“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”
A facility, according to writer Anne Lamott, is a place where you can no longer lock people out of your bedroom. A character in her book Blue Shoe repeats this with alarm and lets it sink in a bit: “When you can no longer lock people out of your room, you are in a FACILITY!”
Well, I don’t know about you readers—if you’ve ever had an extended stay in a facility or not,—but once upon a time, I signed myself up for an eight-week stay. The place was blind school. The goal was adjusting to vision loss and learning new coping skills. My attitude was brave.
And I lasted 23 hours.
That’s right…I didn’t even make it a full day!
I found out I could no longer lock people out of my bedroom. Or keep them from following me into the shower.
“Is that you, Beckie?” a woman called whipping back the shower curtain at 5 a.m. on a frigid January morning. Who else would be in your crappy showers at this time? I thought bitterly. People are just frantic to be here, lady.
“Yes!” I yelled grumpily. “Do you mind?” I said turning, trying to cover up.
“Just checkin’,” she stayed cheerful.
I’d gone to the shower to hide. I felt desperate to escape my sad roommate who was blind, mute, and incontinent due to a stroke suffered during surgery.
One of many horror stories.
Honestly I wasn’t prepared for them. I thought I could just approach this vision loss thing logically and leave the praying and weeping to someone else. A classic case of denial, and in some ways, and at some times, denial can be a useful thing for a disabled person.
But eventually that elephant in the heart called grief wants to come out, so it’s best to give it some time and space.
I decided to do that at home.
Not the lesson I’d gone to blind school to learn, but huge nonetheless. I also learned that there were many people with vision loss worse than mine, and I became grateful. I realized I had a full life back home…just one hour away.
Later that day I called there.
And in a couple of hours, I sat in the lobby of that facility, bags packed, and the staff mystified at my sudden leaving. Murmuring to each other, I heard, “What’s she doing?”
Then louder to me, “Beckie, what are you doing?”
“I’m leavin’,” I said, all cocky. That’s right, people, I have a life!
Beyond the blurry attendants I heard the tinkling of a water fountain trying to disguise the fact that this was indeed a facility. An institution. What had I been thinking?
I watched from the lobby as snow came down in the dark and a red car pulled up. My car. A purple streak shot across the parking lot. My daughter. A man’s voice greeted the staff. My husband.
I felt like I could breathe again.
Then we all hugged and piled into the car and pulled away from blind school.
Whispering a silent prayer of thanks, I left determined to never again underestimate the life I had going on despite vision loss. And I mostly do OK with that. But…every once in a while…if I start to feel sorry for myself, a quick refresher course straightens me right out.
I just think facility.