Becoming Like Home

I had finally been discharged to my own apartment. I was extremely excited to live on my own again. It had been three and a half years since I had lived by myself. The stroke had made it necessary to have other people in the home. At one time I had used a wheelchair and required my father to bring me all of my food and drink. Over the years, I had regained the ability to make simple meals and carry cups and plates. Now I had the ability to do many things independently.

While this was a thrilling time, it was not without its drawbacks. The hardest thing was that I had a horribly inconsiderate next-door neighbor. From 4:00 until 11:00 pm he would blast music. In order not to make enemies, I would try to stay in the basement and work on my blog until late every night. Some nights when I came up for the night, he would still be playing music so loudly that I could not sleep. I had this problem three out of the first four nights in the building. I had gone down to the office to complain on Thursday and Friday, but it was already after 4:00, so the office had closed. Then it was closed all weekend.

I was finally able to get into the office to complain on Monday morning. I told the building manager that I was not even that concerned with having to hear loud music throughout the day and early evening. I could always go into the basement or outside. The real problem was that I’d had a stroke due to high blood pressure. It was imperative that I get enough restorative sleep every night. She told me that it would be a problem even if I was disturbed during the day. She assured me that she would address the problem immediately and even handed me her card in case I had any problems in the future.

That night I lay down anticipating having to endure music from next door. I plugged my earbuds into my phone and placed my phone on its charging pad so I could play videos as white noise. However, I didn’t have to drown out any unwanted sound. I slept so peacefully that I woke up before 6:00 feeling fully refreshed. I went to bed every night for the next week optimistic but assuming that this tranquility couldn’t last. Yet it did. I didn’t have to file another noise complaint.

Now I was really enjoying the building. I had always loved living in south Minneapolis, but I had usually been a little farther away from the heart of the city. Now I was on the first street south. Downtown. I loved going out onto the deck or in the backyard because they offered breathtaking vistas of the skyline. It was much easier not having much money at this location because it cost so little to go anywhere. I didn’t have to use Metro Mobility to go everywhere because a cab was always cheaper than $10, as everything I needed could be found within fifteen blocks. This gave me a great deal of freedom.

This really factored in heavily, because somehow neither my transportation card nor my Meals on Wheels had arrived. This meant that I was paying for all of my food and paying to reload my other transportation card. Before I moved out of Chateau, I had completed an evaluation with a county worker to reinstate my services. I was expecting a food delivery at my door and a Go-to Card in the mail during the first two weeks I lived on 3rd Avenue. This would have amounted to $70 worth of transportation credits and an average of one meal per day. This was easily worth an additional $200 of disposable income each month.

Had my services started immediately, I would have been comfortable for the month of August. I had moved with a small cushion of cash, plus I expected to find a part-time job through the vocational rehabilitation program. After living my whole life waiting until the last minute, the stroke had really ingrained in me the need to find solutions before emergencies arose. So I called the county representative who had performed my needs assessment and asked what the status of my application was. He admitted that he had not submitted it. He said that he would send it in and that my services would arrive in ten days. I was a little disturbed, but I knew that I would not starve or become homeless. Instead I took a break from going to the gym. Not spending money on travel would allow me to shift resources to survival. I would use the time to stay ahead of my blog and to relax.

Not going to the gym every other morning actually turned out to be an easy thing. Since I was still sleeping on a mattress, it took a lot of effort to get up and seated on my love seat. Once I was safely off the floor, I would often find that my back was stiff from the night before. I would spend the first few hours straightening my back, then I would wash up, dress, and take my computer downstairs.

It had been a very hot week, so it had been a relief to go downstairs to blog. I would pull up a table to a wall outlet, plug in my phone and laptop, and get lost in what I was doing. If I got far enough ahead, I might stop for a few hours and watch Netflix. While this was a serene environment for the middle of the day, it was very inconvenient at night. When I couldn’t sleep, my instinct was often to get up and work on my blog or watch video on my laptop. However, my modem had not arrived, so using my laptop for internet would have meant getting dressed and going downstairs. And once I was fully dressed, I still would not be able to tie my own shoes, so the whole affair was more trouble than it was worth.

