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Over the Pyrenees!

May 15, 2019

At 9:00 a.m. of our second Camino day, our shuttle dropped us at the Statue de la Vierge de Biakorri, last seen yesterday afternoon. I gave the statue a little wave, whispering, “I’m so glad you watch over the shepherds in this beautiful alpine section of the earth.”

La Vierge de Biakorri

The sun kissed our hat brims as blue sky arched overhead. Cool breezes playfully slipped between jacket and neck. Amazing weather escorted us through the Pyrenees.

The track led past empty grass covered slopes with an occasional herd of sheep seen far away across the undulating green.

A couple hours of walking brought us to the edge of a stand of trees. Jay, consulting the guidebook, told me we would be hiking through the largest stand of beech trees in Europe. I took a picture of the beginning of this awesome forest.

Beech trees!

Our path followed ancient tracks used by shepherds and armies. As we entered the beech forest, our feet were cushioned by several inches of leaves. What a treat!

At Lepoeder Pass, we were rewarded with another outstanding view. Our path then took a steep plunge, dropping 1,500 feet of elevation in two miles.

Ronceveaux has welcomed pilgrims since the 12th century. The church and dormitories see tens of thousands of seekers each year.

First glimpse of the pilgrim haven of Ronceveaux.

When we arrived, the entryway was jammed with tired, dirty hikers. Two hundred pilgrims had crossed the Pyrenees on this beautiful day, and they all had hopes of renting a bed for their tired bodies. We were given a colored tag by harried volunteers, and told that we had about an hour’s wait until our color group was called. A sign on the wall summed up the situation in five languages: “Be calm. You will be helped.”

Eventually, eight euros each gave us beds for the night. Eight bunks (16 beds) crowded into our room, with barely enough space to squeeze between, especially while toting a pack. A bathroom with two toilets, two sinks, and two tiny shower stalls served about 40 people at our end of the building. Everything was sparkling clean, and I enjoyed my very fast shower!

At 7:00 p.m. we went to another part of the complex for a pilgrim dinner (10 euros each). With dizzying efficiency, two hundred people were served a well cooked meal of zucchini soup, pasta with tomato sauce, fish, french fries, and cake for dessert. I took a picture of part of the room.

Following dinner, a special pilgrim mass was offered at the cathedral. Four priests presided, singing part of the ceremony with harmonious voices. I’m sad to say that I couldn’t understand any of the Spanish. Nevertheless, it was interesting to observe, and the cathedral was truly beautiful.

Though I was mentally prepared to sleep in a room full of strangers, the reality of so many bodies in such a small space made me wonder if I would ever fall asleep. Fortunately, exhaustion took over, and I knew nothing until morning. Not exactly a restful night, but certainly a good way to bring home the connection between our modern life and 12th century pilgrims.

Two nights, fifteen miles, and a mountain range made a good start to our Camino de Santiago adventure!

Into the Pyrenees!

May 13 – 14, 2019

We arrived at St Jean Pied-du-Port via train early in the afternoon. Partially enclosed by medieval ramparts, the small town gives an overwhelming impression of red roofs and clean white walls with tidy red trim.

St Jean Pied-du-Port, France

We followed narrow cobbled streets to the Association les Amis du Chemin de Saint-Jacques (a.k.a. the Camino de Santiago Pilgrim Information Office!) A large crowd spilled out the office door, maybe thirty people, patiently waiting in a ragged line. Jay and I squeezed inside, set our packs against the wall, and joined the throng. All of us were “pilgrims”, seeking a “pilgrim passport” which would enable us to stay at municipal hostels for a small fee on the journey to Santiago de Compostela. In a variety of languages, five volunteers at a long table composedly gave information, treating each person with dignified excitement, seemingly happy to help this horde of clueless people begin their dream.

The man who assisted us spoke English, French, and Italian! He gave us our “passports”, cardboard brochures divided with grids of lines. He explained that we would get these documents stamped at each hostel, thereby proving that we had walked the whole Camino.

