last two and half months were something extraordinary for me. My sister
Barbara moved in. She lives in Grass Valley, California, but came east
to have her right shoulder replaced. Yikes. It’s not like choosing a
new sofa. You don’t go to the shoulder store and say, “I’ll take that
one, please. Have it delivered.” It’s major surgery involving hammers
and chisels and bone saws—oh my!
Barb has rheumatoid arthritis,
which has pretty much destroyed her major joints. She’s already had
both knees replaced and now it’s on to the shoulders. We wondered if it
was possible to have her toe joints replaced. Ha! That would be funny.
She is in many ways the bionic woman. So I invited her to come and live
me while she recovered, knowing that she would need lots of help. It
was an amazing transformation.
When the doc came to see me in
the waiting room after the surgery and told me how he had to cut
through all those ligaments and tendons and then sew it all back
together, I was awestruck. How in the world did he do it? I know what
it’s like to break bones and that’s bad enough. But to have a bone
removed? Then he told me how important it was for her not to move that
shoulder for two weeks! Pressure. Anyway, she came through the surgery
with no problems.
The hard work was about to
begin: dealing with the pain, learning to function with one arm, and
going to rehab. They put her right arm in an immobilizer with more
Velcro and straps than they used on Hannibal Lector. What an ordeal.
She was my hero during that time. I watched her endure pain that can
only be compared to childbirth. She learned to live with one arm tied
All this while I was trying to
make my deadline for Zondervan. But I must say that as much as I was
Barb’s cheerleader, she was mine. She made certain my butt was in my
chair and I was working every morning. It turned out to be a win-win
for both of us. Even Mango, that’s him in the picture, made sure I was
working. Barbara was a blessing.
Writing a novel is a lot like
recovering from surgery and making it through the physical therapy. At
least for me it was. It seems I completely forget how to write every
time I write a new book. I must relearn how to navigate the sometimes
stormy waters of plot, figure out why and how my character needs to go
from one place to another. It was the same for Barb. She had to relearn
how to eat with one arm, write left-handed, and take a shower with her
arm tied down.
She sat with her
pain, ice packs on both shoulders, and I sat at my laptop, coaxing
words and sentences out in my own brand of pain and triumph. As the
days flew past, Barbara’s strength recovered, and my word count grew
larger. My characters grew stronger. She was able to walk farther than
a few feet. Harriet
Beamer (my protagonist) crossed
the country. Barb
and I ventured outside and went to the grocery store. I passed the
100,000-word mark. The further she progressed in her recovery, the
further along my story went.
And then, the same day the
doctor discharged her and told she could go home to California, I
finished my book. Barbara was out of the immobilizer, using her right
arm with strength, and, best of all, with no or very little pain. I
clicked the SEND button and off went my novel. We had a great
celebration with a little party. My kids, Mango, and a couple of
friends ate pulled pork, grilled veggies, and berry cobbler. We watched
a Bette Davis movie. My sister and I both had journeys to take those
couple of months, and we made it to the finish line together.
Who knows what’s next or when.
Barb will need the left shoulder replaced soon. Maybe she’ll come back.
We’ll do it together. She on the big chair with ice packs and soda; me
at the laptop. She learning to use a new shoulder; me learning to write
a new novel.