Friday, February 22, 2008

Smile, I'll pay for the cracks!

Yesterday Mike came home from the hospital. At only 45 years, Michael already seems like an old man. In a sense, he always has. He moves excruciatingly slowly, with a awkward sideways gait; he speaks quietly and slowly, carefully deliberating on every word; he enjoys an old time fiddle tune and a nap in the easy chair; he keeps his grey hair short and tidy and likes to dress up and treat the ladies to a drink.

But Mike got even older in a hurry back in December, his deteriorating hips all of a sudden failing him, pneumonia refusing to let go its grip, sleep overtaking him between bites of lunch. Then falls during the night, even seizures and mini-strokes. He went by ambulance to the hospital on January 5th and most of us were pretty sure he was leaving for the last time.

We sat vigil by his bedside in the hospital for weeks as he underwent test after test, unable to eat or talk or even wake up, his respirations dropping to five or six a minute at times. We prepared ourselves and everyone in the community for what we felt was coming.

But what was coming wasn't what we expected. Michael slowly began to gain ground, first trying to talk a little, then laugh, then eat, and finally even hold our arms and walk around. So then the fight was on to convince the people with power that Mike should come home, that we could, and wanted to, manage his care. That this was where he belonged.

It was a long slow process that culminated yesterday with his return. When I walked into the house to visit him after he arrived I wasn't prepared for my own reaction. This joy and jubilation just bubbled out of me and I had trouble stopping the tears from flowing. He sat there at the dining room table, ears sticking out, with a smile that threatened to split has face in two. You would be hard pressed to find two happier people.

And so I am again reminded of the incredible strength of the weak, the power of those we think are powerless. Michael, this slow, stubborn man with Down Syndrome, can stir emotions in me that very few can. He can convince me that life is rich, that love can heal, that God exists. He can work miracles.

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