That phrase, the title up there, has taken on deeper meaning to me. I really DO have to take it one day at a time, celebrate the victories as they happen, and simply let tomorrow sit in the future, rather than making assumptions about it. Losing Himself 3-1/2 years ago taught me to not take tomorrow for granted, and #3’s accident, and the severity of his injuries, are making me realize how important it is to celebrate today, each small improvement, one day at a time.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
One of the things I thought early on, when he first opened his eyes, was how his behaviors and movements were like those of a newborn baby. He could look at you very briefly then his gaze would slide away. His movement lacked purpose. he just…moved. We celebrated that. We didn’t know if he could see or hear, or if his limbs worked. Then he looked at us. First at his Fine Wife…really looked at her. She was the first person whom his gaze stuck to. His eyes followed her around the room. We celebrated that! Who ever thought having a grown man’s eyes follow you around the room would be something as exciting as that?
Then he would grab your hand if you put it in his. Remember the first time your child grabbed your hand and everyone commented on how strong his grip was? It wasn’t a purposeful grab, just a reflexive response to having something put in his hand. but it is there. His grip is stronger on the left side than the right. But then his brain was really banged around in that thick skull of his, so that isn’t surprising. He can move his right leg a little (it’s in a massive boot right now), so we know the right side works. Another reason to celebrate!
I was with him last week. When I first got there, he was starting to make little grunting noises…very small and soft. I wasn’t even sure they weren’t anything more than the way air was going through his throat. He had a tracheotomy so sounds weren’t easy. By the end of the day, they were louder and more deliberate. The next day he was looking directly at me and moving his lips, trying to form words. He would look at me directly when I said his name, and soon was able to look at other things and people if I pointed to them. His gaze had lost it’s random sliding around, and he was watching TV, people, and looking at pictures of his wife and child. When I played music for him, he would close his eyes and relax. Depending on the music, of course. Some of it he’d make a face and turn away.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Lamentations 3:21-25
At point, 2 weeks after his accident and still in ICU, he was watching Vanessa, the nursing assistant who was caring for him. He watched her through the door at the nurse’s station. I told her this and she came in, talking to him. Then she said “#3, you need some coffee.” and came back with a cup of black (I’d told her that was how he drank it) and a small sponge on a stick. She gave him a taste of coffee (his first taste of anything since the accident) and he closed his eyes and sighed, and bit down on the sponge. I told him if he’d let go of it, I would give him a little more, and he opened his mouth. Who would ever think a drop of coffee on a sponge would be a cause for celebration? That he understood what I said, and followed the logic of the request, was huge.
He was being cared for by one of the nurses one morning. They all talk to him constantly when working with him. She asked “Are you feeling ok this morning” (of course, not expecting an answer. ) and he said very clearly, “NO”. Startled, she asked him again and again he answered “NO”. That was all he had to say that day. A couple of days later, I was repositioning him in the bed, and he looked at me, then looked away, and said “Dammit”. I stopped what I was doing, and asked him “Do you want to go home?” and he said “Yeah.” I celebrated. Who’d ever thought I’d celebrate my kid cussing at me, but right now if he let loose like a drunk longshoreman I’d probably shout and do cartwheels down the hallway. He’s not talking regularly. No sentences are forming, but my boy’s in there, and he’s just having trouble making the brain and body talk to each other.
The Fine Wife has been with him throughout, and seen the small improvements. She had to return home for 4 days and I stayed with him. Now she is with him, and able to see a bit more. He is now holding the sponge-on-a-stick and bringing it to his mouth. He tries so hard to grab the stick and take it out of his mouth now. He’s trying even harder to say words, and she’s going to see about finding a speech therapist.
I talked with a friend who’s a developmental psychologist about his progress, and she said his progress follows the development of an infant’s abilities…only much faster. I’d said he was like a newborn baby when he first woke up. I can see what she means. He’s gone from a newborn 10 days ago, to about a 3 month old, only there’s the 26 year old mind still in there. He knows he’s got to work at this, but it’s a LOT of work and the frustration on his face at times is pretty intense. “Oh that’s just reflexive facial expressions” Oh no it’s not. I’m his Mom. I’ve seen that look. That’s when he gets bullheaded and says “You can’t tell me I can’t do that. I’ll prove you wrong just to prove you wrong.” This pigheadedness of his will be what sees him through. It is why he is so good at the things he does…he just doesn’t give up until he’s perfected it.
We were told as soon as he could squeeze the doctor or therapist’s hand on command, twice in a row so they would know it wasn’t random, he would get into physical therapy. The Fine Wife knows how to handle him. She has trained animals most of her life and knows the ways to gently guide them to do what they need to do. I know she will be what #3 needs to get ready for the next step, and get into rehabilitation.
I also know there will be plateaus in his recovery. I know it may even stop at a particular point and go no further. But I also know that today, he is alive, he knows us, and regardless his condition, has something to offer to us and to the world. I am choosing to celebrate that. This young man, the one the doctors said would probably never wake up and “most likely would never regain any function if he did” is a pigheaded, stubborn, “you can’t tell me nothin” miracle. He has regained a level of function that has astonished the people who have been caring for him.
Early on, I asked God what He was teaching me through this. Each one of us in this with him is going to learn something that we need. I need patience, and to quit constantly planning planning planning. I spend so much time looking ahead that I forget to look around at the here and now. I forget to enjoy the momentary blessing that surround us all, because I’m so busy looking at the map. I miss the trees because I’m looking at the forest. So far, God has taught me that no, people do not wake up from head injuries as if nothing had happen. The TV shows lie about that. He has also taught me that it’s important to celebrate the small things that happen today. Look at today’s blessings and be grateful for them. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with planning for the future…but don’t spend so much time doing it that you forget to see what’s here today.
Go hug your kids. Tell your spouse you love him/her. Smell a flower and marvel at it. Instead of getting annoyed at the mess in the floor, rejoice that whoever made it is capable of doing it. We simply don’t know what the future holds for us, and it can change in a split second.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4