Sunday, September 13, 2009

September 12 - The first trip-up on the Marathon

Saturday September 12

I got up early today, and felt rested. I took Annie out for a walk in the woods behind our house. Annie had fun smelling the many wild flowers. I realize that this the first – real walk (Poop walks don’t count) Annie and I have done since the afternoon you were found on the bathroom floor… 13 days ago. So many emotions have invaded my thoughts since than, it seems like it was a year ago.

There is quite a network of trails that Annie and I found last fall. Good trails for walking and mountain biking. On most official trails that I walk, I always find garbage (my pet peeve), however on this ‘secret’ trail, I have not found any refuse and the trails are well maintained. There are some new wooden bridges and some old ones that were obviously made a few years ago (probably after hurricane Juan). The workmanship looks like it’s all been done by hand – no power tools - just shovels, rakes, hammers and saws, and has improved over the years. I think there are some very dedicated young people who have taken up the guardianship of these trails, living in Truro.

Annie and I love walking these trails. I had shown you and the children – you all thought the ‘secret trails’ were great. The paths weave through the woods and follow a stream. As you follow the stream path it peters out and is replaced by deer trails. It’s a little rougher trail at this point but deer have a different idea about how a trail should look. Part way down there is a spot you can cross where trees have fallen and the flowing water has piled up branches into a temporary dam. If you follow the deer path back along the stream and cut to the right – you come up on a road that is under construction.

Even though I usually walk to work with Annie each day, the trail walks have given us both much more rewarding exercise and it settles my soul to be in the woods.

As I walked with Annie, I thought about how the network of trails has supported my soul in the past and how new amazing networks of people have replaced it now. I guess that’s benefit of living in a small town – people care about people. It may not be obvious every day – but when a crisis happens – they are there for you. Being a fairly independent person, this is an epiphany for me.

I let Annie off leash as we get in the middle of the wooded area. She leads the way, following her nose through all the wonderful smells. I follow … I find the third feather! – Well, today is the day – we will make the dream catcher.

Tara and Quinn discuss the purpose of the dream catcher. “It’s to help get rid of any bad thoughts that try to get into Daddy’s head” says Tara. “Yah” says Quinn “And the bead is the spider who watches over Daddy”. He pauses then says “What if we have a bead for everyone who loves him in the web?” I picture a dream catcher that is more beads then web. I smile – this is their medicine for you. It will be magical just like the magic blanket and channel 29. They pick out all sorts of little beads for family members and one large bead with a star on it to represent everyone else.

We pack up the dream catcher making things and head to the hospital. Along the way I forgot the emergency brake and grind the gears once. Tara and Quinn give me some ‘back seat’ driving advice about how to handle the car… just like you would. Oddly,it feels comforting.

You look tired and feel hot. A fever again the nurse says. I gently try to rouse you but you are asleep. We go into the patient sitting area and have lunch. After lunch, you are still very tired and not responsive. We go back to the sitting area and start to make the dream catchers.

We attract interest from some of the other people in the room. I tell them what we are doing and one gentleman in particular is quite moved. It turns out he is an outreach worker, of sorts, for people on the street and had recently suffered the ultimate loss. He, and his wife, lost their daughter and their grandchild a few months previously. I can’t imagine their pain.

Terry and Chris G. arrive. I take then into see Chris. There is no change. Chris G remembers being in the same room a little over 4 years ago with a vascular brain injury. It resulted in a hole in his brain – but Terry and Chris agree nothing seems lost from his ‘hard drive’. The brain is a mystery and full of surprises.

We decide that a little diversion would be good for moral. So we walk across the street to the museum. The children discover all sorts of treasures there: a butterfly garden, trilobite’s fossils and whalebones.

Chris G had discovered a whale skeleton washed up on a beach near his cottage this summer – he has been bringing home pieces in his kayak so he can reassemble it. He believes it is a small right whale. Chris G’s enthusiasm is contagious … he is good at making enthusiasm contagious – he is a teacher – I’ll bet he is a really good teacher.

Terry finds a small hummingbird egg that is the size of a Tic Tac. In the display, the eggs are numbered from largest to smallest with the hummingbird egg being the smallest … It’s number 29! Your favorite number for one of your favorite birds.

