Something has happened with our son. We are not sure exactly what has caused it, but it is quite evident that he’s turned a corner, or is turning a corner in his recovery.
Since returning to New Zealand after his accident he has been living in a portable cabin on our property, which gives him – and us, some space. The time he spends in there has caused us concern. He rarely comes over, except for dinner, but doesn’t stay around long to talk and then disappears back into his little enclosure. He’s been working a couple of days a week for one of the guys in our church who owns a tree nursery, which has been a saving grace, as it gets him out and about for at least part of the week. But he hasn’t really been progressing in life. There has been little improvement in anything.
A few weeks ago, things began to change. He’s been more lively, more talkative and more social. He stays longer after dinner, just to talk. He’s been asking what our day has been like and taking a genuine interest in what we are doing. He’s become bored with gaming and got himself a guitar. Instead of loud shouting and railings (at his online opponents) hours on end, we hear soft strumming and singing. And he’s tidied his room. Mark never (or very rarely) tidies his room. Something must be going on.
Perhaps the most significant change is he now talking about the future. Now you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal about that? I talk about the future all the time.” That’s right – you do, because your future is in the realm of hopes and dreams and possibilities. Mark’s future, up until this point, has been in the realm of fears and uncertainties. Try to think about your present life with one leg, and possibly (because the uncertain future of his right leg) no legs. Everything changes – your work, your leisure, your social life, your home life, your holidays – even taking a shower and making your bed. Things you once loved doing you can no longer do. And there are no longer any guarantees.
Watching all of this close up hasn’t been that easy. It’s all new territory for Francelle and I. We’ve never had to care for someone who has suffered major physical and psychological trauma. We are trying to understand Mark and putting ourselves in his shoes (or shoe – it’s a new family pun). We are learning when to be tough and when to be tender; when to push hard and when to go easy, and when to speak and when to just listen. We want the best for Mark, but sometimes that wanting morphs into urging and insisting and we wind up driving him away instead of drawing him in. It’s a waiting game. As someone with a little more wisdom than we have said to us lately, “Just be patient – give him time.” So I’m asking God to help me do just that.
So you might imagine – all this (“this” being the positive changes above) has come as a breath of fresh air. He came in last night, cheery and talkative. It was a wet and drizzly day so he wasn’t able to work at the nursery, which was a bit frustrating – not being able to get out. He asked me how my day was. We chatted together and he told me how he’s been building his upper body strength. “Watch this,” he said. He put a stool close to the edge of the kitchen bench, positioned himself in between them both and then lifted up both of his legs in a horizontal position and proceeded to do push ups. I watched all this with fascination. It suddenly dawned on me how far he had come. He asked me to have a go. It can’t be that hard, I thought. I do push-ups most days, after I finish my run. I couldn’t even get my legs off the floor.
We both laughed. His was a friendly, hearty laugh. And there was a twinkle in his eye. He could do something that I couldn’t do. Sometimes, in the difficulties and disappointments in life, winning the war on the inside is the most challenging battle of all.