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.