Day 44 & 45

Spilled a lot of beans last time, so here is a quick one for today. Dick’s physical therapist Sally sat him in an easy chair for the first time. He did well sitting, but when she tried to stand him up he was not having it. As usual, her efforts left him exhausted and he snoozed the rest of the day away.

I get to see him again tomorrow, and many, many members of my family. Looking forward to lots of hugs.

More soon

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Day 43

Rarely a day goes by that I don’t have a conversation with either Mom or my brothers. This was not the case until Dad’s accident. Though I consider my family to be “close,” the fact remains that I have spoken more to my brothers in the past six weeks than I have in the past six years.My brother, Chris, thought I was crazy when I told him I wanted to write about this. I think he feared you would get the wrong idea about our family. In truth, we are indeed very close and loving, but distance and daily routines never allow enough time to talk as much as we should. I’ll bet many of you have a similar situation with your own loved ones.

Now, though, our relationships have blossomed. Our conversations are frequent and go much deeper than a simple “how’s Dad?” I feel closer to my Mom and brothers than any time since I left home for UVA so many years ago.

When I left Danville, I never looked back. Almost never came back. There are many reasons for that: some good, some bad. I reinvented myself, eager for new and different experiences. I left a lot of people behind in the process. Then, after college, I repeated myself. I grabbed a few friends, packed my car, then we all ran off to Ohio to join the circus. I thought I had it all figured out, but over a decade later I found myself slamming the door on friends and career plans yet again and setting out on my own.

I’m a smart guy, and it’s not like I have been kidding myself all these years. Here from the vantage point of The Future, it is easy to see the cycles. I recognize and embrace both the positive and negative results that have come from the choices I made. I have come to terms with all of this long ago. What I never saw coming is the fact that one day, a car crash would smash all the walls I have been building around myself for all these years.

I have spoken before about how grateful I am to hear from so many people over the past few weeks. I say it again today, because it is fact. It is, in fact, THE fact. The most amazing thing to come from this experience is the realization that I am not, nor have I ever been, as alone as I thought. The way I have seen the world is not the way it is, and I have been allowed a second chance at perception.

Out of the woodwork you have come, each of you selflessly offering up warm memories I had forgotten and friendships I left behind. And so, today I ignored Chris Slack and dived right into this most uncomfortable subject.

These updates are more than simply a report on Dad’s condition. I am using them as a vehicle for reporting truth, in hopes that Good can come of our experience in whatever form it chooses to appear. They say it takes a tragedy to point out to you what really matters in life. This is true. The memories we make, the love we share with others – these are the things that make us who we are. These are the ingredients that make a Life.

Take the time today to speak to that person who matters to you. Let them know you value them. Sharing in this way will improve both your life and theirs. I have been doing this for six weeks now, and honestly I feel better about myself and my life than I have in years.

One horrible day, and six weeks of miracles. That’s what I keep saying when people ask me about this experience. Today the miracle I am grateful for is you. All of you, the people who have made me who I am. Even the new folks that I have just met via these updates – you are the bold new spices now simmering in the stone soup of my life.

I am so grateful for each and every one of you. You, my Dad, my brothers… you all make me who I am. Without you, who would I be?

“I am he
as you are he
as you are me
and we are all together.”

Thanks for reading, and for standing strong for my father and my family. Pray on, team, and embrace with me the miracles that make up each day.

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Day 41 & 42

We’re now six weeks into Dick’s recovery as his mind and body continue to heal. As I think on the long weeks left ahead of us, I remind myself to smile and relax, to focus on my own endurance even as he is the one who needs it. Dad is the proverbial tortoise, and we will help him win this race.

We are happy to report that he is now wearing his eyeglasses. His original pair were lost in the crash, so we had a new pair made which suit him perfectly. He’s having a hard enough time focusing as it is, so we hope removing this extra obstacle will help him recover that much faster. Mom reports that Lindsey told him stories about his grandkids for several minutes yesterday. He opened his eyes, focused right on her and listened quietly until she finished. We continue to take small signs like this as proof of his progress.

