Sunday, December 28, 2008

Up and down, jobs for all

Up and down, down and up

You know that if this were a real roller coaster, ups would follow the downs, and downs would only come after ups. This isn’t quite like that—sometimes there are lots of downs in a row, and in a rare confession yesterday, after a sustained bout of trach trouble, Brooke said, “sometimes this is really hard.” But he’s working on preserving the ups as well, especially the wonderful psychological up from all of you, by having the cards you all sent pasted up on the wall across from his hospital bed.
This is Isabelle’s job. She’s Brooke’s niece, here from New York for the holidays, along of course with her parents, Lisa, Brooke’s sister, and her husband Mark. This is a terrific job for Isabelle because although she’s only 14, she’s as tall as her 5’10” mother (height runs in the Hopkins family) and can tape cards as high as the ceiling. They’re plastered solid over half the wall already, and we’re still opening cards and letters, even some from right after the accident—by the time this work of art is finished, it will cover the entire wall, and remind Brooke continuously of what you’ve meant to him. Sometime I see him gazing at the card wall and imagine (or rather, I think I know) that he’s scrutinizing each one, thinking about the one of you who sent it.
Sara’s family is also here for the holidays—Sara, her husband Greg, and Max, 6, and Sydney, 4. It’s wonderful to see how everyone just sort of takes on jobs—for instance, Greg has already replaced the faucet in the kitchen sink with a much more elegant and functional one, and has been excavating the old front door that’s at the front of the house—something we’ll have to open and widen to let Brooke go in and out in his wheelchair. Sydney’s job is drawing endless pictures to take to Brooke and of course playing with her Mattel-manufactured, Barbie-line horse, Neigh-Neigh. Max goes to hardware stores with his dad and also brings down the huge icicles that form under the eaves of the house with single deft stroke of the shovel. He’s particularly interested in how Brooke’s ventilator works and all the numbers and diagrams of breathing in and out that flash across the monitor display. And Sara still puts her hand on Brooke’s forehead and tells him, more effectively than anyone else, “relax, relax.”
Meanwhile back to Mark and Lisa: Mark is doing a phenomenal job of researching durable medical equipment, as Mike has also been doing, like wheelchairs, shower chairs, ceiling hoists, and so on. And Lisa plays the piano, sits with Brooke, organizes things like guitar expeditions, and keeps an eye on the proliferation of sticky notes all over the house. In general, it’s wonderful to have a house full of people, all (like all our friends) doing what they’re best at making things better for Brooke. It’s been a bit congested for visitors because of all the family around, but the house will be more or less empty again early in January—except, of course, for everybody working on accessibility modifications that need to be ready by Brooke’s projected arrival date, Feb. 3.

An old friend of mine from college who’s had a spinal cord injury tells me this is the most traumatic part of all, homecoming, but we’re looking forward to it just the same.



Liz von Kessler said...

Tell Brooke that we toasted him in Nantucket with a song "Cut down the old Pine Tree". We are sorry that we did not have internet access so could not be sooner in wishing you all the best. We saw a lot of "Jenkins" last Sunday and everyone wanted to know about the progress. It is hard to explain the long process of Rehab - but I do know what you are going through and it is a challenge - truly re-inventing yourselves - we continue to admire your strength. Love to all.

sustainableElaine said...

Hi Brooke and Peggy, Phil is grading (of course last minute) student papers and compiling grades while I'm catching up on work. My 94 year old wheelchairbound mother with emphysema came to visit for christmas, along with 2 caregivers and my sisterinlaw. Our son and his girlfriend came and our british daughter. we also have a new 'borrowed' son living with us. So lots of chaos and joy. I think of you Brooke as I watched my mom, who went from a golfplaying, handstand off the highdive strong mother slowly become immobile. She has done this with a smile on her face. Tho you know what brings her the biggest smile beside her grandson, Matt? DOGS! Any opportunity I get I make sure that dogs visit her. She even has an appointment weekly with Frank, the therapy dog. If you aren't allergic to dogs or cats, there is nothing better for healing :) Amazingly, she can still read the financial section of the paper and lift a martini to her lips (her breakfast of choice these days, with two olives). So, here's wishing you a sparkle or two! Much love, elaine and phil