Time Outs, according to the definition, are usually planned periods in which, in a football game or other sport, for example, a team reconsiders maneuvers and talks about alternate plans that might thwart the opponent's play.
When my children were young and being disciplined for some infraction of the rules of good behavior, they didn't like "time out." It kept them from interesting activities they wanted to continue. But the time out proved worthy as a means of teaching discipline and thinking before overtly acting.
There is another kind of "time out"- unplanned and unexpected--that occurs without warning or preparation. I've come trough several weeks of time out because of the necessity for five coronary bypasses heart surgery on August 30. I was given little notice to prepare for the time out or to make arrangements. These major "time-outs," or interruptions to the usual life schedule, can be a catastrophe or a challenge, depending largely on the patient's attitude.
In the many cards from friends and relatives was one recurring theme, "You shocked us! We didn't know you had heart difficulties!" Imagine how the "shock" hit me when the cardiologist made arrangements for me to enter the hospital on August 28 and I was not released until after the whole process was over (except the recuperation) on September 6.
Members of my family were away on vacation. I have my wonderful granddaughter Crystal Berenguer Diaz to thank for taking charge like a responsible adult (which she is) and doing what had to be done to get me to the hospital, get papers signed, and keeping vigil until some of the other family members returned from far-flung places.
To her I am most grateful. I don't remember a lot of what happened for several days. I know I had great faith and I was unafraid. I knew, like the Apostle Paul, whether I lived or died, it would be gain.
The timing was good, even though some family members were not present for the big surgery. My husband, Grover, was in good hands at the Georgia War Veterans' Home Memory Support Unit in Milledgeville, and I knew he was being well cared for while I was in the hospital and incapacitated. Even a small challenge with his health a few days after I returned home from the hospital when I was still not able to visit him was handled with finesse. He had some sort of attack which the doctor and nurse thought might be a stroke, so he was taken by ambulance to Oconee Medical Center's Emergency Room for extensive tests. But no stroke or major malady other than his usual Alzheimer's progression was found. He was given two days of bed rest back at the Memory Support Unit, and was then eating, laughing and talking as is his fashion.
The hardest thing during my own recuperation period was not being able to be by his side or help him. "Time out" covers many aspects of life and caregiving and we must be willing to go with the punches.
One of the things I've missed during this almost four weeks "time out" has been writing my weekly column. Several have begged me to give this up completely, saying "think about yourself and your health." But actually, I enjoy doing this column. It is a bright spot in my week, a means of therapy, of challenge. Please excuse this feeble attempt to talk about taking unexpected time out from regular routines. But there's something to be said of resiliency, of looking forward to what one likes to do, of being restored to health. And that's the journey I'm on. I'm making remarkable progress. So said Dr. Wanna in my postoperative examination on September 18!
Know that I appreciate deeply all your expressions of concern, your sincere prayers on my behalf, and your statements of "missing the Jones column." My illness has not been a time out from words; just a time to recover enough to be able to sit before a computer screen and let thoughts flow. Thank you. And whatever is a challenge to you, don't be afraid of a time out. Sometimes your body demands it…and needs it!
(Thank you for allowing me to indulge in this personal account that has been so much a part of my life for four weeks now.)
c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 20, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.