Thursday, March 13, 2014

No. 84 – Hold On

Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriters: Stone Gossard, Eddie Vedder
Original Release: Lost Dogs
Year: 2003
Definitive Version: None.

What’s stunning to me is that as good as the album Ten is, it could’ve been even better. No fewer than four songs on this here list—Breath, Brother, Wash and Hold On—were outtakes from that album. I’ve known the first three since the mid-’90s, but I heard Hold On for the first time in only 2003, when Doug sent me his promo copy of Lost Dogs. I found it again in 2008, at a time when I really needed it, and it sounds better every time I hear it.

When Laurie came home from the hospital June 26, 2008, we were moving in the right direction, but in some ways, the hard part began then, because I no longer was able to leave Laurie’s care in the hands of professionals. Now, it was up to me.

As I mentioned, I chose to not have children mostly because I didn’t want the responsibility of having to take care of someone 24/7, but now, in the early days of summer, I did just that. The worst part was being the cop—telling Laurie “No” repeatedly.

Laurie wanted to resume her life full tilt, and this led to problems whenever we went out to dinner, which Laurie—now free of the hospital—wanted to do a lot. That was fine, but Laurie took this as an invitation to have a drink, which she wasn’t allowed to do. She didn’t understand why. I’d explain it to her, and she’d say OK. Then 15 minutes later she’d say, I’m going to order a beer. ARGH!!!

This went on for some time—and extended to driving and work—because Laurie was continuing to receive ECT on an outpatient basis. Combining Laurie’s Etch-a-Sketch brain with her stubbornness tested my patience.

When she left the hospital, Laurie was troubled that she’d missed a huge chunk of the summer and demanded to go to the beach that first weekend. One problem: Rain was in the forecast. It didn’t matter; she wanted to go anyway for as much time as possible.

So on Saturday we went to our beach and set up a blanket—the only people on the entire beach. Considering that it looked like it was about to storm any moment, it was no wonder. We were there literally 10 minutes before a downpour sent us scurrying—and soaked—back to the car. The next day, we went up to Evanston and didn’t even make it onto the beach. It was closed due to lightning. Sigh …

There were other stresses. For weeks, I’d heard from everyone in the Posse a constant drumbeat that whatever help I needed was available at a moment’s notice. OK, the time was now. I needed someone to be with Laurie from the time I left for work until I came home at night. Suddenly, everyone’s schedule—including those who worked from home or didn’t have day jobs—was booked solid. Well, that sucked.

Fortunately, Laurie’s aunt Ann came to town for a few days to help, and it was during that time that Laurie and I discovered something that we love to this day—the Puppet Bike. The Puppet Bike is a puppeteer who has this shack, for want of a better term, on the back of a big bike into which he climbs and performs routines with hand puppets. It never fails to attract a crowd.

We went to dinner in Andersonville and spied the Puppet Bike working a street corner. We watched for a second, and it reminded me of the amazing puppet show we’d seen in March in San Miguel. Laurie was similarly enchanted, and it was one of the few times during this stretch that I saw her smile.

Ann got us through the first days of that week leading up to the Fourth of July, including Laurie’s first outpatient ECT treatment. Then I took time off work to take it from there.

We did fireworks with a few friends on an Evanston beach that WAS open on the Fourth and then were the guests of honor at a cookout the next day at Steven and Michael’s. It was nice to see so many people turn out to support Laurie, and everyone drank nonalcoholic beverages in tribute. Unfortunately, Laurie didn’t take much joy in it—she felt TOO MUCH like the center of attention—and we left early.

Laurie had another ECT treatment the following Monday, and that wiped clean all memories of the holiday weekend and put us right back to Square One. Was this ever going to end? After that, though, Dr. Anderson surprised us by calling a premature end to the ECT. Laurie had been scheduled to have eight treatments. She had six, and apparently Dr. Anderson decided that the treatments were becoming redundant and unnecessary. I wasn’t about to disagree.

Laurie, slowly, got better after that. A few days after her final ECT, her short-term memory began to stick, which was a blessing in and of itself. I was able to stop repeating myself every half-hour. Within another week, she was given the green light to get behind the wheel, as long as I was with her, at first. Laurie’s mood greatly improved.

By this time, though, I needed a break. I’d been involved in Laurie’s health to the exclusion of almost everything else, including myself, for most of the past three months. The past four weeks had been particularly grueling. After some discussion with Laurie, friends and Dr. Anderson, it was agreed that I could leave Laurie by herself for a weekend.

I jumped in my car on a Friday night and drove to Cincinnati for a Reds game. It was something of an Executive Game wake in that many of the usual suspects were in attendance, but BBT was dead and buried. I didn’t care. More than anything, I just needed to get away. I needed a drink. I needed to pull the plug. I knew life would be different if I held on.

Laurie seemed to be fine when I got home—she enjoyed just being home alone after all this time. At the next meeting as July wound down, Dr. Anderson said Laurie could go back to work, on a limited schedule at first, starting the next week.

That was a huge meeting for a couple of reasons beyond the news itself. First, it was the last time I ever saw Dr. Anderson. Laurie said she didn’t particularly care for Dr. Anderson while she was in the hospital, and I attributed that to her psychotic paranoia, but it clearly went beyond that. Well, Laurie should have a doctor whom she trusted, so I was OK with that albeit a bit nervous, considering how much Dr. Anderson had helped.

Second, Laurie had a huge flashback. Dr. Anderson’s office was on the fifth floor at Evanston Northwestern. As you got out of the elevator, if you turned left, you were in the psych ward. Offices were to the right. As we left Dr. Anderson’s office, one of the assistants, Leon, was in the lobby chatting with another worker.

Leon had been great during the early part of Laurie’s hospitalization, very warm and friendly. He spotted Laurie, having not seen her in a month and called out to her. Laurie smiled widely and said, “I remember you,” and gave him a big hug. As we went down the elevator, I asked Laurie if she did in fact remember him. She said she remembered his voice and presence, and I didn’t doubt that she did.

On July 27, 2008, I wrote the final email to friends and family, telling them that Laurie was heading back to work and that life was more or less getting back to normal. What I didn’t know then was that Laurie’s next psychiatrist was a bit of a head case, as I’ve noted elsewhere, and things would get a lot less normal in the next few months. At the time, however, the outlook was bright. It was an incredible saga, still vivid now 6 years later.

I’ll close by quoting the final two paragraphs of my final email:

"I can't thank you all enough for all the support and love you've given Laurie and me since this happened. I also very much appreciate you being my sounding board.

We now walk out of the forest into the light. There's blue sky ahead."

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