Please direct your prayers this week towards Dad’s brain as we monitor its slow healing process. We also continue to pray for the rest of his body. Even as he is looking better, we keep in mind that he still suffers from internal complications from the wreck. Not least among them are several broken bones, swelling, risks of infection, etc., which also need more time.

No rush, Dad. Take it as slow as you need. You may not be going anywhere soon, but neither are we.

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Day 40

The newest, most exhausting part of Dad’s daily routine is named Sally. She puts the physical in physical therapy.

Yesterday afternoon, a small, friendly woman walked into his room and introduced herself. I am going to lie to your faces and say that she was half my size. That puts her at a little over 3 feet tall. Makes a much funnier visual image that way, so we’ll go with that.

At 6’4″, my Dad is a tremendous individual. Even I can’t imagine lifting him, and I am a significant chip off a sizable block. Sally, on the other hand, can take him from prone to sitting up bedside in one quick, effortless motion. She’s amazing to watch: a tiny, medical acrobat. She gets her whole body into it. One, two, three – JUDO FLIP!! – and he’s sitting upright.

It gets better. Then she hops up behind him on the bed and slaps this crazy wrestling hold on him. One arm holds his shoulders up and back, the other holds his head upright… and voila! He can see out the window. I watched his eyes dart around, searching. What does he see? Does he understand what’s going on? Who knows, but it was awesome.

Several exhausting minutes later, she has worked all his major muscle groups and he passes out cold for the remainder of the day. Mom told me all about this process, but seeing it live is quite the show. I found myself proud of him, filled with hope. At this point in his recovery, muscle therapy is brain therapy. It felt to me as if I was watching him put the puzzle pieces together right before my very eyes.

So here’s to Sally, my new best buddy. The LTAC is filled with miracle workers like her, and they all seem to really care about his well being. Remember those amazing outcomes we are all praying for? These are the people working hard to make them reality. Seeing them in action helps to lift the fear from my heart.

The least I can do for Dad is to keep my mind clear of doubt, focused on the future with peace and optimism. It makes it so much easier knowing he is there with people like Sally. Even when she isn’t quite as tiny as I pretend.

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Day 39

Spent a very pleasant day with Dad. He is doing great, looking so much stronger than before. That said, I want to get real with everyone for a moment about ‘traumatic brain injury.’

This was once a simple phrase to me, something people said on the news. Blah blah blah traffic accident blah blah I-95 blah blah blah traumatic brain injury.

Now, it is Something Real.

This particular Something Real is much wider, much broader of a Something than I ever realized. It is, in fact, more of a spectrum of conditions than a diagnosis. At one end, you have “unresponsive” and at the other end you have “normal.” There are a million degrees of variance between those two extremes. I encourage you to look up the “Los Ranchos Amigos Scale of Cognitive Functioning” if you are interested in specifics.

I cannot tell you exactly where Dad is on this scale. In the first place, no one has really told us. Even if they had, I’m not sure I would share. There are many reasons – my family’s privacy, my father’s dignity, legal and insurance concerns – but mostly I prefer not to look at things so clinically.

I do understand, however, the need for context for anyone reading these updates. For those of you with questions, the answer is ‘we just don’t know.’ The Los Ranchos Scale is really all we have to go by, so now you have access to it as well. I am in a strange position where too few specifics could mislead, but too many might offend. Instead, I will simply allow you to draw your own conclusions based on my descriptions of Dad’s progress.

This is turning into a bit of a non-update, but I needed this aside in order to prime expectations for what you are likely to hear from me going forward. I will soon talk about some things I have yet to fully explore publicly. Will I tell you everything? No way. But you will get the point. Expect me continue to speak broadly, but I will leave plenty of room for those who wish to match my words against the scale in order to read in between the lines.

Tomorrow I will pick back up with some nice stories for you about Dad’s progress. Today, for instance, I saw him look out a window for what may be the first time in over a month. How far we have come! Thanks as always for your thoughts and prayers, and good night.

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