Tuesday, December 9, 2008

reflections on rehab

Hi, this is Peggy more or less taking dictation from Brooke a day or so ago—at last, he’s beginning to be able to respond to the blog himself:

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of wonderful messages I have received from all of you. I have so much I want to say but it hasn’t quite gelled yet; it’s something about love. I’m not afraid, I’m not angry; I’m looking forward to a new life…”

but at that point exhaustion from the first day of rehab took over. I’ve been staying in the Rehab unit with him; here’s what we were talking about later that evening (it’s amazing that you can have a genuine conversation even when one of you has to mouth and the other lip-read). We were musing on the claim that we live in a society that encourages people to define themselves in terms of what they have: big house, slick clothes, huge flatscreen TV. This, it is said, is shallow. But we often measure our lives in terms of what we do: hiking, biking, traveling across continents to exotic places, dancing all night in undiscovered, lowdown backwoods blues joints. But this seems to have its own sort of shallowness: while doing things is way better than having things, they both seem to lack some kind of internalized, reflective depth. When Brooke and I think about the future, as best we can at the moment, we both recognize that while we’ve never much measured our fortunes by the things we have (how would you assess two fifteen-year-old cars, for example?), but we sure having been doing a lot of things. That is bound to change; but what will replace it is what we’re both eager to discover. Brooke has always been way ahead in exploring the growth of the mind (maybe this comes from reading too much Wordsworth), but if we can avoid the traps of regret and despair there could be some really interesting stuff ahead.
Clearly one interesting thing is discovering the deeper nature of friendship. Some friendships are built on collecting things—people with mutual hobbies, for example—and some on doing things—sports buddies, for example. But some friendships, even though they have or have had some of those fine having-and-doing elements, go beyond that: they’re the deepest ones, ones that seem to flourish just in being in the proximity of each other, just in being somehow connected, without having or doing anything. (This is Peggy, making all this stuff up—but it’s what I’m seeing as many of you come to visit. There’s something special about friendship that’s going on here.)
No doubt there’s more. Brooke keeps mouthing that there’s so much he wants to say, and when the respiratory therapists adjust his trach so that he can speak (they do this by deflating a balloon-like cuff that goes around the outside of the plastic tube that sits in his windpipe), he speaks practically nonstop. But this can only be permitted for short periods each day so far, until the last of the lung problems are finally cleared up. In the meantime, we can watch the monitor on the ventilator as he actually takes repeated breaths on his own, more good news.
So what’s happening in rehab? He has about four hours of therapy a day with different specialists: physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, even recreational therapy (I have yet to discover what this is). Yesterday he got to swallow ice chips with a blue dye (to see if anything went down the wrong way—answer, no), and today it was—halleuja—real food, applesauce, albeit also with blue dye (still okay). He’s able to sit up in an elaborate motorized wheelchair (really slick, with a bright yellow chassis, price tag $30,000) that you can operate by moving your head against one side of the headrest or other; I’ve been measuring our kitchen door to see if a chariot like this will fit through), and with a sort of pulley arrangement, be put into a shower. These feel like big gains. And tomorrow it’s clothes, no more hospital gowns—the whole idea here is to adapt to whatever functionality is possible.
And so what will likely be several months of rehab begins. It’ll be slow, but we’ve been spending the evenings listening to CDs that various people have brought, finally opening a huge pile of cards that we never could read before (some sent in mid-November!—but they’re even more welcome now), and just talking. There’s a lot to say.
He’s got a roommate now, a nice younger man with a C5 fracture from falling off his porch. Life brings such sudden changes. But he seems to like the classical music that emanates from Brooke’s side of the room so there is the prospect of a congenial arrangement here. Visiting is now probably best from 12-1, or in the late afternoon (after 4), or evenings, but you can phone me anytime so see if it’s a good moment, perhaps sneaking in for just a few moments between the therapy sessions. They work them hard here. Brooke likes that.



Ron Barness said...

Brooke & Peggy... This is the most amazing update! As always, you both inspire and lead the rest of us. The Asian life view is "Be, Do, Have" whereas so much of the American life view is "Have and Do." We all have so much to learn about "Being." Thanks for teaching us Master Brooke. Love, Ron

Kimball Parker said...


