Friday, September 19, 2008

Up Early Again {technical problems posting time is Saturday Sept 20}

I got all the way to five a.m. today before the night was disrupted, and though it’s still dark outside, I have been informed by people I find to be reliable and trustworthy that there are people who get up at this time on purpose and lead productive lives in the process. Thus, rather than seeing this as an interruption in my sleep, I’m framing it as trying out a new approach. Given the small pleasures I’m enjoying so much these days, I anticipate a lovely nap later in the day, so this seems like a great plan all the way around. As the pain both subsides and is under better control, I’ve had some great naps. Please let me use my current experience to reinforce what we all know (and is so, so easy to forget) how much we get to choose to enjoy (or not) our daily experiences from sitting in the sunshine to appreciating clean hair or wonderful flavors to watching happy dogs play with each other. Given how tightly wound I’ve been most of my life, my own awareness of this has been stronger some times than others, so I’m hoping you’ll take this reminder in a friendly and positive “oh, yeah” kind of way and find yourself a sunny moment or two to relish today.

Yesterday, as we were on our way to the surgeon’s follow-up visit, Michael and I had one of those moments where we revisited how deeply connected we are to each other and at the same time how profoundly different. I don’t think anyone who knows us or who has followed this saga can have any question about how devoted he is to every aspect of helping me through this. He and the girls have and will stop at nothing to make things easier, better, more comfortable. At the same time, a Walker-ethic is a powerful thing. While we both have what I think could be, and has been identified labeled as such by comments here, a mid-western life and work ethic, Walkers are in a class by themselves in the “do-it-for-my-own-self” category. I’ve learned over the last 35 or so years there’s virtually nothing you can do for a Walker if there’s any feasible way he or she can be self-sufficient, especially in some clever or ingenious fashion.

So as we approached Carle’s South Clinic (for those out of town, there’s massive construction underway with a large new breast cancer center, spine center, work on the parking garage and entire Carle campus), I’d idly thought it might be an appropriate occasion to take advantage of the current valet parking situation: you pull up into the circle drive in front of a south clinic door and they take your car away while you enter directly by the elevators. Neuro Sciences, where our surgeon hangs out, is on the sixth floor of the clinic and this seemed to me to be the most direct path to getting us there. It was my first trip out into the world since coming home from the hospital and while I’ve been ramping up my activity, it was representing some exertion. The walk from the garage to the clinic, while finally enclosed (all last year, it was out in the open) is a trek, comprising a very long corridor that goes by a pretty enclosed courtyard (nice landscaping), the new breast cancer clinic, the pharmacy, some on-going construction, etc. It’s been a common question for the nurses/health techs to ask if you’ve taken the 10-mile hike (from the south garage) or the 20-mile hike (north garage), when they’re doing the initial vitals and pulse/blood pressure are elevated.

As we drove by the entrance to the valet parking, I made a small gesture. Clearly, it hadn’t entered his consciousness at any level. I pointed out the length of the walk. He pointed out how long it would take to get the car back (probably) when we were done, and how tired I might be by then and how pleased to be able just to get in the car and get home. We discussed saving services for people who are really sick and need them, as opposed to people whose recoveries are stellar and improving every day. I reflected on my goal of more exercise. I did actually know better than to think it would be possible for him to let someone else put the car away when he could do it his own self. Really. And, as it turned out, the walk was pleasant. The little courtyard is pretty, we had to stop at the pharmacy on the way out anyway, and the moment passed. Still, our parking ethics are different. I think my father would park in the lobby (to be efficient, you know) if it were feasible; Walkers generally park farther from the door to make sure that people who need to be close get access to the good parking places. I’ve gotten more Walker-like in this (and other ways) over the years, as I admire and think it’s the right way to go, but that efficient-and-close parking thing is deeply burned into my personality and pokes out now and then. I use this example sometimes in ethics talks, especially when met with the “how do you expect to teach grown-ups not to lie if their mothers didn’t manage it?” challenge. “Isn’t trying to teach ethics a stupid thing to do, anyway?” The parking ethic question is a lovely example of different ways of looking at the same problem that exposure to other world views can bring: submersed in the efficiency perspective, my original world-view was limited. I could and did easily grasp the point about the needs of others, and could and did adapt. A lot of the time, professional ethics are about habits of working and thinking, and those are both teachable and learnable, especially when participating as a member of a community that requires trust to function and advance, as do scholars and researchers.

The perfect record Carle employees had of deferring to patients at pinch-points was broken yesterday: for the first time across this intense two weeks or so of lots of visits, two employees we’d glimpsed out smoking as we were passing by the valet parking entrance rushed back in, clearly a little late, returning from their smoke break. Not only did they rush past us, they also streamed into the elevator in front of a lady with oxygen. From their conversation in the elevator, they seemed to be struggling with a dispute with their supervisor that is still escalating. Directly on the heels of that, we learned at some length of the woes of the person taking my vitals (who asked which length hike we’d taken) who was having a bad day. So, both dinged slightly the otherwise impressive numbers we’ve compiled. I hope there might be time this weekend for us to finish our counting report and pull out some of what we (at least) find interesting about it.

As I finish this, the sky is lightening and it looks to be another glorious autumn day in Urbana. It’s Farmer’s Market day, and later, we hope to go for a walk at Crystal Lake. The final set of student papers is well under way and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get those done, which will leave both my classes completely caught up. That will be a good feeling! The Walker-Gunsaluses send you warm wishes for a wonderful Saturday and weekend in your lives. Hug someone close to you.


  1. I don't know if Kearney forwarded the comment, but when I first stumbled into this adventure a few days after surgery, my comment to her was: "If Tina had an extra set of joints in her arms so she could have reached around, she'd have done the surgery herself." I always thought that was 100% Gunsalus, having a more than passing acquaintance with your dad and none with the Walkers. Live and learn!

  2. Hey Tina,
    I just want to let you know that I'm thinking of you, and saying prayers. Not that anyone would go through this willingly, but if anyone's up to the task, I'd say you would be it, hands-down. You'll make the Survivor Show look like a walk in the park. If you need anything, (even beyond graphics or illustrations...but this could be a Best Seller) let me know!
    You go girl!

  3. Hi Tina:

    Just catching up on your blog for the past week. Thanks for all of this information about you and your recovery. I must say--I love your description of the Walker ethic! You hang in there. . .