carol's rehab is very different from mine, she often comes to rehab fresh off a tractor where she has been all day cutting down corn stalks and mashing them up for sileage.
There was a palpable relief in cardiac rehab, there is a closeness that comes from surgery and recovery, we understand each other in a very powerful and particular way. I suppose there is a loneliness to recovering from open heart surgery, I am not yet really sure how to talk about it or if to talk about it. In cardiac rehab, I don' really have to.
Red At The Gate, Waiting To Work
Roger And Red
Roger is an inspiration to me, he was the first person I saw in cardiac rehab. He actually graduated from the first phase of the program and comes to use the machines several times a week. He has a very severe case of rheumatoid arthritis, he uses two braces to walk and it is no small thing for him to lie down on the floor. Today, he slid onto the floor and over to Red before his workout, then got himself back to one of the machines and pulled himself up. He is ferocious on the machines, he pushes himself every day to work hard and do better, he has shown me how to do the same thing.
Roger works through much pain, it does not stop him, it seems to inspire him.
Red visits the people in cardiac rehab – I am warned constantly not to try and come in without him – and then settles himself on the couch, where I have told him to stay through the work session. He does stay there and he has become a touch point for the people in rehab. Whey they move from one machine to another, they come over to him, lean down if they can, and pet him and talk to him. Each of the nurses comes to check on him, talk to him, pet him, and then scrub their hands with antibiotic soap.
When people leave, they pause to say goodbye to him, they ask me questions about him, wonder at him, smile at him. He transforms the experience of cardiac rehab, it was a powerful thing to see Roger get down on the floor with him and talk to him, my refurbished heart sped up.