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Waiting to Hear About Her Brother

2020. A year for all of us to remember as different. How many times during this past year have I felt amputated? broken? defective? I have plenty of hopeful tools in my toolbox, but that old feeling sometimes sneaks in through a crack.


What brings that feeling in so close, right now, is not Covid. It’s our grandson Alex’s accident on an ATV. Scary. I hear the news, call on my big God, then try to get the word out to others to pray.


More information, later in the day. It’s all logical. My left brain understands. He damaged his L2 vertebra, which was operated on in Springfield, Missouri. And, he carries seven broken ribs.


Those ribs—a brokenness that will probably last his lifetime. It’ll become part of his uniqueness. It’s soaking into my brain as I write about it.


We’re all broken to some degree, whether we know it or not.


Today, I sit with Alex’s sister Haven at our home in Norfork, Arkansas. We wait for a phone call from the hospital in Springfield, regarding Alex’s transfer to a rehab center in Fayetteville, Arkansas.


Alex is ready to go, his dad is ready to go, a bed is available at the rehab hospital. But the weather has changed to snow, and it's sticking to the surfaces.


Haven has been tranquil about the entire story, thus far—the operation on the L2 and the struggle Alex has with his right leg. None of it seems to not connect for her. God’s way, perhaps, of keeping her unflustered. “But Alex will be okay, won’t he?” she asks.


“Yes, we think so.”


That’s all it takes for her to remain positive. “Well, I want to send him a get well card. Can I make one for him?”


Haven is 18 years old and autistic. Uniquely designed from birth.


She pulls out the markers and stickers. I get the computer. Yes, she wants to type a note to him to add to the card. It won’t look like anyone else’s card.


Haven may be the most interesting person I have ever known. You cannot guess her responses. She is full of surprises, in words and actions.


She may be autistic, but she reads, loves movies, and does word search puzzles in less than three minutes. Truly. I’m highly aware of her joyfulness this week. Maybe because my joy has lessened.


Her dad and brother are living in a hospital in Springfield, while another brother and stepmom are holding down the home front and working, and we have Haven. The pack is scattered.


Haven is exactly where she needs to be for now, of course. Her question comes again, “Which day do I go back home? Friday or Sunday?”


Once she hears the answer, she seems peaceful. Excited about returning to school and seeing friends again. Seems cheerful and satisfied enough. Haven may be an image of what faith really looks like.


She suddenly has a soft spot for Alex. She says, “He’s my brother. He’s mine.”


I tease her, “No, he’s my grandson. He’s mine.”


She laughs and says, “No, Mamaw, Alex is mine!” Giggles.


This girl-woman, who argues with 16-year-old twin brothers at times, quickly claims the one who is hurt. She understands that Zach, the other brother, will now take her to and from school. She is fine with that and says, “Alex will have to do his classes online. He will miss his friends.”


True. Alex loves his friends. He pushes himself to leave the Xbox to do homework, and so he should do fine with online school. His family and some teachers know he is capable of straight A’s, whether he strives for them or not.


I, the grandmother, wonder how the accident will change Alex. I can’t imagine going through such a significant emotional event, such an operation, and not being affected by it. An accident, long ago, changed my thinking and priorities.


Haven and I wait for the call telling us if the transfer to the rehabilitation hospital will happen today or not. That's where the hard work for Alex will begin.


There, this boy-man will exercise to strengthen his muscles back to normal. He is now using a walker and taking baby steps, but that is not the goal.


I think of the action-packed boy I’ve known—the one who loves dogs, cats, horses, goats. If they have four legs, they have Alex’s attention and touch.


Actually, he may understand animals and friends better than he understands his sister. But Haven claims him with every fiber of her being, saying, “My class can send him get well cards, but he’s mine!”


She is oftentimes a puzzle. Family members struggle to get 75% of what’s happening inside Haven. And not meaning to, each family member makes Haven crinkle her brows. This puzzling process happens every day and is a two-way street.