Thanksgiving and Frida Kahlo, Hospitals and Recovery

It’s Thanksgiving Day 2014. I’m at Duke Regional Hospital in Durham, North Carolina recovering from knee replacement surgery in a hospital bed that reclines to any position at the touch of a finger. In the past twenty-four hours, Frida Kahlo has often entered my mind.

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Mostly because she did such a miraculous job of hiding her pain and her deformity when medicine at the time did not offer sophisticated drugs or surgical techniques. She adorned herself in jewelry and costumes to focus attention to her upper body.

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Mostly because I want to look “normal” just like she did. Friends will come to visit today with good cheer, turkey and mashed potatoes in hand. My bandaged leg is under a blanket, my lipstick is applied.

Mostly because having surgery is a solitary experience, even surrounded by flowers, accompanied by Facebook, family and friends who are with me in this virtual world. Frida did not have Facebook and WhatsApp to connect her. She had her imagination and insights.

She reached out to connect by looking in the mirror that still hangs above her recovery bed in Casa Azul, paintbrush and canvas in hand, sketchbook and pencil in hand, to express her feelings about life, death, politics and Diego.

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I have my knitting at hand, my dreams rumbling around in my mind and my plans for the new year formulating.

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When I left Mexico City last week to return to North Carolina for this surgery, I kept the image of Frida on her bed with me. Her effigy was draped in an indigo shawl reflected in the mirror above.

My knee will heal and the pain will subside. This is more than a hope. It is knowledge that my care team led by Dr. Rhett Hallows, a Duke orthopedic surgeon, is expert. Afterall, I did interview four surgeons in September!

Today, one day after the procedure, I used day-glow pink, duct-taped crutches  to walk my first three hundred and one steps down the hospital corridor. The goal was three hundred, but my friend Mary Ann said, go on, you can do one more. So, I did.

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I am reclined in my hospital bed ready to welcome visitors. I give thanks for the gift of life as it presents itself each day, each moment a different experience and not as I predicted.

It is a perfect day for giving thanks, to my family and friends, to the strangers who care for me, and to Frida’s memory, a woman who endured hardship and pain. Frida is a model for what it means to transcend, create and live large.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am grateful you are a part of my life.

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Looking for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Art History Study Tour, April or July 2015.

6 responses to “Thanksgiving and Frida Kahlo, Hospitals and Recovery

  1. Dearest Norma, you never stop amazing me, brilliant as ever I love the Frida comparison. I am confident your surgery will not be the torture hers were. What a great trip that was Thank you so much for all the great navigating you do and for being the inspiration you are. Happy Thanksgiving and may your recovery be speedy and painless. Dreaming to Teotitlan….Jennie

  2. You’re looking grand, madam. Keep up the +1 every day and the therapy for months beyond anyone’s recommendation. You’ll be racing around Oaxaca soon.

  3. What a great Thanksgiving message from you!!
    You did it! Now onto a speedy & painless as possible recovery. I’m looking forward to seeing you in Oaxaca this winter. You can inspire me further to get my own knee replacement done.
    Happy Thanksgiving! xoxo, Suzanne

    • Suzanne, I was really scared and then I said to myself. You can do this. And I remeber reading something on The Improvised Life that said. If you are afraid of something, all the more reason to do it. Thanks. I’m happy to give you all the encouragement you need.

  4. Happy Thanksgiving
    You are an inspiration and Imam grateful to have you in my life even though we’ve never met. I will try to remember your use of Frida.
    Blessings and comfort

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