Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday September 20 - Sportsmanship

Today was the day Chris had been looking forward to. The Fiddler Run in Sydney, Cape Breton. It is a marathon that he hadn’t done before. He loves running in the Cabot Trail but hadn’t run in Sydney yet. This was to be a training marathon so he could qualify again for Boston in 2010.

Chris turned 45 this year. The age 45 years put Chris into a new age bracket and the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) allow you 10 more minutes to qualify. Last year he had to run a marathon distance in less then 3 hr 20 min. As a 45 year old he gets 3 hrs 30 minutes.

In April 2009 his time at boston was was 3:22:45. Just missed the time to qualify as a 44 year old, which was what he was. But the BAA has a little loop-hole. If your birthday in the year that you ran – takes you up to another age bracket, then you get the extra time to qualify that the new age bracket allows. So, even thought he was 44 when he ran in Boston this year, and in theory needed a time better then 3:20, he is allowed to qualify in 3:30 instead.

Although he appreciated the loop-hole – he didn’t want to use it – he wanted to get to Boston again as a official 44 year old. (ie run a qualifying time under 3:20 not 3:30.).

A few years ago, when he first started doing a lot training to qualify, he knew that this was a lifetime dream and felt that he HAD to run in the 2009 Boston Marathon … Why? – Well - For no other reason then the year 2009 has a ‘2’ and a ‘9’ in it … or a ‘29’. When I suggested, naively, that he wait until he turns 45 so he could get and extra 10 minutes, he said “I might as well not even go in if I can’t get in the 2009 Boston Marathon.”

It was 2009 or bust as far as he was concerned.

The day he qualified for Boston in the June 2008 at the Johnny Miles race (with a time of 3:16:41)– was probably the third or fourth best day of his life. Tara and Quinn’s birthdays are probably tied for first, the Angels winning the World Series in 2002 would be the second. After that, I’m not sure but I would say that the qualifying marathon time probably beats our wedding day. I don’t know – I’ll have to ask him when he is able to talk again.

You have always had a strong sense of fair play, even when the events went against you or your team, if the other team or person played better, you appreciated their efforts and felt they deserved it. You apply these values to all aspects of your life – sports, parenting, and even socially when you were a jury member this past summer. Fair Play is your motto.

You have been trying to teach Tara and Quinn that same standard you hold for your self. Recently when you taught them to play checkers and crokinole, you would not make their game easy – sometimes they win, sometimes they lost. I love the way you teach them to love ‘the game’ – and not love ‘a good outcome’. I believe that is awesome parenting.

Tara and Quinn are feeding your fish most days. The days that they forget, I remember – so far they all are alive. Today, Tara said “It’s a little scary in Daddy’s room without Daddy there”. I agree your man cave – seems lonely and empty without you there. It’s eerily quiet, with no music or tv sounds, just the hum of the fish tanks. We are feeding them and I’m going to have to get fish food again soon.

When we get to the hospital, Debbie, the nurse, says you have been up for about an hour. That’s a long time, given the recent events. Tara and I do your left-hand exercises – extend and flex each finger. Tara likes to help. She is a ‘doer’ like me.

Debbie gets you up into a chair and you visit with us. Janice and Erica and Jessie are here too. We go to the sitting room to visit. We talk – you listen … I think. I take a picture of all of you together – at first a regular smiling picture (you are not smiling) and then a pointing picture. Quinn gets really excited about doing a Daddy pointing picture.

I am the family photographer. We have very few pictures of me. Most of our pictures are of children and animals. Occasionally, I can get a spontaneous picture of Chris – but generally – he knows that I’m in photography mode and will pose for the picture – his one and only pose is of him looking to the side and pointing … at nothing in particular – just pointing. The children have picked up this behaviour from him and now they do the same. The result is – We have lots of pictures with the three of them all pointing at something … but in different directions.

I think you will appreciate the picture I took. I can’t wait until you see it and respond to it.

I have been worried about your vision. A few days ago, when I told about the Angels record. I tried to show you an article in the newspaper, you reached of the paper, but put it down. Can you see? Or is it just too difficult to read right now. I thought that if you can write, then you can read – but maybe that depends on the level of awareness you have at the moment. You haven’t written anything since Sept 17th

On the way here today, the children spot 2 eagle nests near the spot we have dubbed the ‘Red Lake’. A spot, at the 52 km marker between Truro and Halifax, where the fall temperatures have turned some maple trees, by a small pool of water, a beautiful colour.