When we asked our helper for directions to the Gite Zazpiak, where we had made reservations on line, we learned to our surprise that the hostel was 1.5 kilometers out of town!

“You can easily walk there. Follow the yellow shells marking the Camino. You will make a jog across a major road, keep going, then turn left at the white building with red trim.” He paused to see if we appreciated his irony. ALL the buildings were white with red trim! “Don’t worry,” he reassured us. “There will be a sign. After you turn left, continue about half a kilometer. Your hostel will be the second white building with red trim!” With that, he stamped our pilgrim passport and sent us merrily on our way.

Our first pilgrim passport stamp!

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Streamers of sunrise greeted us on our first day of walking. Happily, we ate “petit dejeuner” (coffee/tea, bread, jam) at our hostel, then set off, ready for adventure!

The guidebook suggested pilgrims should hike to Roncesvilles the first day, 15 miles away, over several passes through the Pyrenees Mountains. Though this is a reasonable length on the Appalachian Trail, I felt doubtful of my stamina, even with a light, ten pound, pack. Fortunately, Jay, following advice from former pilgrims in Seattle, had arranged a slack pack for our first two days.

Our path followed very steep, tiny mountain roads, climbing 3,600 feet. Sheep, goats, cows, horses, pilgrims, and cars all shared the same route. The pilgrims were, by far, the most numerous and least predictable denizens of the road!

As we walked, we noticed cow bells ringing almost continuously in the clear mountain air. “It’s a Basque Bovine Bell Choir,” Jay joked. Later we realized sheep, goats, horses, and burros also wear bells.

We’d been hiking for a couple of hours when we came to a small cafe, the Fermé Ithurburia. It’s terrace invited us to stop for coffee/tea and a fabulous view. We also ate sardines and cheese, our staple trail food. Petit dejeuner had been a bit too petite for our walking appetites!

Terrace of the Fermé Ithurburia

We were lucky enough to see three Basque shepherds unloading a whole truckload of sheep. Later, the noisy herd passed us on the road. Yes, sheep, along with everyone else, can walk faster than me!

Our day of hiking ended at the Statue de la Vierge de Biakorri. This statue of the Virgin Mary is said to watch over shepherds and their flocks. From there, we caught our pre-arranged shuttle back to St Jean Pied-du-Port.

65 steep and uneven stone steps along the medieval wall led to the peak of St Jean Pied-du-Port.

Jay walks past arrow slits in the wall.
This gate in the town wall has another protector of the Basque countryside, the mythological Basajaun.

After exploring the medieval castle walls, we returned to the Gite Zazpiak where we were served an incredibly excellent meal cooked by a talented chef. Tomorrow the van will take us back to the Statue de la Vierge de Biakorri, and we’ll continue crossing the Pyrenees!

Here is a short video of of the Black-faced Manech sheep passing us today.

A New Adventure Dawns

May 11, 2019

As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears.

-Rumi

As spring exuberantly bounced into our lives, I knew Seattle winter hibernation was coming to a close.

Much as I longed to be on the trail again, my body wasn’t quite ready to carry a full pack. Jay, still dealing with emotions from the accident, couldn’t see sleeping in a tent yet. Obviously, we needed a new adventure.

We had often discussed hiking in Europe, and many friends had suggested that we hike the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile pilgrimage from St. Jean Pied-du-Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Jay’s uncle gave a piece of rare advice, “If you have a dream, the time to do it is now.”

First we spent some time with my family in Tennessee. It had been a year since we’d seen them. As we hiked the Maryville College woods, I gloried in the spring flowers!

Trilliums captured the sunshine.

Now, here we are in Spain, getting ready for another pilgrimage. It’s been three weeks since I’ve practiced carrying a backpack. It will be interesting to see what it’s like to become a hiker again!

Here we are in Barcelona, on our way to hike the Camino de Santiago!

Seattle Wildlife

April 18, 2019

Winter and early spring have flown by as we explored Seattle. Opportunities to observe wildlife were surprisingly abundant in the midst of this fascinating “big city”.