Chris has always loved feeding the hummingbirds, He would put out the feeders in May and mark on the calendar the first hummingbird sighting of the year. He would carefully make up a sugar solution and keep the feeders well stocked. Hummingbirds are migratory. I think he loves hummingbirds because they are capable of so much … for a such little bird … another underdog story.

We went to a coffee shop after and Terry reveals that she bought a pocket full of beautiful polished rocks. All different colors; green, purple, golden brown and turquoise. She said “Each of you pick a rock and put it in your pocket. Throughout the day, when you put hand in your pocket, remember to be thankful for something.” What a brilliant idea, it was good for the children hear but it also made an impression on me too.

We visited with you a little more, you did open your eyes briefly and held Tara’s hand. You pulled her hand to your mouth to kiss. It was a weak gesture but Tara recalled it later on the drive home, “I got the first kiss from Daddy”.

I feel down. Today is the first day, since the drain was put in, that I have seen a decline. The children pick up on my concern. Quinn didn’t want to get to close. He watched from the foot of the bed then came to me, sat on my lap, reached up and jingled your chain. We hugged and I whispered “This is a hard day for Daddy”. I tell him “There will be ups and downs … just like in a real marathon – some parts are going to be harder then others. This is a hard part.” I wanted to believe this myself.

Most runners don’t appreciate hills. Chris does, he likes to train on hills. On a Sunday afternoon, he would run up and down Wood Street hill several times. He liked the ups the best. The downs are hard on the joints but the ups really worked his legs – it made him feel good.

If this new chapter in Chris’ life is going to be about survival and running the marathon of his life, then, we must prepare for it. The start, the ups and the downs, the stumbles and trips ups, the water stops, the cheering and the finish. All these parts of the race have their good parts and bad. We must prepare for the hills and all the rest of the race.
When I think about the challenges we have ahead – I get a little overwhelmed – then I put my hand in my pocket and finger the purple polished rock … Now I’m thankful for the challenges we have overcome. Thanks Terry.


  1. Gwenn, I follow your blog every day even though I am presently in Ontario visiting family. At the time of Ted's illness I repeated the Serenity Prayer many many times a day like a mantra. I found great courage and peace in doing so. You and the family are amazing. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Love, Anita Rushton

  2. :( just a hill! To be gotten over. :(
    Thinking of you all :( Ran extra bit today up a hill because Chris would have challenged me to. I hope you guys enjoyed the dreamcatcher craft!

  3. Greetings on late Sunday. I met you Gwen on the Friday night walk/run. I am just getting to your blog and was surprised to read that Chris likes the hills and indeed uses Wood St. Such a coincidence since I had to recently go looking for a hill as part of my own marathon training program and discovered Wood St. It is great and I do enjoy the uphill stretch. Last time I did 10 times. Now I will think of CHris as I do them running alongside him in spirit. I did the Terry Fox today and ran with Marianne, your friend whom I know as well. SHe and her friends have invited me to run the Rum RUnners Run with them this year for the first time. I am excited especially when I know this is Chris' run too. I did the CB Relay a year ago.
    Hope you and the children are doing well and when I am in Halifax I would be pleased to visit Chris in the hospital if that is OK with you. Visiting is my speciality as I do it every week with my parishoners. SO take care all and keep well.
    Gerry from Onslow
    My marathon run is in Toronto, October 18.

  4. Yes, a bump... but what strikes me, Gwen, is that Chris recognizes his family! That's HUGE. Remember a week ago, when you weren't sure whether his memory would be affected? And now he's kissing his beautiful daughter? That's what I'm going to focus on today, when I think of Chris - his love for his babies and his wife. Man, if he can do Wood Street (!) with no more motivation than wanting to get to the top, he can handle a lot of "marathon speed bumps" with his family as motivation.

    Go Chris! Go team! We love you!


  5. I love this blog. I look forward to it everyday. Gwen, you have a gift for prose that I find inspiring. A wonderful model for Tara and Quinn. Chris can and will be so proud of you.
    John K

  6. Hi Gwen, I haven't checked in for a few days, and am SO pleased to hear that Chris is now responding to you and the children - and yes, I agree, he is bound to have energetic and not-so-energetic days. Also amazing to hear that your Chris is in the same hospital room in which my brother, Chris Giles spent some time 4 years ago! Chris G. fully recovered - so, I am certain that there are some good spirits in that space! Love to all of you, Wenona

  7. The bumps are the things that make us better in the end. Chris we are rooting for you.