Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saturday September 19 - Music

Saturday September 19

As I lay in bed to catch a few extra moments of sleep, Himmy (Chris’ newly tamed and adopted cat) walks over my face and makes himself comfortable and stretches out across the king size bed. For a stray cat – He certainly has learned how to hog the bed. Thanks Chris.

Quinn is the first one up. He is dressed and has his hair brushed in seconds, runs downstairs – right to the piano and practices all 15 pages of his book twice … then again without the music, by memory! He does a little victory dance, rather like an Austin Powers and runs back to the piano to do some more. He sneaks a peak at the next few pages. “They are easy!” He exclaims. He loves discovering his new developing skill.

Tara has been the musical one in the family – I suspect she gets it from Chris. A few years ago, I gave Chris an ipod for a birthday present. He wears it for some of his longer runs. The music playlist, he has is made up, consists of well chosen pieces that are very motivating to him. I can’t remember a tune or carry a tune until it’s drilled into my head repaetedly. Chris has am amazing ability to remember music and I think he feels music emotionally much more then me. Of course, maybe he is just normal and I’m the abnormal musically challenged one.

Tara and, I think, Quinn, have that part of his brain inside them. From an early age I could see that they felt music like Chris. Tara was easy to talk into music lessons. She started with a do-it-your-self book with a built in keyboard. She figured out Happy Birthday in no time and played it for Chris’ Mom when she was 4 years old.

Quinn has been a little shy of stepping into the music world – I think he feels Tara’s shadow. The experiment, this year, to get him interested in music - was – just that …an experiment. If he didn’t want to do any music – we would keep looking for another passion. But now, I don’t think we will need to look further, because he has found a passion – at least for now.

We start out to Halifax to see you. Tara spots Erin and her mother driving by as we drove through town. I note “Wow, You have a good eye – spotting them like that.” Her response is “Well, I am a Cashen! Mother!” Mmmm. Another driving dig at my expense. She probably picked it up from your observation of my ‘Mr.Magoo’ driving style. Tara and Quinn have come to assume that their superior ability of spotting the little details along the road is due to your genealogy – not mine.

At times, I wonder - What DNA did I ever pass on to them? – They are certainly your children. They have your appreciation of music, sharp eyesight and increasingly sharp wit. It’s a good thing I remember giving birth – or else, I would wonder.

Oh well, I embrace the difference and as we drive to Halifax, We break into song:
“Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver the other gold.” The three of us in-a-round. They don’t seem to mind that I mess up the words and lose the tune consistently – actually – Tara seems to mind it a lot, but Quinn is nice about it.

One day, a few months ago, I was walking Annie, and suddenly, without any effort from me, my thoughts became crystal clear – like I was looking at our life together at this time for the first time from the outside. I thought, Gosh, look how lucky we really are, we’ve got a great family, our health, our priorities in the right order for this stage in our lives. Life is good – I wonder what new challenges can we take on.

I thought about the empty-nest stage and how that will be an adjustment for us. I thought about retirement and the opportunities it offered for big projects like travel and building our own house that is off the grid or at least as energy neutral as possible.
What would be the next challenge – I wondered, thinking it would be one of our choosing… I didn’t expect a challenge so soon.

We get here – you wave Hi to Tara and Quinn and say their names very clearly. They are very happy about that. Debbie, the day nurse, gets you up into a chair with a hoist. Quinn tells you all about his music lesson.

You tire quickly. Getting into the chair is wearing. Tara and Quinn leave to go see a movie with friends, Madeline and Bella. You sleep some more. I think about when we would tell the children that they need to sleep if they expected to grow. I’ll bet your healing happens more in your sleep then in your waking hours … At least I hope it does.

Jody, a fellow runner who went to Boston this year too, comes to visit you and we quietly talk ago the psyche of the marathon runner and decide that the marathon runner thinks differently from other ‘normal ‘people.

You awake to greet Jody. You energetically put out your hand to shake Jody’s hand. Jody teases you that he will nag you to get running again – maybe it’s not a tease – maybe that is what will happen! It seems weird to say this but you are in a great position to over come your disabilities at this stage of your life now.

As Jody leaves, Janice, Erica and Jessie (from PEI) come to see you. They bring you a few presents – a sun catcher and a Canada Games shirt. You reach out to hold their hands. Janice can’t (won’t) … She thinks she is starting a cold “I think I’m being more paranoid then you’d be … if that’s possible” She says. The nurse breaks up the party and says it’s time to get you back in bed. Once your head hits the pillow you are asleep.

Tara and Quinn return. They had fun at the movie –“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”. I remember reading the book to the children one-day at the church – it has a cute-crazy theme. Tara and Quinn said the movie was good.

Suddenly, you are wide-awake again! We hold hands and talk – you try to talk but your new voice is very hard to understand. You gesture to your chain around my neck. I take it off and you hold it. I suggest that you might like your chain and rings back on. I ask the nurse if this is wise – She says the rings can go on but not the chain yet. You can have your chain back when the tracheotomy tube comes out.

Great! – When the tracheotomy tube comes out you not only get your voice back but you get your chain back too! That sounds like good motivation to continue to improve.

Just before we leave, Tara spots your foot moving. “I think Daddy wants some music. We should get his ipod out and let Daddy listen to some tunes!” I put your ipod on your ears. Jackson Browne’s ‘Running on Empty’ leaks from the ear-piece as we kiss you good bye. I hope it calms your worries and heals helps heal your brain while you sleep.

As we sit down to dinner, Tara and Quinn excitedly tell of you saying their names loud and clear today. Juanita teasingly said, “That’s great, but he said Farley’s name three times yesterday!” “Oh He was just teasing him” said Tara grinning.

They had a good visit with you – they felt your presence today – They know that you are inside! Thank You


  1. Fabulous news that Chris is becoming more and more alert as the days pass. A true inspiration for a 'wannabe' runner...he certainly helped me get through my 10kms today! And all from a hospital bed. Prayers and thoughts from Melbourne...keep up the writing, it's a great way to read about Chris' journey to recovery.
    Suzanne Acteson (Huntjens)

  2. Gwen, ths is the first time I've come to the blog. It is inspirational. I'm sure it's therapy for you, but it's also therapy for your community of friends. You are all in our thoughts during this marathon of recovery. Jean and Neil and Twiggy

  3. Such a positive and sweet post! Looking forward to more good news! Doing my runs with Chris in mind and the rest of you too! I hope the good days are keeping you strong!

  4. Dear Gwen -

    I am reading your blog for the first time tonight. I have to say that I am somewhat ashamed that I had no idea what had happened with Chris until my visit to your clinic late last week. A combination of my travel for work (I was in TO for a week starting Aug 30th) and simply keeping quietly to myself when I am home. I had seen on your clinic sign about a Marathon of Hope for Chris the night I returned from work – but had not connected the dots…

    I am moved beyond words at your strength and faith to share all of this; for us to share this marathon of hope with your family. In the face of such a trial, your blog has undoubtedly touched the hearts of so very many. The positive energy and prayers and well wishing from so many cannot be understated, and I am sure that it is a healing force behind Chris, along with your and your children’s love, and the work of talented doctors and nurses.

    My thoughts are with you and Chris and your family

    Alexis Whiting