One day we hiked around Green Lake which boasts a wide flat asphalt and gravel path, quite popular with groups of families and friends.

As we ambled along, several crows flew past, cawing raucously. Suddenly, a small black object whizzed by my ear, bouncing upon the pavement ahead of me.

“The crows are cracking nuts!” Jay exclaimed.

Amazed, I stopped to watch. Another crow flew overhead, dropping it’s black booty. The nut ricocheted from the pavement, thick husk splitting, shell cracking into three pieces with an audible snap. The crow quickly landed, grasping the largest piece and pecking hungrily at the nutmeat inside. A hovering flock mate scooped up a second portion of the nut, winging to a tree branch to enjoy his purloined snack.

Curious, I picked up the third chunk of nut. A woody hull clung to the outside, with a small bit of pithy seed nestled deep inside the tough corrugated shell.

“It’s a black walnut!” I exclaimed in surprise, tinged with a bit of awe. As a child, I remembered using a hammer to pound black walnuts in our backyard. Often, the indestructible seed would bound away from my hammer, refusing to deliver up its delectable nut meat.

‘Amazing!’ I thought. ‘The crows use pavement and altitude to shatter the shells. I wonder how they learned!’

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For much of the winter, we lived in a tiny furnished apartment near the Lake Washington Ship Canal at the foot of Queen Anne Hill. Our second story front window gave us a view of trees and ivy, the perfect habitat for squirrels.

One morning as I ate breakfast, two squirrels ran along our railing. One squirrel gave a prodigious leap from the railing to a tree trunk. He landed with a lung emptying “whump”, clinging spread-eagled to the bark. The second squirrel chose a longer, less athletic route to the tree. The two looked at each other round the trunk, then turned and scampered the length of a branch, vaulting to the roof. I heard their footsteps drum a duet across our ceiling – thumpety, thumpety, thump, thump!

Squirrel busily living life!

Another morning several inches of snow covered twigs and branches in an extravagance of frozen crystals. A scurrying squirrel ran down a tree trunk, then leaped for an overhanging low branch, fat with globules of clinging snowflakes. Much to the squirrel’s surprise, his thick target was actually a whippy bough, scarcely half a centimeter in diameter. The squirrel’s grasp missed, and he hurtled several feet to the ground in a shower of loose snowflakes as the tricky tree limb bounded upwards!

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Living near the ship canal gave us ample opportunity to observe wildlife. We enjoyed the evening show of cormorant roosting. After spending all day on the water happily swimming and fishing, the first hint of evening brought a flock of ungainly black feathered bodies. I never did discover why the cormorants liked one particular tree in a line of what seemed to me to be identical trees. But each evening a loud squabbling hullabaloo ensued as bird after bird landed upon the tree, only to be chased by the birds already there. It was quite a sight! The show would last for about an hour, until all were settled to everyone’s satisfaction, each bird an equidistant space from it’s flockmates. Each night the tree became adorned with a burden of black bundles, wings, bills, and legs tucked into shapeless blobs perched upon its branches.

The show begins!

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One day as we walked by the canal, we noticed a small tree with a freshly chewed section of bark missing from its trunk. “There must be beaver in this city!” Jay observed in surprise.

A couple days later, the sapling was gone, only a shin high trunk with a few wood shavings to show where it had been. I peered into the canal, and sure enough, the tree was laying in the water, one end perched upon a few rocks at the base of the embankment.

A few days passed, and the tree had been gnawed in half, all the branches stripped from its trunk. These were efficient beavers!

Another beaver-chewed tree received protection from park personnel.

It reminded me of a story my father, a church camp director, tells of beavers damming a lake by the camp lodge. My father would have been happy to leave them in peace, except they were so enthusiastic, they kept raising the lake level and flooding the lodge basement.

“Periodically I’d have to go down and rip out their dam,” I remember my dad saying. “They didn’t just use branches. I’d find coat hangers, pieces of pipe, barbed wire fencing. Once I even had to pull out a railroad tie they had taken from the nearby train track! It was quite a chore!”

