Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ross (part 2)

"Ross.... do you want to open your eyes? You've got some people here to visit."
They fluttered open for a moment, then closed.
He opened them and looked around the room, scratching his head and yawning.
"Who do you see? Who's here to see you?"
"That weird guy."
Everyone cracked up.
"That's a pretty fair assessment," I laughed.
Ross looked up at me and smiled.

I'd been getting reports from Tanya every day. They were, for the most part, extremely positive. But  there were setbacks. And it's been really hard. Because as rapid as his progress has been... he's still in really bad shape.
When Ross opened his eyes and started talking, everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief, as it seemed to indicate that he was out of the forest. And he was. That step... making it to the edge of the trees... was critical. But then everyone realized that there's alot of country to traverse before he's out of the wilderness, of which the forest was only a part. The relief quickly became alarm as Ross's agitation grew. He would tear at the brace around his neck.... pull at the tubes attached to his body... impulsively try to get out of bed... flail around... yell.
And everyone understood. Understands. Because despite whatever they're giving him, you know he's in so much pain and discomfort.
But it was alarming to see. And it upset Tanya to see her husband like that, and feel helpless to fix it.
More alarming was when Ross started talking. It was a moment everyone had been anxiously waiting for, because until he started communicating, there was no telling how extensive the damage was, or how fast or long his recovery would be. And when the first loop of nonsense came out, there was a collective pause. Maybe it was a fluke. But then the loops kept going. And you couldn't help but feel discouraged.
Right now... when Ross starts talking, it's difficult to get him to stop. And what comes out of his mouth often doesn't make much sense.
And yet.... it does. At first glance, it's just a word salad. Nonsense about being tracked by the FBI, letting balloons go at a parade, tattling on people, jet planes, slumber parties...
Do you talk as you fall asleep? I do. And in that state, that limbo where I'm drifting off, I say some really bizarre things. And I'm aware of them. I hear myself say it, and at the same moment know that it is completely nonsensical and also that, in that proto-sleep state, it made perfect sense.
That's where Ross is right now.  You can see it. You can see him flicker in and out. You can see him become aware, and look at you. His eyes change. They focus. And he's say something very sharp and distinct. Something that speaks to his awareness and catches you off guard in the waves of nonsense. At that moment, Ross is right there. But then you'll see the change in his eyes as something goes out. At those moments, when you see Ross "go out" you know he's retreating back in... that he's lost that control for the moment and is looking inward, trying to put the pieces in place again so he can get that control again.
And you can tell that he's frustrated.... that he knows something isn't right... that what's coming out isn't what he meant to say.
Without grasping at explanations or inventing a scenario for our own benefit, you can honestly tell that he really is in there and that he's looking at his control panel, trying to remember what all of these buttons do and how to make the damn thing work.
It's hard for him. And it's hard for Tanya... having to see her husband like that and being face to face with an abyss of uncertainty that while we all recognize, aren't often forced into a staring contest with.
What if he never changes? What if normalcy never returns? Can she handle that? How? How is their life going to change? Will it change at all? What's going to happen? How will the kids handle it? How are they handling it now? In classic little boy fashion, their son Spencer is rolling with the punches. Upset and confused, but trusting that things will be alright, and distracted enough by all of the things that distract little boys to keep moving forward, 5 year old juggernaut that he is.

Avery, older and more sensitive than Spencer, is having a very hard time. Because seeing her father like this... the father who has always been able to make her feel better... who always has control... who's always right there..... something's not right.  And it's terrifying to her in ways that we can all understand. As much as children love adventure... they crave ritual and safety... and changes like this, as brave a face as they might put on and as resilient as they are, can be traumatic beyond measure.
Right now, Tanya and her family are dealing with all of the visceral grief and loss that would come if Ross had been killed instantly. But they're also having to pick up pieces of a new, uncertain life: Uncertain for Ross.... and uncertain for them.

But it's very early, and while that sort of speculation is inevitable, there is honestly more good news than bad. And Ross's progress is far more drastic than his setbacks. It's nothing short of amazing, honestly. He's already defied odds. And as he heals, the confusion and agitation he's feeling now will subside. And the doctors, without trying to give false hope, are confident that he will be alright. It might take a long time. And things might be different. But he'll be alright.
Ross has some mountain passes to climb before he's out of the wilderness. But he's getting there.

Last night, I asked Ross if I could bring him anything.... if he needed any books or magazines to look at.
"Yes... there is something."
What's that?
I could see him struggle with it in his mind as he tried to say the right thing.
"Road...  Road Racing..... Magazine. It's hard to find. You probably can't." he said as he closed his eyes and drifted off.
He's asking for cycling magazines. I'm going to bring him a bunch. When he looks at them, will he make any connections? Will he remember his accident?
Last night he remembered... if only for a moment....
"What happened, Ross? Why are you here?"
He replied with a long string of nonsense about being here because they were running, and needed to keep on running before they were caught...
"Who's chasing us?"
"THEY are."
"Why?" Tanya asked, playing along. "Did we do something wrong?"
"No... that's just what they do. Chase us."
"That's not why, Ross. Can you remember why you're here?"
"Yes," he answered. "Because I had an accident."
And then you saw his eyes change as he took control.... "No. That's wrong. I didn't have an accident. She hit me. She hit me from behind and I couldn't do anything."
And then he slipped back down, losing his tenuous grip.
"See." Tanya said, smiling.
"He's in there."

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