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.