Lessons in Twine



We arrive here with a ball of twine, and we skip and twist and wind and it gets all knotted up and we still don’t realize that the thing we are playing with is the number of our days. It is time. The time allotted to us on the face of this Earth. Thankfully, there are teachers. We don’t always call them that, but there are people in our lives who, not always in the most pleasant ways, provide some guidance for the unknotting and proper use of our time. Journeying with them is interesting. They make you go backwards when you want to go forward, but they can see that going forward will cause you to hang yourself and die early. Going back and making funny loops on the other hand causes the twine to unwrap and lengthen and we are able to do more with the length we now have.

It is little wonder that the greatest love affairs take place between teachers and students. The indebtedness that we realize we could never repay for the many screwed up situations in which we have found ourselves and have been helped out of creates greater bonds than we care to say, for the relationship between the teacher and student is a special one. It transcends that between parent and child, husband and wife, or friends. Yet it we use these types of relationships to define that which occurs between the teacher and student because we have not coined the appropriate word or phrase for it. We never might, especially when we consider the word transcend. This type of relationship will continue to elude our definitions.

In the wider sphere of my life I attribute my growth to my teachers who appear as students and clients. Over the years they have been helping to straighten every crooked part of me and help me to go distances I never imagined because I’ve been able to unravel many knots and find better use for the length of my days. Last week I was reading an article on stress to the Reflexology students. The first stressful career mentioned was Teaching, which makes sense because the Teacher has to get between the students’ sense and nonsense and show faith in the students and inspire confidence and discipline and get them to focus enough to absorb the teachings so that they could eventually possess the experiences to develop to the next stage of their lives. Added to that, the timeframe in which a breakthrough is made with each student is different. Stressful indeed. And if we take a count to see how many persons know when is Teacher’s Day, that would be another lesson. Does such a day exist? I’m asking because I don’t know. I am properly representing my sample.

So you will forgive me if I don’t seem to take my teaching role too seriously. It is a terribly inadequately rewarded responsibility for all the stress it entails. And do excuse me if I seem content to learn, and, only when I am choking on huge amounts of knowledge, I choose to release the excess in the name of teaching. Please don’t take it as an insult; it’s my way of side-stepping the stress of being totally embroiled. Here goes, from the overflow… Remember the client who gave the scenario of the high speed chase to catch the escapee? Well, he was telling me recently of going overseas to study. There he was at work when he was advised that he had to be in a classroom somewhere in England on Monday morning and he was getting the news on Thursday. Better still, while they were on the flight his colleague’s name is called out on the mic. He went to the cockpit and returned to say that he has been taken off the course and has to take the first flight back to Trinidad after they land. Now my client is without a buddy. After getting to England and approaching the person who he was told would give him money to get around, the person told him he knows nothing of such an arrangement and his ex-wife is hurried contacted and asked to send some funds for him. Nice relationship. Months after he returns home from the course, he gets a cheque for the sum of money that he should have gotten overseas. Oh, in between all that, on a very cold night, another student came into the room smoking and the alarm went off. They had to drop everything and run out. Emergency is emergency. He found himself out in the cold in his underwear (whatever that constituted) while the Fire Squad took forever to ensure that the threat was eliminated. It was minus something degrees. He wanted to kill the guy.

And do you remember my Chinese client who opted for strolling around at night? Well he ‘allegedly’ (said his daughter) got into a fight with another 90 year old resident and his children decided to hastily evacuate him from the Home. That ended our relationship, but I continue to work with other clients at the Home, so over time I heard from several Nurses that he is not a saint at all. Quiet, yes, but… One said he would assume Karate postures and ask whoever is standing in front of him if they wanted to fight. Hmmm. At 90? Excellent. Other times he would role-play drawing a weapon from his hip and pointing it around saying that he is a ‘Bad John’ and would shoot them. From what they said the niceness does not last longer than the sun shines. Hence the night staff has stories of him that I cannot relate to.

