Monday, May 07, 2007
<--Lovergirl and me at a ballroom dancing competition. There, you learn something new every day.
I have a friend, let's call her Karina, from the North Coast. She was our ballroom dancing instructor when we lived there. Three weeks ago her husband Ry broke his neck in a rugby accident. He's now quadriplegic. He's been helicoptered up here for rehab, she's moved up and is looking for a wheelchair accessible house to rent and the four year old daughter has been flown to New Zealand to stay with her grandparents for this first crisis period.
I don't know Ry so well. One of the things I like about straight friends is that they don't come as a package deal - it's perfectly acceptable to have a friendship based on 'girls' nights' and not really exchange more than a 'hi, howrya going?' as their partner heads out for his own activity. (or, in the case of friends with kids, busily tucks them in while absentmindedly kissing his partygoing wife goodbye). So I never really spent any time with Ry, although he struck me as a good, straightforward, decent bloke.
Lovergirl and I took Karina out for dinner last Saturday night, with a couple of other friends. She took a few hours off and organised a close friend of Ry's to sit by his bed. It was an intense night, with Karina fluctuating between being wildly, hysterically amused by very mediocre anecdotes, and angry. Angry with the hospital, with the social worker (who does sound incompetent), with Centrelink, with the doctors' complete lack of social skills ('Oh, didn't we mention? No, he's probably not going to be able to swallow independently ever again' and the usual complete inability to introduce themselves before they start prodding and poking and making acronyms at the charge nurse).
In the weeks since the accident, two things have struck me. (I wish I was a more subtle writer so these would not sound like banal insights from some self-published self-help book, accompanied by a photo of a constipated kitten or whatever.)
One is that it's enough to live a life that doesn't have any major disasters in it. It doesn't have to be amazing. I just have to avoid the really big abysses (I spend a lot of time struggling with a sense of failure. Does anyone else ever get that?). And if this baby doesn't happen, well, that's not a big abyss. Just a different life path. (I'm serious, not trying to cheer myself up. I was offered some more film work yesterday, and while I said 'I'm booked til June - I'll let you know after that,' what I meant was, 'I have to wait and see if this baby sticks.' Being a filmmaker - that's not such an odious alternative to having a family).
The second thing was just the privilege of watching the intensity of their love for each other. Karina talks about Ry with so much pride, and planning for a future with him, even though those plans have taken a radical shift and that future looks very different from anything she's ever imagined. And that (okay, get your vomit bags out now) a great relationship is a rare thing. A relationship where you think your partner is sexy, and you can imagine them being sexy when they're eighty, and they're smart, and funny, and relaxing, and generous, and you are both healthy...I've spent a bit of time appreciating the small things, in the past couple of weeks.