Such a simple thing as handing over the Nerf bullet for him to load the gun. “Don’t shoot me with that” I say and turn my back. Seconds later it hits. I smile but he can’t see me. He leans casually over the hospital bed, folds his arms and rests his chin there briefly. He levels his gaze on me, woozy from the Ativan, “you’ve worn different shoes like every day you been here” he said (yesterday I had on my clogs.)
He teases his sister about the ET machine wrapped around his finger… (What is the thing that tracks the oxygen called?) “touch the Owie ” and she hides her face shyly clutching onto her father’s arm.
When we arrived at dinner time his father was asking him simple math problems. He got each one right except for what was 45÷3. Of course when G asked me that I said you can’t divide 45 x 3 and he leveled me with a look with that annoyingly ambidextrous brain he has and said 15. I told him that I had just proved that that particular question might not be the best one in evaluating his brain.
During the day when I’m here with Zoe and not at the hospital I read too much and worry too much about what the future will hold. From everything the doctors have told us he suffered a severe head injury with a skull fracture was in the severe range in terms of the Glasgow coma scale — has areas of damage in the frontal and parietal lobes. When I read trying to understand these things it scares me. When I see him in the hospital making small talk and shooting Nerf bullets he seems very much like a version of his old self. They have given him a medication for his nerve pain in his legs and something to help the agitation.
Today is moving day for him. Into the inpatient rehabilitation wing of the hospital. They explained to us that it’s very much like school: they wake up and have breakfast… do their occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy and take a break. And then they do sessions again in the afternoon. I understand that after a week his various therapists will meet with us and let us know their assessment. The plan is for him to return to school this year and to be home within a matter of weeks– certainly late September/early October.
When Willi started using his phone for Instagram I remember thinking what an eye he had for photography — and then he began using Instagram as all the kids (and we?) do, to craft a very particular image that they want the world to see. But one picture he took struck me. He had put it on the background screen of his iPad. I looked at that photo for the first time and realized there was a creative spirit inside of him — as hidden as it seemed these days inside of his young hockey player bravado– after all he IS the same boy who would make elaborate sculptures out of cardboard, robot drawings, for a long time I thought that he might enjoy robotics, or building. When he was 8 or so we went to the science Museum and saw a sculpture on the wall of repurposed objects. For a while he was on fire to make a sculpture of repurposed things. He grew and grew into this handsome, broad shouldered, athletic hockey player… A 12 or 13-year-old trapped inside a 16 or 17-year-old body and put aside everything but hockey.
There’s something in that photograph that he’s captured so perfectly: that moment in youth we believe ourselves to be invincible; it haunts me now — heading into the setting sun, riding along the yellow line. No idea what is to come.