As some of you may know from reading this blog, my husband became an incomplete quadriplegic at the age of thirty-four. I was thirty-seven. We had two small children and were self-employed.
I'll never forget the moment when his neurosurgeon called me into the hall outside his hospital bed, where he'd been sleeping since the surgery we all thought would make everything okay again. "I was able to do the spinal fusion, Mrs. Connor, but the damage was extensive. Luckily, I was able to restore the use of his right hand, but your husband will never walk again."
The surgeon didn't offer me a chair, a hug, or a Valium. Since it was April 1st, I kept waiting for him to laugh and tell me my husband's actual prognosis, but instead, he proceeded to scold me for allowing my husband to visit a chiropractor. It almost sounded as if he thought we'd gotten what we deserved.
I digress. There was no possibility a chair, a pill or a hug could have helped me past that moment anyway. In that instant, my priorities changed, as well as my life. I learned the hard way that when the going gets tough, you find out what you're made of. You find out as well, who your friends are--and what they're made of.
The days ahead were dark, with little to look forward to. Indeed, I coped by not looking ahead for more than an hour. If I'd thought about 'the future', I might have curled into a ball and been of no use to anyone, and three people needed me to stay strong. In order to do that, my entire perception of time changed. I stopped thinking in terms of days or weeks. I only allowed myself to worry about the next hour. I stopped thinking past the next meal, the next load of laundry, the next doctor's visit.
Our friends were supportive at first, but they had lives and jobs and kids of their own, and soon enough, they faded into the background of my life. It's hard to blame them. I didn't have time to gossip on the phone. Going shopping was for people who had spare time and the luxury of being self-absorbed. I saw them at my kid's baseball games, but was too busy trying to forestall another of my husband's seizures to chat much.
At the two year mark, roughly, I was almost suicidal. I had no help from any corner. My mother lived on the other end of the state, and although my mother-in-law lived across town, her visits were too short to allow me time to go to the grocery store unhampered by concerns about leaving my husband alone. Leaving my husband unattended was a scary thing indeed. He might have a seizure, he might fall out of his hospital bed if he had one of his attacks of aphasia that made him forget he couldn't walk, or he might need help with his bodily functions--none of these things are things a child should be asked to help with, yet I'm ashamed to say mine had to step up often. My mother-in-law rarely stayed long enough to allow me to take a shower. I cannot blame her, really, since my father-in-law had been disabled for over a decade prior to his death. I can't say I'd be eager to volunteer to revisit those dark days, if our positions had been reversed.
I live in South Carolina, in the sort of small town where people still knock on your door to invite you to visit their church on Sunday. They'll knock, brochure in one hand and Bible in the other, eager to tell you about their church, their minister, their God.
And trust me, by this point in time, I was in no mood for that. My neighbors all attended such churches, and they still drove past my house at least twice a day, never thinking to offer to grab us a gallon of milk or loaf of bread while they were at the grocery store, to save me a trip.
If you're expecting a punch line where I say " And then, one day, some stranger knocked and..." you can stop reading right now. It never happened. Not a soul stepped onto my porch offering me anything that remotely resembled help. Not so much as an hour.
But that's my point. Just an hour would have seemed like a lifeline to me at that time in my life. Because I never got it makes me more sensitive, perhaps, to others in the same situation. So when I read this post by humorist Gordon Kirkland, I knew what I was going to do. I'll be helping him with his promotions. In addition to posting his links on my professional page on Facebook, I'll be posting a link to his Amazon page on Twitter regularly.
And, I'm challenging you to do the same, if you're an author. If we're so self-absorbed, so caught up in our own struggles to write and promote that we can't help out a fellow writer in genuine need, then I have to wonder if we're human enough to write stories with enough heart to make them worth reading anyway.
I'm not asking for an hour of your time. Just one re-post, just one Twitter link, just one share to your contacts of his Amazon page. It would mean the world to Gordon. I don't have to know him to know that.
I suggest using the hashtag #4Gordon, so he can see how powerful a stranger can be.