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?


  1. Oh Grace. Hang in there! My recovery push has probably centered around my goals of dealing with our time at the cottage. It has been slow going but each year I feel blessed to be there at all and I am acutely aware of the changes over the winter in what I can do at the cottage come summer.

    You the broken link? NO WAY! Do you know what happens to that metal link when you temper it? It becomes the strongest link of all.

  2. :( (sniff) I really miss swimming. My Canadian cousin wants us to rent a cottage next summer. If we do it, I'm going to make sure the porch is comfy and has a lovely view.

  3. I think swimming in the ocean is out for me - I didn't like it much pre-stroke, so why bother? Laps in the pool using a kickboard would be more my speed. I haven't been in the pool at the Y in months - I'm afraid to go alone.

    It's when thinking about the future and concluding "maybe never again" that my hope steps back, that I sink in the morass of being overwhelmed by this version of my life.

  4. I think this is the first time you've ever voiced some of the despair you must have felt many times. But you're not a broken link--you're the chain that has held together despite the broken link. Faith, hope and courage are stronger than steel, and little by little you'll bring the edges of that broken link together again. I think that last summer you thought you'd never get out to the Island again, but this summer you did! Next summer I'm planning on getting a picture of you in the cove, because I believe you'll be able to walk there by then. Love & hugs, Dr Gradus

    1. I did walk to the cove, by myself, actually ;)

      And I really *did* have a great vacation.

      But it's hard not to ask "why?" sometimes, even though, the in great scheme of things, I'm pretty lucky.

  5. Wait a minute! You describe all the obstacles and forget to mention that you got to the cove by yourself. So can someone carry a folding chair and a book so you can stay next year? The cold Maine water is for children who run around constantly.