Time is a funny thing. There are so many famous quotes and contemplations on the fleeting nature of time, one of the great themes in art and literature. You know, carpe diem and “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may”and all of that. However, in my quotidian life (since we’re talking poetics, might as well throw in an SAT word), I rarely stop and contemplate time with a capital “T”. There are, however, those moments when suddenly we do stop, take notice, examine or suddenly feel the impact of time’s passing.
I can count last Sunday among those moments. It already feels like a lifetime ago in some ways, but it’s barely been over a week since the accident (a word that I hate to use because it wasn’t an accident on Michael’s part). Change and progress are evident with each passing day, which I wouldn’t have predicted a week ago. At that point, and for much of the week, things seemed pretty bleak as Michael and I woke up each day to a deep sense of uncertainty.
When I think back on last Sunday, the hours between 3:00 and 10:00 pm, more or less, it felt as though time had either stopped suddenly or lurched forward. How long was he on the side of the road until first responders arrived? I have no idea. How long did it take for him to regain consciousness? Again, I have no idea. As I watched his bike slide from underneath him, in that instance, my own sense of what our life was and what gave our life structure and solidity also slid away, opening up to a yawning unknown. Everything about those first few days was frightening, and I had no idea how to approach what, at that time, seemed to be the new normal of our life – time spent waiting, time spent in the hospital, time (for me) going back and forth, time (for Michael) waiting between doctors and nurses and specialists. Waiting and waiting and waiting.
However, in the 9 days between last Sunday and today, that fog of hopelessness and confusion has lifted, and while the landscape of our summer has shifted and while this will impact our life – for now and for a while – I see the fallout as a temporary experience. It is NOT the “new normal”. When talking to someone about Michael and how he/we will deal when he returns home (which should be soon!), I said “He isn’t an invalid, he’s injured.” And there is truth in that – as a language teacher, I see that one is conditional, temporary (injured), while the other, a noun, is more definitive. This accident won’t define him, rather he can choose how he wants to define IT. I realize that it seems easy for me to talk about the accident (although it’s not), and I can’t decide if I’m framing it as this TERRIBLE event or if I’m down-playing it or if I’m striking some sort of in-betweenness (which is what I would like to convey).
But, the take-away for me, from the past week, is that time, life, change – these don’t stand still. And, while I felt last week that this single moment drew a stark line, marking a before and an after, I am no longer convinced of the definitiveness of said before/after. As Michael improves and gets stronger daily, the hold that the trauma of the accident loosens, and I find myself ever more grateful for the friends and family who are helping us out, grateful that his body and mind continue to heal and strengthen, that we are together. This is not to minimize what he’s dealing with, because his experience certainly differs from mine, but I do find that, again, with time, comes a deeper sense of gratitude that has replaced the sense of frustration, outrage, anger and helplessness that I experienced and lived with last week. There are literal and physical steps that Michael is making, there is more laughter in our lives, and, fortunately, less fits of crying in the car (for me).
And I cannot underscore enough how thankful I am for Michael, who, out of the two of us, has tremendous reserves of patience and humor. Perhaps my greatest fear was that I would have to be that proverbial “rock” for both of us, but he has demonstrated a resolve to recover, to be as independent as he can, and he is the same funny, awesome person who has always supported me. Again, I consider myself incredibly lucky.
I wouldn’t have been able to honestly make that declaration a week ago, so, again, it’s another nod to the healing power of time and an acknowledgement that while this has been tough, we’re going to be okay.