Saturday, July 21, 2012


Every year we go to Maine, and stay in a cottage that my parents have rented for many years. Usually we don’t stay very long, but the cottage and the coast are a highlight of my kids' year.

Sometime last fall, the kids and I were telling a friend about the cottage.

“Mama, maybe this year you will be able to swim there!” my son said.

My heart sank. Neal and I often point out to the kids how much I’m improving. But it's still hard to explain to the kids about the all the unknowns in a brain injury. So I tried to say gently that I probably wouldn't be able to swim at the cottage this summer. Maybe for many years to come. Maybe never, I thought.

I was never a strong swimmer, and there isn’t a real beach near the cottage. Either you jump off the dock at high tide, or you go swimming in a rocky cove. To get to the cove, you have go through an uneven field of wild blueberries, then cross a short bridge over a swampy area, then walk down a wooded slope. You arrive in a cove strewn dried sea grass and large pieces of driftwood. You have to wear sandals or water shoes, to protect your feet from the stones, snails, and barnacles underneath. If you wade out through the seaweed, you can often see schools of small fish. My kids love it.

So a few weeks ago, we went to Maine. I didn't try to swim. I did go on a boat ride, though. And I had a great time on vacation. I felt relaxed.

Most days, I watched the kids and Neal or their grandparents setting out to go the cove to swim. I sat on the porch, reading and sipping coffee. I read guidebooks about Maine, daydreaming about the next vacation. I enjoyed listening to the sounds of the coast.

Sometimes I would think about my late grandmother, who went swimming well into her nineties, and I would remember her worn canvas sneakers she used as water shoes. I would think about how hardy my parents are, how they often swim twice a day. How Neal learned that there's no way to gracefully refuse to swim with my family. How my kids are swimming in the ocean.

And every so often I would think, how did I become the broken link?