3 reasons to smile

Stella’s Auntie Corinne (my youngest sister) and Uncle Colin (the duo also known as “C squared”) flew in from Boston for a few days, but now they are gone, and Stella and I are suffering from withdrawal.

Just before C and C’s arrival, Stella’s stranger anxiety went through the roof. As we entered the park a few days ago, we saw a couple approaching from the opposite entrance, all the way across the green expanse. Upon spotting them, Stella retreated to her hiding post behind my knee. She remained there until they passed, which took a while, and eyed them intently the whole time, eliciting a laugh from the two suspicious characters. In light of experiences like that, I was wondering how quickly she’d warm up to our house guests, whom she hadn’t seen since April. Well, five minutes after they arrived, she was doing stuff like this:

Kicking back with C squared

Kicking back with C squared

I think they share some kind of bond. It was a given that Stella would take to Corinne, having spent more time with her in the past. But I was impressed by how she fell in love with Colin. They really connected. But then again, come to think of it, these three have something in common. They are survivors.

At one point during the visit, Uncle Colin carried Stella up our steep front steps, of which there are many. This brought tears to my eyes. In fact, this was never supposed to happen. Colin is lucky to be alive. A couple years ago, he was in a devastating single-car accident. To keep him alive, they had to pump more blood into him than the human body actually holds. He was told he’d never walk again. His spine literally moved sideways within his body, and that was just one of many horrific injuries. From the blog that documented his incredible recovery:  “Colin has endured four very difficult surgeries: one to remove a portion of his lung torn from broken ribs and to stop internal bleeding, two back surgeries to repair the spinal cord and stabilize shattered vertebrae, and a fourth to mend three breaks in his right arm.”

During their visit, Corinne thought back about their natural defiance, their bold assumption that he would indeed walk again–their refusal to accept anything else. After waking up from the surgery on his spine, Colin was asked to move his toes. To everyone’s astonishment, he could. The doctor blew it off as spasms–he told them not to get their hopes up, that Colin would not walk. But C squared knew spasms could not explain this on-command movement. They KNEW he would walk again–in fact, they thought it was obvious. Corinne laughed on recalling it: “We were like, ‘he can move his toes!’ DUH! He’ll totally walk again, no problem!” In hindsight she realized that the leap from slight toe movement to walking again was Grand-Canyon-sized. But the important part of all this is that they had hope. Hope! Hope is huge. Hope is what makes us and keeps us human. Granted, it was a very, very long road. Colin worked his ass off. They fought insurance battles and had about a year’s worth of dark days, but they knew he’d get there. Against all odds, and with the support of the community that rallied around him, he did.

Oh, did I mention that Colin’s accident happened five weeks after their wedding? And a several years after a sleeping Corinne rolled out of her third-story dormitory window, cracking her skull and vertebrae, and shattering her arm? She sat in the gutter alongside the building until someone heard her moaning in pain. I remember the moment I got the news about Corinne’s accident and how I could not breathe. I remember flying to Boulder, Colorado to see her, and wishing with all my might that I could trade places with her yet being blown away with how strong she was during the recovery process. And I recall feeling similarly sucker-punched when I got the call about Colin, whose life was dangling by a shredded thread. Those are those frozen moments that stay with you–slaps in the face that keep you from sleeping on the job of life.

While not really comparable to the life-threatening injuries Colin and Corinne endured, Stella went through quite a bit in her first year, the lowlights being a scary feeding aversion, blood in her diaper, and The Tube. So when I saw Colin, Corinne and Stella all together, happy and healthy, I could not help but feel amazed, and overwhelmed with gratitude. Miracles do happen, and my family is proof of that. I could not be more proud.

"Just tell 'em we're survivors!" (I love these three people. And the movie "Cars.")

"Just tell 'em we're survivors!" (I love these three people and, I'll admit it, the movie "Cars.")

P.S. I’m also thankful that we had gorgeous, sunny weather for their visit. “C squared”, being bionic and all, have enough metal in their bodies to shame Wolverine. Their joints get uncomfortable as rainy weather approaches in the distance–nevermind when gloom settles in for days on end. It will surely descend soon, but Colin and Corinne left enough of their light to keep us going for a while.

P.P.S. Corinne and Colin helped Stella embrace her sippy cup. This is also a miracle. Trust me.