“I seem to remember you coming back from one of those forays, covered in mud, and saying that those beavers had figured out how to use your neighbor’s backhoe, and had made the dam almost impregnable,” I joined in his reminenscing.

“Well,” my father’s eyes twinkled. “That part might have been just a story.”

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In March, we moved from the apartment at the base of Queen Anne Hill to pet sit in a house at the top of Magnolia Hill. Our wandering territory changed to include daily visits to the Ballard (Hiram M. Chittenden) Locks and hikes in Discovery Park.

One day as Jay rounded a corner of the path to the locks, a sleek river otter slid over the bank and slithered down the hill to the water! It seemed incredible that an animal which normally seeks empty bits of nature would make his home right in the middle of a very busy shipping canal! When Jay mentioned seeing the otter to a janitor cleaning the restroom, he was told, “Oh yes, there’s two resident families that live here year round. They’ve been known to get upset if tourists didn’t take their pictures.”

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In early April, as we were hiking through Discovery Park, both Jay and I saw a large roundish animal scurry into the bushes. We stopped, wondering what we had just seen. Too small for a muskrat, tail too short for a squirrel, too fat for a weasel … what could it be?

A lady walking her dog came by, and her dog stopped, arrested by the invisible smell of the mystery animal.

“Your dog knows that some kind of brown, furry, roundish animal just scurried into the bushes here,” Jay told her. “We don’t know what it was.”

Just then the animal reappeared, poking it’s head between two ferns. It then proceeded to calmly harvest a large mouthful of plant stems, holding the ends in his mouth, dragging the rest of the stems behind him.

“It’s a mountain beaver,” the dog walker told us. “We’ve got one in our yard.”

We watched, fascinated, as the mountain beaver disappeared back into his ferns, dragging a sheaf of long greenery behind him.

Later I read that they like to stack cut stems in front of their dens. These animals have been traced back 40 million years, and are the last survivors of their species. They can eat many plants that are poisonous to others.

A diorama in the Discovery Park Visitor Center shows the mountain beaver.

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We often saw sea lions, snakes, lizards, bald eagles, coots, golden eye ducks, American widgeons, Canada geese, greater scaups, mallards, great blue herons, seagulls, and once we saw a barred owl. As spring advanced, the woods became alive with birds staking out their territory. We heard robins, song sparrows, Pacific wrens, towhees, juncos, chickadees, northern flickers, and pileated woodpeckers. The last day of walking in Discovery Park, Jay heard a varied thrush. Truly, Seattle is home to some fantastic wildlife.

Living in Limbo

February 11, 2019

Six months ago, a crashing tree branch interrupted our Pacific Crest Trail hike. After choosing foot travel as a major form of transportation for many weeks, we entered the city of Seattle by ambulance.

Thus, our time of limbo began. Recovery in the hospital quickly led to more recovery time in an apartment near the hospital. As I healed, we progressed to visiting family in Oregon, returning regularly to Seattle to check in with the doctors.

That rogue tree branch had dealt quite a wallop. I felt as if I were in a state of suspended animation, waiting for the fractured occipital condyle and carotid artery pseudoaneurysm to heal in order for the surgeon to reassemble the eight pieces of my jaw.

While in Seattle, we explored our new home.

A ride on the ferry provided a porpoise eye view of the Seattle skyline.

The Fremont Troll, one of the better known denizens of the city, lurked beneath a bridge.

Christmas sparkles enhanced an already gorgeous winter sunset peeking between skyscrapers.

Who could resist playing next to the fountain at the Seattle Center?

One day we saw dancers getting filmed in front of a street mural.

A tugboat pushed a barge full of gravel through the Ballard (Hiram M. Chittenden) Locks, much to our delight.

One charming result of limbo time included meeting old friends and hikers from our travels. I still giggle when I think of the dinner conversation we had with Specs, a 2017 Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, now living in Seattle.

We traded tales of experiences on the trail. Specs described the odd looks given by other hikers each evening when he pulled out his after-dinner wine, packaged in a juice box with a sippy straw!