Anyway, I got a call from Mr. Chinese son. He wanted to know if I am contracted to the Home in a way that prevents me from working at others. Not at all. Good. He wanted me to go to the new Home to do massages for his father as he is asking for his massage. So the relationship is not over, but rather his move has served to introduce me to another Home. And I asked myself what really are losses and opportunities? They must be exercises in the unknotting of our twine. Things that send our blood pressure up and down while expanding and contracting us until we become who we need to be before the length of our twine runs out. Which is what? What do we need to be? The Wise Ones say: Servants. For the sake of formality, access, whatever…it serves my purpose to wear the title: Massage Therapist. The real challenge is to see how well I can adapt to the title: Servant. Shouldn’t be difficult since I am in service. Right?

Off I went, to serve Mr. Toco. Some days are better than others. Accepted. I wheeled him into his room, parked the chair, hooked his arm and hoisted him onto the bed. Not that straightforward. I was not trained for that role so I lost my balance. I knocked over his urine receptacle which was on a chair near the bed. Not to worry, it was empty. Thankfully. I removed his t-shirt and began the massage. We spoke of the day the stroke hit. The first time. He was ‘liming’ by his brother and had gotten up to leave when he felt dizzy. He returned inside and waited a bit. Then he tried again and made it to his car. He began driving home and found that he could not mash brakes. His right foot refused to obey him. He reached over with the left foot and did it. He got home in one piece and went to bed. Felt he probably had one too much. When he got up next morning he went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast and could not use his right hand. Strange. He called his son.

His son came over and they spoke about what was transpiring and made a few calls and they ended up at Mount Hope and he was hospitalized. Many tests were done. He was finally put in a ‘coffin.’ The big machine. When he emerged the Doctors said they saw a blood clot on the left side of his head and that they would have to surgically remove it in hope that he would regain normal function of his right side. He started praying. He said they went into the head the man with whom he was sharing a room. The man came out of surgery as a ‘beh-beh.’ He prayed: don’t let dem go in my brain, please don’t let dem go in my brain. For reasons he did not say, they did not go into his brain. He returned home and eventually walked again until his fateful Toco trip for a bath…

From then to now he has found himself (whether in hospital or geriatric homes) sharing rooms with persons in a worse state than him and it keeps him grateful…appreciative is pushing it. On top of that he is getting massages. That makes it difficult to complain…though the atrophy of his right arm troubles him. As for learning to walk again, for the third time, he is hopeful. So much so he dreamed that he was walking several times. Once, he was approached by a very tall man in white robe and the man told him to get up and walk. He got up. The man extended his arm and told him to hold his hand and walk. He reached out and kept trying to grasp the man’s hand, but he felt nothing. He awoke from the dream grasping wildly at the air about him for the hand, but it was not there and he was on the verge of falling having gotten up from the bed. He had to scramble the bed quickly. Hmmm. Should we now beware of tall men, especially those in white robes? As I had said, the lesson is not always pleasant, but if he cares to contemplate the dream he might find something useful there. But, there was no real need for that. Not now, for we were laughing heartily while he recounted the dream, and I was holding his hand. Granted I was exercising it, but it was ‘actually’ being held and that was good enough for him.

And while many were solemn following the death of the genteel lady from the tall building, one of my clients was celebrating as he has been able to secure an apartment with a better view on a higher floor. So there we sat, having a pre-massage conversation after he had his pre-massage smoke, and we had waltzed around the apartment with him showing me where what is. The view is definitely better and the furniture elegant, but he does not like how they smell. To remedy that he bought scented candles which he keeps alight once he is home. He suggested that I participate in the re-odorizing process by taking my clothes off and rolling around on the sofas so that I leave my scent on them. Well, I did say I might have some trouble wearing the servant title. I’ve had a blind client who could tell when I entered her room by my scent so she never needed it all over her furniture. Now I have a rich bored client who is so preoccupied with maximizing the use of his vision that it would take extra effort on my part for him to smell me. This is why I keep bouncing back to my old folks. They have real needs to serve. Not that I am complaining, service is service. Besides, rolling around sounds like easy work, but I didn’t know whether to charge him per sofa, or per roll. I suggested to my dear client that I could add a few more drops of essential oil to the mix and after having his massage he could roll around on the sofas and transfer the scent to them. Idea rejected. Hmmm. That man trying to tie up my twine.