Rainy Day

Zipping across Lake Down

Zipping across Lake Down

There’s an old Taoist tale about a farmer talking to his friend about how he got a new horse, to which the friend said, that’s good, to which the farmer said, it kicked my son in the leg, to which the friend said, that’s bad, to which the farmer said, then the army came conscripting boys but they wouldn’t take my son off to war because of his broken leg, to which the friend said, that’s good, and so on, ad infinitum. The basic idea is everything just happens. It’s a great philosophy for taking the power out of bad news and making everything all right.
Shade, Mayan and I were invited out on a boat with friend Todd Howell and his son Braden. To IMG_8239prep, I showed the boys “I’m on a Boat” by Lonely Island. Definitely not appropriate for children. The boat was a family heirloom. Had some years on it, but was well maintained. We headed to Todd’s at 10 a.m. and the rain had already started. We hung out for an hour and it poured harder. We hopped in the van and headed out around 11 a.m.

By the time we pulled up to the boat ramp on Conroy-Windermere IMG_8183Road, the rain was in auto-pour mode. By the emptiness of the parking area, it was apparent many boaters had given up. We checked the sky and there were some questions of whether we should go out. But we said, “Shoot, we’re already here. What’s a little rain? Let’s do it.”

Todd gunned it and we were whipping across the water, needles of
rain piercing our clothes. Shade took off his shirt to let the drops IMG_8224sting him. I gave him glasses to keep it out of his eyes. We had the lake practically to ourselves. At one point, in the middle of Lake Down, Todd stopped the boat and the boys jumped into the water with life jackets on. I think the distance from shore made them nervous because they swim great without them. It was still drizzling, but the air was warm and the lake was like bath water.

We got the boys back in. The rain let up. We headed down the canal that connects Lake Down to IMG_8233Wauseon Bay. It felt a bit like a scene from Apocalypse Now as we puttered under the canopy of cypress, the boys standing on the bow, checking out the weeds flowing underneath. Halfway down on the left was a side canal. Todd steered down here. Back in sixth grade I used to live on this canal. We pulled up to the back of my old house. I showed my boys where I fished for brim. A gar stole my rod off that bank once. Shade and Mayan got to connect a little with my history, just like I did back in England earlier this year with my dad and brother.

IMG_8248Eventually we got out to Lake Butler and pulled up to Bird Island, a bird sanctuary out in the middle. Boaters anchored in the shallows of this cypress stand to chill or barbecue or jam out to Led Zeppelin. We anchored and jumped in. I gave the boys goggles and they swam after bass back and forth under the boat. Shade was in his element. He can hold his breath twice as long as me. The water got smooth. No wind, no wakes. A boat pulled out from between the half submerged trees, towing two lumberjack-looking dudes. They went zipping back and forth across the lake.

By this time, the sun was pushing some light through the gray clouds, just enough to warm the air and cast a glow over the forest. I got a picture with my boys. I’m lucky to have them and I told them so.

IMG_8253That was a perfect day. And it wouldn’t have been if we hadn’t just gone with it. The rain isn’t good or bad. The rain just is. I’m trying to live by this philosophy though I fall short a lot of times. Impatience is my biggest hurdle. But hey, it’s the journey not the destination, right? I think that since Shade’s stroke, our journey has been more adventurous. We’ve had a fantastic journey so far. And as long as I can collect some great times like this along the way, the rain is all right with me.

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Plastic brain

I didn’t mention that yesterday was the five-month anniversary of Shade’s traumatic brain injury. Wow! Time moves so quickly. Time moves so slowly. Everyday, Shade sees improvements. More new memories are sticking. His balance is getting a bit better. It’s not fast enough for me, but I’ve always had an impatient streak. I think microwaves cook too slowly.

What’s remarkable is the plasticity of the brain. Neural paths that are damaged do not regrow, but the brain has the ability to reroute the paths. It’s similar to taking an alternate route to work when the highway is closed down. It may require some extra time and they might lead to some dead ends, but eventually the brain can find a new path to its goal. It seems the rerouting is more efficient and effective when there is a true need, desire or impression. That’s why Shade can remember things about his cat or a toy he wants for Christmas or the reason behind the painful cuts in his head (Gamma Knife Halo) but he can’t recall what day it is. Info about the day has no real relevance in his life. It’s extraneous information. But pain, love and Christmas longing forge their way into the memory.

Talking about the ability of the brain, I don’t know if your remember back when Shade was first in the hospital and there was a young girl, Maggie, who was in a car accident and had severe head trauma. She was in a much worse state than Shade, and her mom, Angie, was told that Maggie had no brain activity and would probably never wake up, that she would be a vegetable for life. Well, she’s now talking. It’s only about 10 words, but she’s awake and aware. Maggie has a huge journey ahead of her, but she’s taken a few steps in the right direction. When we were in the hospital and Angie was relaying the desperate and tragic details of her daughter, Aitza kept repeating the same thing to her. “Never give up.” And Angie kept the faith and now her daughter is coming back to her.

We keep the faith that Shade will fully recover. He’s built up some great momentum. I’m excited for the day when he can take his first steps alone, or run again, or hop on a bike. It’s like being a new dad. I know it’s coming soon. Just not soon enough.