Sunday, July 5, 2009

(Mis)Naming Names and Seeing Into the Future

There’s a reason why I try not to mention people’s names on this blog unless I have their specific consent—the usual privacy reason, of course. But there’s an additional reason—I might get it wrong. In the Biking Over Boulder Mountain account a couple of entries ago, it isn’t Steve Parker, Kirtly’s brother, who was biking with Brooke, but Steve Boyer, a world class mountaineer and international refugee doc—of course I knew that, since I’d driven over Boulder with them while they biked, lounged in the hot tub with them afterward at the Boulder Mountain Lodge—a welcome reward for their efforts—and then had a wonderful dinner together with them. Silly me.

In pointing out this mistake, Kirtly said, how remarkable how close that trip was to a year ago. Yes, it’s just a year. Who could have known what lay ahead for Brooke? The Existentialists along with various other philosophers have insisted that we should always live our lives as if something like this could happen at any moment--which to some of us, it does. And could to any of us in the future. One of the extraordinary things about hanging around in rehab facilities is how many of the patients here are caught so to speak in mid-life—driving their cars somewhere, riding their bikes or their motorcycles just for fun, or like an old college friend of mine climbing down a ladder from the loft in somebody’s summer cabin, or like Brooke’s spinal-cord mentor, jumping on a trampoline with your kids. Now they’re all lumped into a common category—the disabled—but underneath, they’re all regular people who were just living their regular lives.
Maybe that’s part of what explains the extraordinary sense of community I see among people with spinal cord injuries, something Brooke deeply experiences and is amazingly grateful for, and I admire from nearby but still outside.


1 comment:

Sara & Greg Pearson said...

I've just returned to Santa Barbara from a short trip to SLC to visit Brooke. I expected to be thoroughly depressed. Brooke is my best friend in Utah, and we've enjoyed numerous outdoor adventures together--climbing the Pfeifferhorn, Twin Peaks, and Deseret Peak, backpacking in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho and the Uintas, skiing Maybird and other high places in the Wasatch. To see him laid up was going to be a downer.
To my surprise, I found our visit immensely uplifting. As it happens, much of my academic writing has focused on Stoic philosophy and how it impacts Renaissance literature. As everyone remarks, Stoicism is very attractive in theory but usually fails to sustain someone who is really suffering. But I've always thought Epictetus was right when he said that a good person who maintains a moral purpose can turn any situation imposed upon them to their moral advantage. Brooke is living proof. He is as alert and responsive to the world around him as he was before the accident, indeed much more so. Having so much time to reflect, even as he endures the pain of a long recovery, he has a vastly heightened level of sensitivity and awareness that will certainly enrich the contribution he and Peggy will make with the book they are beginning to write. Like Brooke, Peggy has suffered much and grown in sensitivity and awareness.
What was especially heartening for me was the clear evidence that Brooke is recovering. Expecting the worst, I was delighted to see how much progress he had made and was still making. He invited me to watch his therapy session one afternoon. Three very competent and obviously dedicated therapists worked on him, reviving limbs and torso. There was a lot of positive interaction between Brooke and his therapists. And clearly, the positive attitude both Brooke and they maintain is going to help keep the process of recovery on track.
As a Catholic Eucharistic Minister, I've visited convalescent homes in both SLC and Santa Barbara and usually found them dreary and depressing. In contrast, Brooke's facility is a rather cheerful place. The staff seem to be happy to be working there, and the people who attend to Brooke's needs, nurses and others, are obviously very fond of him and eager to please. Hopefully, the day he'll be released will come soon, but in the meantime, he's obviously in very good hands.
Knowing that Brooke likes to be read to, I offered to bring Montaigne's Essays, which we used to discuss over lunch prior to going out for a hike. He didn't want to hear Montaigne. Instead he wanted to hear one of my forthcoming fiction pieces, a story narrated by a homeless guy in Santa Barbara. The plight of the homeless and other disadvantaged folk have always concerned him, and he gave me a heartening account of how liberal groups in SLC were gaining in strength and numbers. As everyone knows, Brooke is the most caring of people, and there are so many folks, including me, who have benefited from his caring. Now we all have the opportunity to return a little of that caring, if only in our thoughts and prayers. Having been with him on this visit, I'm convinced that he's going to recover and that we will all have reason to rejoice.

Geoff Aggeler