Where the Sidewalk Ends

I wrote a brief blog on an anniversary this spring that I’d rather not celebrate. At the same time, it felt good to see where I am now. I’ve expanded on that piece for today’s blog.

One year ago today I was recovering from head trauma. I was lying on the couch making sure I could remember my children’s names, trying not to pick at 13 staples in my scalp, icing a broken arm that would need surgery, and as yet unaware of a collection of other small injuries. I could not safely walk the path pictured. I thought I would never be able to do something like that again. Yesterday I walked it with ease. It took a year to get here, but my brain healed itself.

Huron Harbor Lighthouse, Ohio

Last year was a year of restrictions and frustrations. I truly felt that I was at the end of the sidewalk and there was no way back.

Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
And shared a conversation with the housefly
in my bed.
Once I heard and answered all the questions
of the crickets,
And joined the crying of each falling dying
flake of snow,
Once I spoke the language of the flowers. . . .
How did it go?
How did it go?
― Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends: The Poems and Drawings of Shel Silverstein

Yes, Shel Silverstein captured my feelings perfectly. Keep in mind I couldn’t read this last year. Outwardly, I looked fine. I could speak and interact and unless you were my close friend, you couldn’t tell I didn’t understand poetry or a lot of what I read. You might notice me getting lost, which NEVER happened before, or not having a clue that I’d had a conversation with you. I’d panic in crowds or places with lots of things. It was all too overwhelming. Too much to process. I’m much luckier than most with brain trauma. I know that and and thank God every morning when I awake. I live inside my head, as we all do. My world was in upheaval, no matter how lucky I was. It’s only now that I can wrap my brain around something like poetry. My father wasn’t poetic, he was a hidden dreamer and I think he didn’t want my heart broken by crushed dreams. All of his advice rests in my heart like a gem and to me feels like poetry. I would often get frustrated with the world as a pre-teen and Dad would sit on the edge of my bed and speak in his deep, gentle voice. “You can do anything if you work hard enough.” I’ve done that all my life, and guess what? It worked. I am the Little Engine that Could. Except for last year.

If the track is tough and the hill is rough,
THINKING you can just ain’t enough!
― Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends: The Poems and Drawings of Shel Silverstein

I couldn’t articulate my feelings, not even to myself. I had to rely on pure emotions and move in the directions they cast me. I didn’t dare say anything to coworkers. I didn’t want to ruin my reputation. I didn’t want to lose my job, though now I don’t think that could have happened. I couldn’t tell my friends. They wouldn’t trust me to watch their children or run our cub scout den. How could I talk to my husband? He wouldn’t let me watch our kids. He cares so much about me, he’d be worried to leave me alone. I had to do, not think.

But all the magic I have known
I’ve had to make myself
― Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends: The Poems and Drawings of Shel Silverstein

I didn’t know what magic I was supposed to make. I did have several very fine doctors to help me. Even though I felt isolated, I was not. During this time I was watching a good friend knit. We talked a little about knitting and she said she knew lots of men that knitted. I found this odd. She explained that as the wife of a soldier, she’s met vets that started knitting to help with brain trauma. Knitting requires both hands (both sides of the brain) , comprehension of complex patterns, and memory. I asked her to teach me, and she did. I still don’t know how much the actual knitting helped. DOING something was utterly crucial. MAKING something that was both beautiful and useful still leaves me without words. Having company calmed me. I began to realize that a lot of what I was feeling was panic. I finally was starting to put words to my feelings and think again.

It’s amazing the difference
A bit of sky can make.
― Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends: The Poems and Drawings of hel Silverstein

I gradually came back to myself. On this day, I weep with joy because I am me again. The doctors were right, about 12 months to recover. I couldn’t read his words at the time, but now I can and it’s amazing how Shel Silverstein speaks to me. I find it astounding how authors can write passages decades out of time (even centuries) from where I am and whisper directly into my ear about what I’m feeling.

Friends and family don’t fret. You each did as you were meant to. Thank you. This blog is the last of my therapy. Thinking about dad and Shel Silverstein, I leave you with this thought.

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me—
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.
― Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends: The Poems and Drawings of Shel Silverstein

Love you all!


Shel Silverstein – Where the Sidewalk Ends

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