Tara and Quinn have definitely learned the ‘spotting skill’ from you. You have such sharp eyes – Always spying interesting things in nature – a skill I think you learned from your parents. You would get frustrated with me – for not seeing what you are trying to point out. It seems so obvious to you but I appear blind to it. You would have been a good provider back in the hunt-for-food days – Although you would never hunt now – You believe the only way hunting is a fair sport is if “the deer had guns too.” (It goes against your sense of fair play). I’m glad Tara and Quinn have your sharp eyes.

After seeing the red lake and eagle nests – Tara is working on a word search book, when she notices on the back cover and advertisement for name poetry. An example was given and it happened to be for ‘Christopher’! She reads it aloud:

C is for character, integrity so true.
H is for helpful, so caring too.
R is for rollick, laughter and fun.
I is for intelligence, you out shine the sun.
S is for sharp, a brilliant mind.
T is for thoughtful, always kind.
O is for obliging, showing you care.
P is for perfect, happiness you share.
H is for honour, a devoted li’l man
E is for excelling, talented and grand.
R is for radiant, a princely boy.
Christopher, pure pride and joy.

Tara summarizes “That’s perfect for Daddy”. I would have to agree … except for the ‘li’l man’ and ‘boy’ parts.

Janice takes the children for some lunch and a little walk about – While they leave you wake up. You seem to want to know what’s happening. I try to tell you briefly what’s going on – trying to keep the message upbeat and positive:

“You were really sick but you so much better now.”
“Your body probably feels strange right now – but the doctors think you can make a good recovery.”
“You are so tough – and you’ve come a long way fighting this – keep it up, we are counting on you.”
“We love you – keep going and get better – it’s going to be like another marathon.”
“You can do it.”

After a short time you start to cough, but the cough if different from your tracheotomy-clearing cough, nothing comes out of the tube. The ‘cough’ almost seems like a chest-heaving sob. Oh God - Are you scared inside?

You fall asleep again. Today was the first day that you were awake for as long as you were. Essentially, you were awake (eyes open) for 2 hours in the morning and another 2 hours in the afternoon. This is an improvement from earlier this week. During your eyes open times – I think you are aware at times but there are other times you are not. There are other times when your eyes are closed and your right hand explores things. You run your finger over something repeatedly as if trying to figure out and understand what it is. It’s like your sensory input can only receive one stimulus at a time … auditory, visual, feel. Maybe this is how the brain heals – one little part at a time.

I talk with two other women with their son’s in the neurosurgery ward. One mother’s son is here for a rather routine shunt replacement – he is 21 and has had a shunt since he was a baby. The other mother is in her seventies, and supporting her son ‘s recovery from a brain injury. He has been here since June – and it looks like he will be for longer before he is ready for the rehab hospital. I feel her pain and admire her strength. Somehow, she still maintains a positive attitude … at least in public.

On the way home, we stop at the Dartmouth Sportsplex. Once the children see the pool – they are excited – huge water slides. They can’t wait for their next visit in Halifax when we spend the night, rather then drive back and forth. Maybe next weekend…

After dinner, Tara and Quinn play with Maddie, helping her get ready for bed. I watch and wonder whether Maddie will master speech before or after you and who is going to master walking first Farley or you?


  1. May you continue to be a conduit for Chris's healing and may Tara and Quinn's positive energy continue to pour over this whole incredible scene in your life. Continued blessings to all 4 of you everyday. Love Terry and Chris G.

  2. Gwen, has anyone given you a copy of "My Stroke of Insight?" Although reading it might be a difficult journey, its author's detailed descriptions of her own stroke experience and her recovery might give you a glimpse of how Chris could be perceiving things. She was a neuroscientist who suffered a brain bleed and recovered, and her book is a fascinating, step-by-step recounting of the stroke as she remembers it, and of her evolving sense of awareness throughout recovery.

    I have no doubt that, whatever Chris is perceiving now as his brain heals, his strong core of determination is still intact. I think we've seen evidence of that already.

    In my quiet moments, I'm visualizing neural connections - neurons reaching out for new contacts - perhaps shaking neural "hands" and exchanging cards, like a massive meet-and-greet networking opportunity. Perhaps a wine and cheese... Anyway, lots of good, strong, new... and maybe even surprising connections being made.

    You're doing great, Gwen - I'm so proud of how you're keeping things stable for the children and dealing with this situation. Keep taking good care of Momma Gwen, too...

    Love, Kate

  3. Gwen,
    I have a copy of "My Stroke Of Insight" if you'd like to borrow it. I meant to mention it to you before. Just let me know and I can drop it off to you on my way to school.

    Mary Ellen