Caleb Potter is a young man living in Wellfleet, MA, on the outer stretches of Cape Cod. Three years ago, during a Fourth of July parade, the 25-year-old shellfisherman fell under the wheels of a truck he was skateboarding behind and suffered traumatic brain injuries. Doctors at first thought he had little chance of living. I remember during vacation in Provincetown that summer, there were signs and posters all over the Cape, asking for prayers and donations to help fund Caleb’s extensive medical care.
Caleb did survive and since his accident, has had numerous surgeries, as well as stints in various rehab units and centers that specialize in brain injured patients. He’s back living in Wellfleet, but the life he and his family once knew is gone.
Caleb’s mother Sharyn writes a blog to update her network on her son’s triumphs and set-backs. She bravely pours her heart out online, never shying away from how she’s feeling – inspired, angry, joyful, frustrated, or overwhelmed. I’ve visited her blog periodically since the accident, but her entry on May 8 broke my heart. It read, in part:
The truth remains that I am reminded on a second to second basis.. just how fragile life is.. how so many of us never felt anything could ever happen to our loved ones...and then a few of us get singled out..and life changes so radically from that point on. The truth is that in spite of moving on and getting hailed for doing "great things", I am still stuck in such an unbelievable sadness...I miss my old Caleb so very much. Caleb goes to town and everyone tells me how wonderfully he is doing..and yes, he is. But the behind the scenes goes something like this... I wake early to have just a moment of my time before the day begins with Caleb..but he is keen on my movements and my presence, and he wakes earlier than before...so there goes that moment of peace. He needs to be reminded of the most simple things each day, like changing a shirt after a shower, the most basic things..and I feel like a bitch having to bark orders at him..a brain injured person; still it all gets so old after awhile.
I am trying, struggling to find peace with this.. I am worried sick about Caleb's future...nothing that I attempt seems to come to fruition because of one road block or another...it is wearing at best.....Still I am reminded that just as you are at the lowest point, the answer comes waltzing around the corner...so I hold on, and hold on, and hold on in anticipation. These are my truths.. a mixed bag daily of small grins and big disappointments...of asking why over and over again. Now I feel more honest, and I thank you allowing it, encouraging it.
If nothing else, the story of Caleb and Sharyn and their individual and shared struggles to “find normal” serve as a reminder to me to appreciate what we have, and to savor the things that matter – our friends and family, our health, and our independence – because there’s no guarantee we’ll have them tomorrow.