These are long days. Change happens at a barely perceptible rate, and like watching grass grow, you can’t actually see it happening. Days for Brooke are filled with huge challenges that seem so simple to others: learning to swallow; coughing, clearing secretions out of the lungs; sitting upright for several hours in a row. Getting a shower can take as long as an hour or even two. People who haven’t seen Brooke for a week or ten days say he looks dramatically better, and indeed he is better: better lungs, better blood pressure and body-temperature regulation, better speech. But if you see him all the time and if you’re wondering what the long-term prognosis is (after all, everyone asks), it’s in some ways like watching grass grow—you can’t see it happening, it’s so slow--but unlike grass, you can’t tell whether it actually is happening. There are some hints of some sensation in one arm, though no motion, and no guess yet about whether this means any restored function there. In the meantime, though, Brooke is learning about various assistive devices (computers, readers, etc.) and though never particularly technically inclined beforehand, obviously very interested in these: they can be one’s lifeline to the world.
But what he’s really interested in at the moment is people, and he’s still reeling (in the most positive of senses) from the overwhelming concern, admiration, and love that’s being expressed. People do wonderful things: one friend came today to hang a birdfeeder outside Brooke’s window, and just incidentally to review the huge sheaf of medical bills that have already poured in. (The hospital bills are fortunately pretty much entirely covered.) Somebody brought chocolate. Somebody came to read poetry. Two people came to read literary criticism. Somebody brought a secret surprise item. Somebody sent a poinsettia that brings holiday spirit into the room. Somebody (I’m not naming names, since a blog is a public document with at least one reporter following it and perhaps you don’t want your name revealed, though it will be easy to figure out who it is)—somebody brought his harmonica and two additional members of a blues band, and they played in Brooke’s room for a magical hour or so. I suppose the thinking is this—is you can’t go to the blues clubs anymore just yet, maybe they’ll come to you—anyway, the musicians and the little audience and Brooke were all jammed into his room, feeling the wail of the blues in a more than usually piercing way. Later somebody else came and just sat quietly, also a wonderful treat.
And that’s just today. So many people have been so wonderful to him over the past weeks, again and again. People have been reading to him, playing wonderful cello-and-guitar music, bringing curative amulets from distant cultures, talking with him about all sorts of things. And these are just the people who live in Salt Lake—there have been wonderful moments with out-of-towners too. And we are still opening cards and notes—some sent in mid-November, right after the accident (he was too sick for a long time to really digest them, but in a way they’re more meaningful now). He says he wants to hang all of them up on the wall (we will need a bigger room), since they remind him so vividly of what you’ve all meant to him. And finally, he says—and this is a direct quote—he doesn’t know how he can possibly give back all you’ve given to him.
Somebody wise said early on, “Today lungs. Tomorrow limbs.” The lungs are almost entirely well. We still don’t know yet what sort of return of limbs there will be, if any, but even today shows that if you just look at what is going on right now, not worrying about the future or regretting the past, you can still have a rich life even without them. That’s what Brooke’s been saying all along.