You have meant so much to my family and I. Last fall I had the pleasure of taking your Shakespeare class and your teachings have meaningfully influenced my life ever since. In addition to being my professor, you taught my mother Valorie Parker, and my two brothers, Wells and Ryan Parker. We have followed your progress and kept you in our prayers from the beginning. Most of us are out of the state but we look forward to visiting you when we return home for the holidays. You are an inspiration to us all.
Kimball Dean Parker

T.R. Hummer said...

Thanks for this, Peggy. Obviously Brooke is making real progress. That's great news. Obviously, too, there is a long hard road ahead. I'm sure I speak for many when I say thanks for the updates; we love you guys and are anxious to have news.

michael white said...

Dear Peggy,

thanks so much for the update. your love and devotion to Brooke never fail to shine through, nor have they ever failed. I know from personal experience that it is these difficult times, in hospitals for instance, where all is revealed, the veil is drawn back from life so to speak. Your posts make this very clear. It's so uplifting to have some of Brooke's own words here, too. He has been so generous and inpirational to others his whole life; now there are scores of us who would shoulder some of this hard work ourselves if we could.

Much love to both of you.

michael white

Gene F said...

Hi Brooke, Peggy,
Let it be said that the subject of conversation every where we go (pilates, work out at Steiner, the field house, the grocery store) revolves around Brooke, how he is doing, and "have you read the latest blog?" This morning, for example, I was "spinning" on the bike and Gale and Ann Dick came up and, of course, the conversation was about Brooke. Theu both had tears in their eyes in discussing the latest blog. We all basically hang on every word and every encouraging sign, and grieve over every possible setback. This is a time for introspection, not only for you guys but for us all. The word "love" is perhaps overused, and, for that matter, underused, but I think it is happening here.
Hang in there and we will see you soon.
Gene and Kathy F.

Gale said...

Peggy and Brooke,

Know that there are many friends who will be walking with you on the new and difficult path that is before us all in the months and years to come. We'll be among them.

Gale and Ann

Will Janus said...

The one type of therapy you failed to mention was laughter therapy. Don't underestimate the healing power of laughter (great for the lungs, diaphragm, state of mind, etc.) Check out laughtertherapy.com. In the mean time, try this one out on Brooke. "Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often." (Johnny Carson)
Keep him laughing.
Cousin Will

Ruth said...

Hi Brooke and Peggy,

Ron and Ruth just checking in again. We wish we had something profound to offer, but, barring that, we simply want you to know that you continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.

Nicole said...

Dear Brooke,

Just wanted to write a quick note to let you know that you are in our thoughts. Thanks so much to your daughter for setting up the blog. We have been checking in since Erika George (from the law school) told me about the accident a couple of weeks ago. I hope the rehab goes well. PS: Northeastern and Boston are both a joy. Though, of course, you are terribly missed as a department colleague and mentor.

Warmest regards,
Nicole Aljoe, Steve, and Courtney Martin

Steve Trimble said...

Brooke and Peggy: well, you two, this latest amazing post is the beginning of a book! You are thinking about the meaning of this shift in reality--the meaning of life, really--in such loving and eloquent ways, you might keep in mind the notion that your conversations and insights, all the ups and downs, would move more than just the several hundred friends reading this blog. They would move multitudes.

Sadie said...

Dear Brooke,

This is Sadie Moore. I've been wanting to write you a note for awhile now, and now that school is finally winding down, I have the chance.
I'm taking upper division Shakespeare from Mark Matheson this semester, and it's truly been a wonderful experience. He announced it to our class with a very heavy heart when this first happened to you, and I had a very difficult time composing myself; I was shedding tears over my huge Shakespeare book. By chance, we were talking about King Lear that day, which Mark said is one of your favourite plays, and Mark was making a lot of references to romantic poetry that day, which really hit home for me. You pretty much changed my life when I took that Literary History II class from you years ago. I took that class from you very deliberately, thanks to my father's good advice. I'm so glad I did, because I was instantly compelled by everything we read, thanks to your teaching. I've always had a deep love of literature, but you taught me to experience literature in a different, more passionate way, and it's stuck with me ever since. I am *so* moved by the beautiful things that I read, and I know that you were the inspiration for that way of reading. Mark said he had the exact same experience when he took classes from you in the past. I've been very lucky to know Mark during this difficult time. It's helped to be able to talk to someone whose life has been so affected by you, becuase you've affected my life in such a wonderful way as well.