“It’s wonderful how hiking a long trail makes one appreciate the finer things in life,” I exclaimed.

Specs burst out laughing. “Yes, the perspective gained on the Appalachian Trail is what makes one designate things like wine in juice boxes as ‘finer things’ of life!”

Each time I visited the neurosurgeon, he told me my body was healing admirably, and then he’d send me off to go heal some more. When the neck brace was removed in December, I celebrated! Maybe now, four months after the accident, I would get my jaw operation!

I could scarcely contain my joy to be rid of the neck brace!

The craniofacial surgeon had other ideas. “The broken pieces in your jaw bone have grown together. Yes, there is nerve damage, and yes, none of your teeth meet, but your body has been creating new bone. We could operate, but it would put your healing back a good bit.”

“But I can’t chew, with my teeth not meeting,” I told him.

“I think orthodontics might help,” he told me. “It’s been such a long time since the accident, it might be better to look at different answers.”

He sent me to an orthodontist who had much experience with trauma victims. She was sure she could give me chewing capabilities again, possibly without surgery at all!

My mouth was measured and x-rayed and photographed. Teeth molds were made. Our most recent visit brought the fascination of seeing a digital model of my skull, with the jaw healed crooked and none of the teeth meeting.

Jay put my thoughts into words. “One wouldn’t even know how to begin to get those teeth aligned properly.”

The nurse responded encouragingly, “That’s why we have Dr. Chen! She’ll be using all this to make a plan for your teeth.”

This uncertain period, awaiting decisions and action, is almost over. My braces should arrive the last week of February, and I’ll embark on the final phase of healing. The orthodontist estimates it will take two years to put my teeth in order.

In the meantime, we’ll enjoy a bit of winter in Seattle. And begin making plans for more adventures in the spring!

City people, in general, don’t talk or even smile at one another when walking. But with snow came new opportunities. I found a temporary friend.

Seattle Sojourn – Part 2

August 28 – September 16, 2018

While still in the hospital, I asked the question uppermost in the mind of every injured hopeful thru-hiker.

“How soon can I start walking again?”

I was delighted with the physical therapist’s answer. “You can walk every day, at least 30 minutes a day. Don’t overdo it, get plenty of rest as well, but walking will help you.”

I also received advice on eating, another topic dear to a thru-hiker’s heart. The hospital dietician told me in order to promote the healing of so many broken bones, I should consume approximately 2,000 calories including at least 130 grams of protein each day. I devoured this many calories each day on the trail! It seemed incredible to me that laying around, healing broken bones, would require as much energy as hiking ten hours per day!

After leaving the hospital, I did find myself taking frequent naps and eating often. During the first few weeks of recuperation, my eyes refused to play nicely, each insisting that her view of the world was most important. My beleaguered brain would usually give up and show double vision. This, combined with shaky balance, created many spills in the kitchen. The great thing about wiping up a spill when one has doubled vision is that one only needs to wipe half of what is seen, and suddenly the whole spill is gone!

Walking became a major source of relaxation for my soul. Of course, walking in a neck brace could be a little tricky. It’s impossible to see ones feet. The ability to balance came and went for no apparent reason. Holding Jay’s hand solved my erratic balance. It also provided much needed support whenever my enthusiasm for exploring overcame the stamina of my healing body.

Our explorations were short at first. It took fifteen minutes to slowly and carefully creep to a fountain just a quarter of a mile away.

This fountain at Seattle University remains a favorite destination!

Often after enjoying the fountain, Jay and I would swing by a dog park. Sitting on a comfortable bench, we delighted in watching deliriously happy dogs run around and around!

We also discovered St. James Cathedral, home of a huge pipe organ dating from the early 1900s. I enjoyed the beauty of the cathedral, its thrilling organ music, and the time to listen for that still, small voice inside my soul.

St James Cathedral

As bones slowly knit and stamina increased, outings became more adventurous. One day we took the monorail to Seattle Center.

