Christmas Miracle

Days went by at a slow pace…I had four or five with the dogs, two or three up in PA with Fred.  I was happy to see that my mini-absences seemed to have no ill-effects on my pups but I still felt sorry having to leave them.  Life had changed for them, too and, unlike myself, they had no idea why.  Fred was stable…nothing more had happened to get too excited about.  He was maintaining.  His company lawyer was finally getting somewhere with the insurance company and had convinced them to agree to making the one-time payment up through November.  I couldn’t begin to tell you the relief that was but I did have to arrange for guardianship.  Fine…I would do that come January.  Meanwhile, I was of course keeping Blanche up to speed on Fred.  When she left in October she had said she would return as soon as she could.  One day, soon after Thanksgiving, she called to say she would come from Christmas and I was happy to hear that.  I didn’t think we would go up to PA Christmas Day, however.  Interstate traffic, I knew she wouldn’t want to drive in an unfamiliar area and perhaps not that particular day with me driving.  Friends of ours had asked if they might visit Fred the day after and even had suggested we all ride up together.  Blanche was agreeable to this…I, somewhat.  She flew in two days before Christmas, we did some shopping for Fred…more sweats, another pair of boots and I bought him a large, stuffed gorilla for his bedside plus put a family photo collage together for his wall.  But the night before Christmas Eve, Blanche I sat around talking and, having had time to think after she had told she would be coming East, I hesitantly told her I’d had a change of heart.  I wanted to go up to PA Christmas morning.  In fact, “I can’t NOT go…it’s Christmas.  I can’t stand to think of him with no visitors on Christmas whether or not he is even aware of it.  I am…and that’s enough for me..”  We had been very lucky, our twenty-five years as a military family…one one Christmas had we been seperated and that was when he was serving aboard ship…our daughter’s first Christmas.  He was somewhere off the coast of Africa, she and I were still in Scotland but preparing to come to the U.S. in two months.  There was one other that I was away from Fred and I our daughter, my first one in the US.  I was in hospital over Christmas, having given birth to our second child who was stillborn.  But Fred did spend most of that day with me.  Blanche grinned and said she just knew we would be going up there, even when I’d said we’d wait until the day after…and she was ready to go!  She even said she had every confidence in me…sounded to me that she had more in me than I had!

Christmas morning we loaded the car and were off by 5am.  Wasn’t sure if my little eatery was open so we prepared muffins, cheese and a thermos of coffee to take with us.  We’d had some rain and ice storms a few days before and when we got to Sidling Hill it was magnificent.  The rock faces were sheer ice, beautful icicle formations shimmering in the sun.  Perfect place to pull over for our breakfast picnic.  We arrived at our destination around eleven that morning.  The centre was so festive!  Christmas trees and lights everywhere, the residents dining room sparkling as a ballroom, tables beautifully set with seasonal decorations.  Each of the rooms, such as Fred’s were also decorated…lights, tiny trees, Santas on the bedside tables.  Fred was in his wheelchair as before and wearing a huge button on his sweatshirt…a photograph of him and a “visiting Santa”.  His Mom seemed just a little disappointed…she could see no change, nothing different, but that wasn’t quite so.

For the most part, he still looked as he had done a few weeks ago but, to me…something different about his eyes.  Not quite so much a blank stare…there was ‘something’ there but I couldn’t quite say what.  And of course his curly hair had begun to grow back.  Blanche and I laughed about that for she hadn’t noticed.  I guess because in some small way she was seeing the son she knew.  The surgical scar had healed, leaving an Interesting groove from one ear, up and over to the other but since this was his hairline it wasn’t so noticeable now.  He had no therapy that day, being a holiday so we spent a little time with him before they came to get him back to bed for his rest period.  When he fell asleep, off we went to the lunch room.  By the time we headed back to Fred’s room, I had decided to stop at the nurse’s desk to ask if we might walk him around, take him out of his room for a bit.  I’d never done so though I saw others walk their family member around.  They told me I was more than welcome to do this at any time and asked if I could manage both his chair and the stand on which they hung his feeding tubes, bag and pump.  Oh sure!  Ahem!  One little detail I forgot…Fred sat up high in his wheelchair plus he continued to have the framework and headrest behind him.  I couldn’t see over it at all!  No matter…I’d manage.  Blanche took the feeding stand, I had the wheelchair and off we went with her as my guide.  Down one hallway, across another…in to see George, up to see David and Carol, cut through the dining room.

Now, in the dining room there was a wall of floor to ceiling windows looking out on a quadrangle.  By those windows were comfy chairs, couch, coffee tables.  I thought it would be a nice place to sit and look out on the little fir trees in the quad.  The staff had decorated each of them with edible goodies for the birds who happened to have chosen that hour to enjoy their holiday meal.  All the while I was talking to Fred as usual, asking him if he’d like to sit here a while, was this okay…was he…and, of course, no response, no reaction.  I positioned his wheelchair in between his Mom and myself so we could both see him, talk to him and…if he was seeing, he could see not only  us but straight ahead out the large windows.  I had been watching a couple of birds hopping, cavorting around a seed bell, fussing with each other when I realised this was the first time Fred had been anywhere to look out, see the sky, the outdoors, birds, trees, in a very long time so, conversationally, I turned and said so to him…”…and it’s been a long while since you saw outdoors, hasn’t it?”  Blanche was sitting across from me, smiling and as I looked at my husband I saw him nod his head, ever so slightly…so slightly and fleeting, I thought I was surely the only one to have seen it (if I, indeed, had) but I heard Blanche gasp “Honey….!  Did….”  I looked at her nodding and asked if she saw ‘it’.  Asked her to describe what she saw and it was exactly as I had.  We both looked at Fred…face still expressionless…and I asked him if he nodded.  He slid his eyes toward me and nodded again….!!

“Stay with him, Mom…” I said…”I have to go get somebody, anybody!”  Found a nurse who paged one of
Fred’s team.  She came running and when I told her what we had seen she said she was going to make a couple of calls and would meet us back in the dining room.  A few minutes later here she came along with our social worker/counsellor.  These good people let me babble for a few minutes then I asked Fred a question similar to what I had earlier.  The briefest of nods was his response.  It wasn’t reflexive, it wasn’t spontaneous, it was a question asked and answered.  After a little over three months, a breakthrough!  And let me tell you that from seeing someone as still and pretty much lifeless as…dare I say it…a corpse then to see a finger twitch, head nod (and it was basically one of those nods we’ve all seen as someone is dropping off to sleep…just the head tip forward a tiny bit)…it is an awesome sight and feeling.

On our way up to the centre that morning Blanche and I had been talking about Fred, of course…and if he would ever come out of this state of nothingness.  If so, when…and how long, now, were they going to allow him to stay and be treated at the centre.  At one point I had said to her “Mom…it’s Christmas.  Maybe we will get a miracle…”.  And we just did.

Published in:body-mind-spirit, inspiration, life, society, Uncategorized |on January 4th, 2009 |2 Comments »

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