Note: I wasn't going to share this story with y'all, but the fact that it's so telling of my personality and my life on so many levels, coupled with a recent comment made about one of my tweets, inspired me to say what the heck. Karen Anne, this one's for you.
Not much goes on around the Kelly House these days. I stay up as late as I want and wake up when I want and eat whatever I can manage to cook using mostly only my left arm and watch some television and read a lot. I still have to wear that damnable figure-of-eight splint, but at least now I get to remove it when I take a shower. Getting ready for the day goes something like this: unbutton jammie shirt and remove it awkwardly, cursing because it catches on the splint; rip the velcro off the left side of the splint and take out my left arm and then sort of do the Harlem Shake until the splint falls off my right arm; take a shower (being really careful not to lean over or move my right arm too much--just try that sometime), towel off; put on bra by fastening in front and scooching it around to the proper position; thread my right arm carefully through the splint, stick my left arm through the splint, pull the webbing strap with my left hand across my back, under my left arm, and stick the velcro onto the left side of the splint by my neck; put on big plaid flannel shirt very carefully without moving my right arm too much; put on either yoga pants or sweatpants; sit on my butt and have a cup of coffee because I'm already worn out. Repeat in reverse at the end of the day. It's aggravating.
I haven't been to work at The Real Job since October 1st and haven't worked on the house since October 2nd, and so temporarily my life is nothing like it used to be. It's not going to last forever and none of it is Big Stuff, but it's all the little stuff added together that irritates me: I haven't put my own hair in a ponytail in weeks, or worn a baseball cap, or swung a hammer, but the thing that bugs me most is that I haven't been able to wear any of my own shirts. See, everything in my closet is pullover: long and short sleeved t-shirts, camis, hoodies, tanks tops. Since the injury, I've alternated wearing two big plaid flannel button shirts that I borrowed from my son. So not only do I not feel like me, I don't look like me, either. Then last Saturday I got a cardiac monitor in the mail. I have to wear it for four weeks, 24 hours a day, except when I'm in the shower or doing "other aquatic activity". It has two leads (long wires) on it, one that I attach to the right side of my chest and the other to my left rib cage. I think getting that cardiac monitor was the beginning of the breaking point.
On Monday morning I snapped. "By gum," I told Louis Cat, "I am gonna do something today that makes me feel like the old me." I decided to wear my new Kansas City Royals t-shirt. It's long-sleeved, v-neck, and super cute. "Girl cut", I think they call it, because it fits close to the body. It took me almost four minutes to get that shirt on. I know, I timed it. Add my favorite jeans and my Chucks sneakers and I was a happy girl. Never mind that I looked like a hunchback or possibly an FBI agent carrying a shoulder holster under my clothes because the splint stuck out in back. Never mind that I had wires sticking out of the bottom of my shirt and going to a little black box that was definitely not a cute handbag. I was wearing a t-shirt for the first time in several weeks and I was happy.
Now, y'all who have read this blog for some time know that one of my biggest faults is that I do not think ahead. Tear cedar shingles off the house with no plan for what to do if the clapboards underneath are rotted and need to be replaced? It'll all be fine! Knock down an ugly wire fence to replace it with a picket fence without the slightest idea how to build a picket fence? No problem! Climb up on the roof without considering that I might be too scared to get back down? That's me!
So about 11 p.m. my plan to put my jammies on and then read a couple hours before going to sleep ran aground when I discovered that I could not remove my shirt. First I pulled on the left sleeve with my right hand, thinking that I could pull my left arm all the way out of the sleeve and then push the shirt over my head, but the shirt was too small and my right arm too limited in movement for that to work. I tried variations of this six or seven times. Louis watched me with his ears laid back. Then he got Florian and Gracie, and all three cats sat staring at me like, "Really, dumbass? Didn't think this through, did ya?" Then I thought that maybe I could pull the back of the shirt up over my head, like when you're in a fight with the fat kid at school, and take it off like that. The shirt kept getting caught on the back of my splint. I was scrunched up awkwardly with my left elbow pointed up toward the ceiling and my right hand behind me, trying to reach the shirt hem in the middle of my back, when I got a text message from my neighbor Jeff.