My very first time ever on a monorail!

Outside the Seattle Center, we discovered an interactive sculpture called Sonic Bloom, five “flowers” towering forty feet high. Motion sensors set off harmonic notes when each metal flower was approached. Jay and I immediately participated, reveling in the sequence of harmonies. With a few more friends, I’m sure we could have composed an impromptu tune!

We also discovered two paraboloidal dishes, set approximately 60 feet apart beside a busy and very noisy street. The instructions directed me to whisper into a designated focus point, and Jay would be able to hear it far away at the other paraboloidal dish. The paraboloid shape launched sound waves from the focus point and aimed them across incredibly noisy space to be collected at the other paraboloid. Jay’s disembodied voice emerged from the focus point, a clear whisper in my ear! I was amazed!

As the pain of my injuries faded and I became stronger, I did not think of myself as a convalescent. I felt I had improved greatly, striding down sidewalks holding Jay’s hand. However, Reality raised her head the day Jay and I were passed by a man in a wheelchair. Perhaps my vision of myself was a bit skewed by hope.

Seattle Sojourn – Part 1

September 11 – 27, 2018

The night of September 10, I peacefully drifted to sleep in our tent, anticipating 20 more miles of nature’s beauty before our next town stop.

As far as my brain was concerned, I woke from that night to find a nurse putting a finger bowl in front of me, urging me to clean my fingernails. I looked around fuzzily. Obviously I was in a hospital. I’d been hiking without a shower for five days, so it made sense that my hands and fingernails were not up to a hospital’s standard of hygiene. My sense of humor rose to the surface. ‘A finger bowl?’ I thought. ‘Is cleanliness that important here? What would they say if they could see the amount of grime we are exposed to on the trail!’

It took a bit for me to get the events of the accident straight, including the fact that, unbeknownst to my brain, I had been conscious and lucid for hours.

Human brains are truly amazing. Reaction to extreme stress varies from one person to another. I am grateful that PTSD is more widely acknowledged and better understood now. I have total amnesia of the 36 hours after the accident. My brain only decided to check back in when my funny bone became engaged! Jay was also reliving the nightmare at odd times, many things acting as triggers.

While at the hospital, we requested and received some very good advice from a therapist. She told me not to stress about the amnesia, it was a common reaction. She told Jay that his “flashbacks” were also a common way for his brain to try solving the problems the accident presented him. She told us to take charge of our brains. Later, when we found ourselves in a safe and secure place, it would be good for us to discuss the details and the feelings from the accident. But while we were still in the accident’s aftermath, it was important to compel our brains to stay in the present.

“When you begin to feel stressed, or your brain begins to tramp a circular path, you can force it to stop by finding something in your surroundings that takes your attention. Stay in the present. Even if you just look for five red items in your environment. It’s important to stay in the present until you’ve had some time to heal.” The therapist’s words stayed with us.

Another wonderful help was an email to Jay from his sister, Nancy. She gave him a tremendously superb list of things to do for me and for himself.

Of course, the hospital personnel had done a number of vital things to me before awakening my sense of humor with a finger bowl. They had stitched my neck closed, restored a good bit of my lost fluids with an IV, and determined the presence of a small bleed in my brain, a pseudoaneurysm in my carotid artery, a bruise on the right side of my brain, eight broken bones in my face and a shattered left jaw, as well as an occipital condyle fracture (a fracture of the bones where the spine joins the head). The jaw bones required surgery, but the (now stopped) brain bleed and the occipital condyle fracture prevented surgery. The doctors finally determined that I had to wait for the occipital condyle fracture to heal and get off the aspirin that had been prescribed for the pseudoaneurysm, then I would require reconstructive surgery to put my jaw back together. I also had extensive bruising both on my face and inside my mouth, causing swelling which led to temporary problems with swallowing and breathing. That tree branch had a lot to answer for!

Jay and I cannot say enough good things about the staff at Harborview Medical Center. Nurses and doctors both explained things very clearly and listened and responded to our concerns. Several of the nurses also listened to my flights of whimsy as my beleaguered sense of humor struggled to stay with me.

