And now, a riff on a little picture book I love, called What Can You Do With a Shoe? by Beatrice de Regniers, illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
What can you do, what can you do, what can you do with a looooong sock?
You can use it as a scarf
Or tie it on your head
You can use it as a belt
Or on a cast instead
Okay, so it’s a pretty lame tribute, but I couldn’t get the text of that book out of my head as I watched Rebeka clowning around with that long sock they always put under the cast. You can see that Rebeka got two casts today, and one of them goes alllll the way up her leg! Not only that, we also booked a tentative date for Rebeka’s first surgery, November 5th. Her doctor will operate on her left foot first, and then her right foot several weeks later.
I think this period we’ve been in, a new cast every week, has been preparing us for a much more difficult period. I am so glad we’ve taken it in baby steps. Long gone are the days of playing in the lake and watching Rebeka race on her own two feet all over the house. For six weeks now she’s been in casts and hasn’t walked. Now that she’s double-casted, Rebeka has a hard time even balancing at a sink to wash her hands. Bathing is a bigger challenge. And there are harder times to come. After surgery, she’ll go under anesthesia each week when she goes in to get casted (that’s right, she’ll go back into casts after surgery to complete the process of turning her foot.) Apparently the process is so painful, she’ll need the anesthesia. Tylenol won’t be enough (and the whole time she’s been with us, Rebeka has only asked for a pain reliever one time). Oh dear.
Part of me dreads what lies ahead. Even if it’s what she has to do to get better, it still sounds so hard. But I trust that I was prepared for what’s already come, and I’m in the process of being prepared for what lies ahead. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the past two months I’ve found myself reading or listening to three books that have been part of that preparing and adapting process. One of them, Wonder by RJ Palacio, is the story of a severely deformed boy who is put into public school for the first time in middle school.
What I’m realizing, reading it to Benji in little snatches at bedtime, is that the main character in the book has something in common with Rebeka. People stare at him all the time. I’ve watched people’s staring eyes in the store as I push Rebeka’s wheelchair. Watched her tuck her twisted right foot up under her cast to hide it. As I read this book, I gain a new perspective on what it might be like for Rebeka. Not necessarily a torment, but an ordeal that she’s dealt with her whole life. Sometimes with humor, sometimes with resignation. It’s not pleasant to be stared at, but it isn’t the end of the world, either.
Then there’s Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.
I’m listening to this on audiobook. It’s the story of a severely handicapped girl who is wheelchair bound, and can’t talk. Though Rebeka is learning English more and more every day, she is often silent, for lack of a way to communicate. I feel for her as I listen to the main character’s frustrations with lack of language. I wonder what is going on in her head.
The third book that traipsed into my life was Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza and Steve Erwin.
This is Immaculee’s story of survival and redemption as she lived through the Rwanda genocide, but I found myself drawn to the passages in the very beginning of the book, when Immaculee described everyday life with her family before the genocide. I began to imagine Rebeka coming from a very similar family. I had a very sketchy idea of what life looked like for her day to day back home, what her family dynamics were. I found it comforting and gratifying to imagine Rebeka coming from a loving, dynamic, intelligent family like Immaculee’s. I felt more connected to Rebeka’s home, her people, and what makes her tick.
But no matter how many books and prayers and preparations, there are some things I could have never been prepared for. Being soundly and repeatedly beaten at Memory.
And how I would feel when I encounter scenes like this tickle-fest that occurs on a fairly regular basis as we gather around Rebeka’s bed to pray each night.
And her smile. There is no way I could have been prepared for how her smile makes me feel. So I trust that in the future, along with the hard things, there will be unexpected surprises that will carry us along and remind us that we are truly blessed to be along on this adventure.