The weather has been strange here lately. We are a week away from Memorial Day, and on average are just barely breaking a high of 58 degrees. People are still in closed-toe shoes and sweaters. For weeks now, it’s been raining all the time, with only moments of the sun peeking through, before the clouds have moved in again. In fact, it’s been the longest stretch of grey that most of us in South Jersey can remember; so much that even home-made memes are popping up on Facebook to mock it.
The question begs to be asked: Where is Spring?
I’ve been hearing people joke, that we’ll likely skip over Spring completely, jumping from a pro-longed winter, right into summer. “We’ll just wake up one day,” a woman next to me at CVS said to her husband, “and it will be beach weather. You’ll see.”
Maybe she’s right.
I’ve been thinking today about seasons. And transitions. This morning, I drove Patrick to physical therapy, like I have a thousand times before. As I drove, my mind was splintered into too many directions to mention, which kept me completely distracted from the present moment, as I likely have been a thousand times before. I watched Patrick work in PT, with the same enthusiasm and determination that he’s brought to the table a thousand times before. I cheered him on, took notes and videos for our home program, and studied what the PT had to teach him, just as I have a thousand times or more.
Then soon enough, it was 2:00 p.m, and time for us to leave. As we walked through the double, automatic sliding-doors onto the covered pavilion, I guarded his steps, walking at his side with my arms lifted to the front and back of him, (as if around an invisible barrel) in case he fell. Then I asked him, ( just as I have a thousand times before), if he wanted to wait as I grabbed the car.
“Nah, it’s right there,” he said. “Let’s just walk together.”
And just like that, we began to walk. But instead of guarding him, for whatever reason, I placed my left hand into his right hand. We began to walk, side-by-side. I was no longer looking at him, studying him, watching, or guarding him: I was just walking with him. For whatever reason, I suddenly felt my awareness sharpen as I was brought into the present moment. I thought of all the times I had dreamt of a moment like this one; how many tears I had shed, worries that had plagued my heart, and prayers I had lifted to heaven, asking God to please let my boyfriend walk again.
And there he was, as if all at once, walking.
Like a slideshow sped up to almost a blur, a million pictures came into my mind in succession; images of me lifting that damn wheelchair in and out of the car. Images of Patrick with his helmet and no skull. Images of him trying to learn to get out of the chair on his own. Images of me transferring him with a gait belt into the shower. The walker. The cane. Falls. Surgeries. Fights. Tears. We had scraped and clawed for every single inch of recovery that had been gained. We’ve been like soldiers on our bellies in pelting rain, crawling through the thickest mud and stone that we’ve ever known.
How had I gotten so lost in our day-to-day hustle, that I had stopped seeing what was right in front of me? Had we ever walked hand in hand before? I couldn’t remember it ever occurring. All I knew was, that as a caregiver, who had spent 2 1/2 years focused always on the next mountain to climb or obstacle to overcome, I had somehow forgotten how to see.
And just like that, this was no longer just another trip to PT, to be followed by the next appointment, errand, or series of exercises, which seem to exist in a never-ending series of days, which have stretched out for years like a hot blade in a dry desert. This was one of the moments that I had always dreamed, prayed, worked and pined for since the first time Patrick squeezed my hand in the hospital. It was here. And as that truth fell down around me, I saw that while I had been stuck in anger and frustration with what was yet to be, a prayer had been answered, a goal achieved, and a battle conquered without me even seeing it. And by that I mean really seeing it with your whole person; mind body and soul.
Every step we took to the car felt like a prayer of gratitude. And if every moment prior, for who knows how long, I had been living in regretful past or worried future, this moment was happening in slow-motion, like the video you watch at the end of your life, as you take your last breath. Then, I looked up and realized something else: the May sky was a cloudless blue. The air was still chilly, but the sun was so warm. I could feel summer close to us again. It was coming.
Which got me to thinking about the spiritual purpose of seasons. Perhaps they are there to keep us from drowning in our habits of living beyond the “now.” Because in the seasons of recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury, the winter can feel as if it lasts forever. And when you work hard, I mean, really work your hind-quarters off, it can difficult to notice all the little changes which exist to alert you that Spring is taking place. My boyfriend going to Brucker, was like first buds on the leaves of naked trees. His ditching his walker, was like that lone scarlette robin, that you awake one morning to find on your windowsill. And the day he practiced marching with me, and could for a half-second put all his weight on his left leg while raising his right leg in front of him? Well, it perfumed the air like the smell of flowers in bloom. But I hadn’t seen it. I’d missed all of it.
I’d been too worried about our next goal, (normalizing his gait and retraining him not to hip-hike), to see the massiveness of the goal we had just achieved. After two and a half years of work, Patrick Sheeran can now walk unassisted.
Is it a perfect walk? Maybe not, no. Is it exactly the way he walked before his accident? No, not quite. Are we done pushing, working, sweating and training? Certainly not. But his walk is a beautiful one. It’s a walk of freedom. And his confidence shows, whenever he returns from going somewhere on his own: he smiles with his whole body. He remembers, better than I do, how it was a bleak and bitter winter not too long ago for both of us. His TBI has given him the gift of seeing.
I now know that summer is close. I can feel it. We’ll get there and one day, my baby will run. And I’ll stand on the sidelines as he crosses the finish line, screaming my head off with pride. The air might still be cold here, but the sun is shining. The world is turning. We are in transition. And signs of Spring are all around us, if we just have the eyes to see them.
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