Sunday. “It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time.” Margery Williams
The first time the kids and I went snow skiing was while we lived in Connecticut in the early ’90s. Jim had skied before in college, so he wasn’t as new to the whole experience as the rest of us. We were invited to visit some friends in their family’s Vermont ski chalet — it was great fun, and the kids made good progress each day. I, on the other hand, had to repeat the beginners’ class on Day 2, as I had not learned all that much on Day 1. Becoming comfortable on those long skinny skis on that slippery, icy bunny slope was not so simple for me, I admit it. But, here was the good part of repeating the beginner’s class: there was a different teacher on Day 2. He started out the class by learning our names (showing personal interest, with the added benefit that the rest of us learned one another’s names, giving us a sense of belonging and comradeship), and then we were instructed to get down on the snow, and he taught us tips on how to get ourselves upright again. Now that was worthwhile — and by later that afternoon, most of us had graduated to the next level (I’m glad to say that I was a part of that group!)
This morning Fanester and Joan left, returning to Atlanta. It has been good to have them here, helping us care and love Rob through this trial. The care and love will continue for a long time…. for always. But, for this immediate time of recovery, the more caring hands helping Rob, the better. Rob’s goal, of course, is to be self-sufficient. He has an optimistic mindset and seems very motivated to work with his physical therapist, gaining strength and endurance. I also hope that he will learn some strategies, just in case he finds himself falling again. Rather like a beginner skier, he will need to learn strategies and tips on living as an amputee. And, as we learn from the wise Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit — being loved and knowing you are loved can help you overcome the hard things that life throws your way.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. ”Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. ”It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ”When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. ”You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”