Then one day I was standing in the lobby when I overheard a UPS delivery driver say that he had a package for my apartment number. I looked over and told him that it was for me. We rode the elevator up to my floor together. Then I opened the door and he handed me the package. I tore it open. It was the modem. My sight was bad; I only had one dextrous arm; my balance was poor. I really wanted internet, but I worried that I might lose or damage something. What if my double vision wouldn’t allow me to read the instruction manual?

After several minutes of apprehension, I just tore into the box and pulled out the modem and instruction manual. Prior to the stroke, I would have just plugged the modem in the wall and waited for all of the lights were in. The worst that would have happened would have been a call to technical support. If they couldn’t resolve the problem that night, I could have gone out for a few hours. As it was, it felt like an internet connection was my entire world, so I didn’t want to screw things up.

The instructions were simple, and it only took me a few minutes to get everything hooked up. The hardest part was screwing the coaxial cable into the wall with one hand. Ordinarily I would have held the cable in place with my left hand and screwed it in with my right. It was far more difficult using only my right. I would try to align the cable perfectly over the outlet before screwing it it in. Of course the cable came out several times. It was frustrating on its own, but that was compounded by the fact that the outlet was only about a foot off the floor. It gave me a lot of lower back pain each time I had to bend down to try again.

After several unsuccessful tries, I finally was able to get the cable threads to catch on the outlet. I screwed it in and waited for the lights to come on. The power light came on right away, but the second light started flashing and never stayed on. I knew this was a problem, so I turned the modem around, held down the reset button for about ten seconds, and consulted the manual for how long I should expect it to take. After several minutes, I my computer was able to locate my WiFi. Reading and keying in the correct password was difficult with my compromised eyesight, but I broke the password down into a series of four-digit increments. I tried three times before giving up and calling technical support.

The representative from Comcast was very courteous and thorough. He tried several times for almost an hour to no avail. Finally he had to place an appointment for a maintenance truck. I was dejected, but I had lived without WiFi the whole time. What was three more days? By the time the maintenance man did get WiFi running in my apartment, I was thankful, but I seldom did a lot of typing at home. Leaving the apartment to work on my blog had become so routine that I was on my laptop in my apartment only when I felt like watching videos.

I now had most of the basics I needed in order to make the apartment feel like home. The kitchen was fully stocked. There were hygiene products and towels in the bathroom. The living room contained a table, places to sit, and internet access. The bedroom had a lamp, nightstand, full closets, and chest of drawers. The only thing missing was the actual bed. I owned a queen-sized mattress and box spring, but it was sitting in my friend Dave’s garage in Saint Paul because we needed to wait for a day when we could find help for him and when the weather would cooperate.

About two Sundays after I moved in, it was sunny and not too hot. Dave used his truck to drive my mattress over. My friend John met us at my building. They got everything into my apartment so quickly, I was astonished. In the few years since my stroke, I had developed a tendency to see tasks as more daunting than they really were. It was three short trips from the truck to the apartment: one for the box spring, one for the mattress, one for the pillows.

I didn’t realize how much of the bedroom a queen-sized bed would take up. The room no longer felt empty. The bed was so high that I could stand straight up from it, without having to use my right hand. It felt heavenly – so wide, so soft. Since my stroke, I had owned queen-sized sets, I had slept on smaller beds with frames, but I hadn’t owned a bed this large and this high off the ground. It would no longer be a struggle to remain in bed at night or to get out of bed in the morning.

I still needed food support and a transportation pass, but these things did not frustrate me. I had food, medicine, shelter, communication, and technology, everything I needed for basic survival and higher level functioning. I could blog, workout, socialize, and get where I needed to go. This was more affordable than anywhere else I had lived in the metro area and far more convenient than when I had lived in Mississippi or Sleepy Eye. I no longer felt like the immediate future was a tightrope walk in a darkened room on my way to a nebulous recovered life. My apartment now had everything I needed to keep moving forward.

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