As I think my dad told you when he ran into you at the pharmacy a few months ago, I recently contracted a disease where I was paralyzed from the waist down for a year. Reading this particular entry of your wife's reminds me a great deal of what I experienced during that time. She said that you two were talking about how you realized that we define ourselves so much by the things we do and the things we have. It took me a little while to grapple with that notion, but I did eventually learn to define myself by who I am as a person, mostly by the people I love and the people who love me, and by the things I'm passionate about. I certainly read a lot during that year, that's for sure. :)
You are such an amazing person with so many wonderful passions. Not to mention you have many people to love, and so *so* many people who love you. From what Mark says and from reading this blog, I can see that you have an amazing, loving and supporting wife, and you have the love of all the people you've affected over the years. Though this must be so difficult for you, I have no doubt that you will be able to find peace in a different sort of life for as long as you have to.
I think about you every day, and I pray that you will have a swift recovery. It sounds like you have made great strides already, which is wonderful.
I hope I can visit you sometime soon, but until then, just know that you are always in my thoughts.
Love from,

Andy H. said...

Brooke, dude, that slight sway of air above your head, that's us, all of us, moving about you, with you, with Peggy, in love.

Andy Hoffmann

Cathy said...

Dear Brooke,

You are a Presence here in Torrey even when you are not here. Scott Chesnut and Adus and Larry and I were talking and we want to send you a message from all of us that we are, as Scott says, "pulling for you".
When you told me you went to a meditation retreat (not Buddhism light, you said), I was totally impressed that you did it and completed it and liked it. I keep thinking that the experience might be of some comfort and help to you now.
With love from Cathy and Larry and Scott and Adus.

Tom Whedbee said...

Hi Brookie and Peggy. I've been following the blog but was a bit out of touch for a week or so as our family dealt with a relatively minor hurdle. As I read today while trying to catch up, I was struck by how much seems to have happened recently. Just know that the Whedbee family keeps you in our thoughts and prayers all the time. Although I feel I have always been close to my cousins, family now has a deeper meaning -- I don't know how to say this without sounding maudlin -- but we're all the family we have left, and every relationship seems more dear. I wish we were closer to Utah, but as George said, we now have an additional reason for visiting!

Although the circumstances were awful, it has been wonderful speaking with Lisa -- we had been out of touch too long.

No Christmas Dinner this year at Shawan, though the gang in Nantucket will be celebrating. Rather than going north this year, we'll stay at home and spend Christmas evening at Courtie Jenkins. And we all will think of you.

Daughter Rosalie will be home from Scotland. She's a senior at University of St. Andrews and loves it. Younger daughter Claire is a senior at Garrison Forest, looking at colleges all over the place. She and I just returned from an LA and San Diego college excursion.

Peggy, I'll give you a call sometime soon.

All best,


Patricia said...

You are both just amazing.


Gary said...

Hi Peggy,
Lama Thupten would like to schedule a visit. Could you give him a call. He can be reached at 801-328-4629 or on his cell phone which he believes he gave you.

Gary Stephenson

Anne Jamison said...

Brooke and Peggy,

Craig and I want you to know how much you have been in our thoughts. We would like to visit but have been hesitant because of constant low-level colds from our son's first year of pre-school. If that is no longer a concern, we would love to see Brooke!

I also wanted to pass on to Brooke the heartfelt warmth and concern of my students, many of whom studied with Brooke and very much want their well wishes conveyed.


Anne and Craig

Dan Larrinaga said...

Brooke & Peggy...Dan Larrinaga here...I can't imagine how I can adequately express my love for both of you and how much I am with you. What to say after first hearing the news and then finding out about and reading this AMAZING blog? Wow! Wow! Wow! You are both WONDERFUL in the truest sense of the word.

I sit here, in the Balance Rock Eatery & Pub in Helper, Utah, drinking acid "coffee" and WISHING you were here with me. But this blog helps SO much. Here we are, WANTING so badly to be of some help to both of you and there you are helping us instead...helping me. Thank you. Keep it up, get better, get well and all that junk. I LOVE YOU!! :)

Shireen said...

Happy New Year and we hope it will be a better year with great recovery. Reza and I have both had colds and didn't want to bring it to Brooke but will visit over the weekend.

So happy to hear about the improvements.

Much love to you both

Shireen and Reza

Ruth said...

Dear Brooke and Peggy,

We just checked in after a considerable absence. We were inundated with family during the holiday period. Today is our quiet day at home together, so we had the opportunity to catch up and it was with great pleasure that we read of Brooke's latest progress. Bless you and may you have more small miracles in the days to come.

Happy New Year! Ron and Ruth Smelser