Many specialists were involved in my care. One nurse taught me how to swallow with the very swollen throat. An occupational therapist made sure I could walk. Jay was given lessons in the care and changing of my neck brace. A physical therapist checked my ability to turn in a circle, climb up and down stairs, squat and stand without use of hands. As I obediently struggled to stand up from a squat without pushing off from the floor, my sense of humor observed, “you couldn’t even do that reliably before the accident!”

On the last of my five days at the hospital, a speech therapist was tasked with checking my cognitive function. I was asked many basic questions such as my current location and the date. Then I was instructed to listen to a story and retell it. The story was a very simple but unbelievable tale of a woman who lost her purse in a store, only to eventually get it returned by a little girl. I couldn’t resist giving my opinion of the events in the story as I retold it. The speech therapist was not impressed. Later in the cognitive test, I was asked to remember and retell the story. I did so, with even more embellishments. I could see the speech therapist did not appreciate it when I went “off script”, so each time I would reassure her, saying, “I know, that wasn’t part of your story.” When I finished, I tried to explain that I had been raised by an award-winning storyteller, and I couldn’t just leave the story in its implausible simplicity. The speech therapist wasn’t listening at that point. Instead, she gave a little talk concerning how Traumatic Brain Injury can cause a person to have difficulty in focusing on a story line or task. She conceded that I perhaps showed awareness of my inability to focus when I acknowledged that my asides were not part of the story. She also said that if my family thought this behavior was normal, there wasn’t as much concern.

“She’s been that way always,” Jay told her.

“She’s always done that,” my sister, Helen, added.

A few minutes later my son, Daniel, walked in and was told that the speech therapist was testing me by having me retell a story. “Oh boy,” he said with a little shake of his head. Everyone laughed. The speech therapist finally relaxed a little, saying she liked the way our family interacted in this situation.

Jay requested help from our son and sisters early in the hospital stay. We remain very grateful for their prompt and loving response.

Our son, Daniel, was the first to arrive, his smiling face making my cup of joy overflow. Daniel brought Velveteen, his childhood toy, as well as our duffel bags of non-hiking clothes. Velveteen has had decades of practice at banishing nightmares, and he truly helped me stay “in the present” for the duration of the hospital stay. Daniel’s quiet common sense often meant that he had taken care of something before it could even be noticed, much less become a problem! His practical help and effervescent sense of humor were the perfect medicine!

Jay, Sarah, and Daniel with Velveteen, walking down the hospital corridor.

My sister, Helen, was the next to arrive. She found a furnished apartment just four blocks from the hospital where my three care givers could get much needed sleep. She also took over night duty by my bedside at the hospital. (Jay had been awake nearly 48 hours by the time Helen arrived!) Her medical knowledge helped Jay not to miss anything important that the doctors told us. She also was an excellent advocate and facilitator of information between the many medical teams involved in my care.

At the suggestion of her husband, Mark, Helen brought a stuffed teddy bear to keep me company.

After I was released from the hospital, Daniel and Helen returned to their normal lives.

Jay’s sister, Nancy, arrived next. With her home health care training, she was a huge help as we adjusted to living in an apartment. Nancy assisted with my personal care, such as showering. She brought comforting reassurance when helping Jay with the daily change of my neck brace, a four-hand job. She quickly helped us fall into a schedule which included lots of sleep and a daily walk for me. She also provided a blender, such a practical and necessary gift!

A selfie of the three of us from our fun convalescent walks!

When it was time for Nancy to return to her own family, my friend and sister of my heart, Linda, arrived. Linda is a veterinarian, so once again we were able to benefit from specialized medical knowledge. Linda’s visit helped me transition to doing simple actions for myself. Mostly, we were blessed with her unique and fun point of view.

Linda and I, with Jay, spent many hours laughing – the best medicine ever!

Sixteen days after the accident, our last helper went home, leaving Jay and me on our own in the big city of Seattle! My convalescence continued…