"Whatcha doin?" it said.
"Nothin much," I replied.
He texted back about his lack of success hunting that day.
"I can't talk right now," I texted, "cause I'm kinda in the middle of something."
Jeff was immediately suspicious. "Middle of what? Are you doin something you're not supposed to?"
"No," I said. (Which was sort of the truth.)
"You're not up on a ladder are ya?" he texted.
Hell's bells. "No, I'm just busy." I texted back.
"Busy with what? Don't hurt yourself again." Jeff is nothing if not persistent in his worry.
Then the phone rang.
For the love of Pete.
"What in the world are you doin?" he asked.
"I'm--nothin--I'm just..." I faltered, trying to think of a reasonable excuse.
"Why are you out of breath?" He laughed. "Did you find a boyfriend? Am I interruptin something??"
"No, of course not. I don't have any boyfriend. I just--well--I just--I kinda did something stupid and I'm tryin to fix it."
"You need some help?" he asked.
"NO!" I said, a little louder than I meant to. "I mean, no, it's okay." I was in the kitchen with scissors, seriously considering cutting my brand new Royals shirt that I paid 40 bucks for off my body because that seemed like a better option than telling this guy what was really going on.
"It doesn't sound okay. If you need some help, just ask." He paused. "You know what? That was a dumb thing to say. I know you. You don't ask for help. So I'm gonna assume that something happened and you need help and I'm just gonna come over there and help you unless you tell me right now not to."
Oh crap. "Um...give me thirty seconds to consider this, alright?" My mind raced. I weighed both options. For the past ten minutes I'd been trying to get this shirt off with no success. I was sweaty and tired and my right shoulder was starting to hurt and I really did not want to chop into a brand new shirt. On the other hand, I really did not want this guy to come over to my house and help me take my shirt off, and in the process see my stretched-out pink Walmart brand bra and my pit-stained splint. (Hey, you wear a splint under your arms non-stop for three weeks and see if you can avoid pit stains.) On the other other hand, everybody else I know is already in bed. "Come on over," I mumbled. I didn't tell him what the problem was, preferring the element of surprise. In the time it took him to walk down the alley, I made a couple of last-ditch efforts to get the shirt off by myself, which of course failed, and when he tapped on the back door I was close to tears from frustration and embarrassment.
He walked into the laundry room. "What's up?" he said. Then, seeing my face, "Uh-oh. Are you all right?"
And then I kinda lost it. "I feel like an idiot. I put this shirt on because I just wanted to wear a t-shirt for once, for God's sake, and now I can't get the shirt off, and it's stuck on my splint, and this stupid cardiac monitor is in the way, and I feel like an invalid and I can't do anything at all by myself, not even take off a shirt, and I feel dumb because you have to help me with something so simple!" I may have been wailing a little. I was certainly sniffling and teary-eyed.
"So you need me to take off your shirt?" Jeff asked. And then he hugged me and said, "Honey, that's no big deal. I think you might be over-reactin just a little bit here. Go and get another shirt, and let's go in the kitchen so we're not standin right in front of the window, and we'll fix you right up."
And then he very carefully pulled my shirt up over my head, and I pulled my left arm free of the sleeve, and then he slid the shirt off my right arm, looking pointedly at the floor the whole time, and when I had my other shirt on and buttoned, Jeff said, "You shoulda just called me in the first place instead of gettin all upset about it." I started to answer and he said, "Oh, I know. That's not what you do. You try to do everything by yourself and never ask for help. I think you think it's weak or something to ask for help. That's why I've been clearin the snow for you out in the alley and by your carport every winter without askin you first."
"That's you who does that?" I asked, amazed.
"Yep, that's me. For the past three years." He paused and then, anticipating my question, "Just because."