Our home has always been a place of social congregation, with an open door to family and friends all hours of the day and night. Anyone who has frequented our home can attest to the fact that we encourage you to join in the chaos that has been both accidentally and on purpose, crafted to our liking. We enjoy entertaining at our home, often spur of the moment and are in love with the fact that as our children grow into adults, they feel comfortable doing the same. Since Juliana's accident we have been even more rooted to our address, opting to have people over instead of venturing out so that we could continue all of our social interaction without excluding the option for Juliana to join in. And although she was not always interested I was adamant that she would be exposed to the option. For that reason, her first ‘post-accident bedroom’ was situated in the family room, directly in the center of our house. As you can imagine, this required us to think differently how we used that space to accommodate a very different objective: healing Juliana. As the months and years have gone by the space has changed and grown to accommodate each new idea, need and desire we have for her new life. Just as we once baby proofed our home and equipped it with cribs, swings and high chairs, this new baseline was accompanied by its own set of equipment and its differently appreciated stir of excitement.
We will never know if the constant flow of people, sounds, and stimuli hurt or helped her progress but being the only choice we would entertain, we forged ahead and centered our lives both literally and figuratively, on my first born child. I believed in the magic in my home and wanted so badly to believe it would make a difference to Juli. When she came through the door on December 21st we did not see the light of familiarity automatically spring back in her eyes but we were not discouraged. Our lessons in brain injury recovery were teaching us patience and focus and appreciation for the subtle gifts. Just as we learned that you don’t arouse from a brain injury coma suddenly and completely, you also don’t arrive at your healed destination instantly or surprisingly.
The configuration of our family room began to be a living, breathing metaphor for the stage of Juliana’s recovery. The beginning months it included a hospital bed, shelving unit of medical supplies, liquid food, multiple prescriptions, and a rolling IV pole to hold and transport the bag that led to her feeding tube and lists and charts taped to every visible wall. To say we have come a long way since then is an incredible understatement. Each time the supplies, special needs, and medicines were changed or reduced the room was rearranged to move closer to our image of a normal life. But try as we might, glittery decorations and elaborate personalized bedding, a bed in a family room...especially a hospital bed continued to represent the wall between ‘before and after’. Recognizing that was disheartening to the inhabitants of this home full of stairs where all three bedrooms were not only being used, but were also located on the top floor. To leap to that next level where she could have her own room was going a significant change to her abilities and our family. After years of practice walking up stairs Juliana was finally ready to make that part of her every day in order to move to a private bedroom outside of the center of attention. Ever the tender hearted gallant brother, Dylan immediately offered his bedroom to her and has since spent every night on one couch or another so that she may feel another increment of normal.
The effect on our ordinary family room was equivalent to the cooling of boiling water. The effect on a young woman recovering from such dramatic life alteration was liberating. Gone was the need for silence throughout the main living area as she needed to sleep periodically through the day. Gone was the feeling that she was 'on display' during any social gathering at the house. Gone was the lack of privacy in her sleepy moments before bed and after slumber. Gone
was the appearance that we were dealing with a person who was ill or fragile.
Did that mean we would be able to spread out our furniture and reduce the clutter of 'stuff' that defines our hectic home? Not so much. Juliana might have been moved to a private sleeping area but I still thought of our residence as the most important therapeutic location she attended so the wheels never stopped turning on what else might take the place of that clunky and medicinal bed. The answer changed several times, just as the room continued to be rearranged in hopes of finding something productive to configure our home and reconfigure her future.
The latest change is, in my opinion the best change we have ever made. We still have not ever made our home ‘accessible’ but instead opted to make it ‘progress-able’ and the space that was once occupied by retractable bed rails now contains an craft table full of art supplies and a display board. The idea which began as a generous offer by an artist to teach Juliana how to express herself through oil painting has evolved into a replacement for days of therapy as Juliana is genuinely interested in doing something. And if I am being completely honest, my excitement about this possibility far exceeds her expressed interest but I am extremely hopeful about this hobby/potential career and I am once again counting on the power Juliana has always had over people simply by being herself. She cannot speak with as much clarity, volume and emotion as she once did but what she types in messages are full of everything that she is, was and will be. She cannot move through the house with as much ease and freedom as she once could but she can put on canvas anything that she feels the desire to express. She may not be able to take center stage socially as she once did but through this new medium she will have the opportunity to shine with all that she creates. She will do this, at least for the foreseeable future, from the center of our home in the room that has been marked and measured by every inch forward in her new life.
And so, on this brand new day, in this brand new year I want to introduce you to the thing that has attracted our focus over these last several months: Art by Juliana. Please visit the page and click on each picture which has been named by Juli based on how it made her feel or who she was creating it for. We have decided that they will be displayed by ‘Collection’ and as she works on her second collection she really, really, (no seriously REALLY) wanted me to share with all of you her first collection. These are the painting that she created as Christmas gifts for some special people in her life. She eagerly awaits your comments, will undoubtedly be planted in front of the website with ‘refresh’ beneath her finger and may even determine how interested she really becomes based on the opinion of others. How long I have hoped she would find something she wanted to do, something that would interest her and propel her toward a goal she wants to achieve. But this new daughter of mine is considering her options just as slowly as she is healing and the opinion of others carries far more weight than you could ever know. I hope this is the beginning of a whole new chapter, see the escaping possibilities of this creative creature trapped in the constraints of her injury, and pray that the shape of our home has changed to include the colors of her happiness. I will continue to believe in the magic in my life, of which Juliana cast the very first spell, while I am cloaked by the comfort of the walls that embrace it. Oh and my champagne inspired new year’s resolution: Recognize and appreciate all the gifts in my life and honorably utilize every opportunity that 2013 has to offer. (Yes, even in my own head I use too many words!) Our life has been marked and blessed with events and opportunities that movies are made of…keep your eyes open…this is just the beginning.
Art by Juliana