So this year for Christmas the Hubbit ran over himself with a tractor

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Needless to say, he didn’t pick the little old Ford tractor to get run over by …

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Not this dinky early 40s model, which is the first tractor we bought when we moved out to the farmlet. (Picture taken some years back. We haven’t had any snow this year … and although I should be stressing over climate change, right now it’s working for me. I haven’t the faintest idea how to keep our driveway clear!)

… although, on consideration, that one might have been worse, because although it’s little and cute it has monster wheels designed for gripping soft stuff, like dirt, snow and the flesh of absent-minded old men. In any case, the tractor of choice for his life-altering moment of inattention was this one…

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About 3 tons of He-Power, probably more than you want rolling over your foot-leg-groin-gut-chest, although less horrifying if the tires are smoothish, like those on cars.

If I’m sounding a tad pissed off, it’s partly because this is not how this blog was supposed to go. When I started here, my goal was to entertain, with occasional detours to expound, philosophize, denounce, and share recipes. But the first seven months of this year were so fundamentally shitty that I quit writing altogether until I recognized it was my sole defense against the Black Dog, and since then it’s been one damn shitty thing after another, and now this.

Here’s what happened: The Hubbit was in the workshop getting grain into buckets to feed the cattle before he started on some tractor-related fun-on-the-farm. The tractor takes a while to warm up, so to save time he stood beside it to turn it on. It was supposed to be in neutral. He always  leaves it in neutral. Except this time.

He leaned into the tractor, pushing down the clutch pedal with one hand while he started it with the other. It roared to life, and he released the clutch. The tractor leaped forward. The big rear wheel trapped his foot, rolled up against his leg, and slammed him down onto the gravel scattered over the concrete apron at the door of the shop. It crunched over his pelvis, abdomen and shoulder, before – oh, the sweet grace of God – it rolled off him, rammed into some barrier inside the shop, and stopped.

I was in the corral, around the corner of the shop, pitching apples into a wheelbarrow to feed to the cattle. I heard him yelling. “I’m coming!” I called, starting to close the gate to the stall where the apples were so that my old horse, Vos, wouldn’t get in and eat them all and founder himself. The Hubbit kept calling.

It’s annoying, living with a deaf person. They call you, and you say “Yes?” You say, “I’m coming!” and they don’t hear. They keep calling. Sometimes it’s as though they’re not even trying to listen for an answer. Just call, call, call until you appear. Sometimes it’s so annoying that I very deliberately finish what I’m doing and take my time about going to him, refusing to be rushed.

But not this time. There was something in his voice that snatched my attention so that I left the gate swinging wide, let the apple-laden wheelbarrow tip over, ignored Vos as he shoved forward to grab what he could. I wrested the big corral gate open, hurried to the tractor – I’m too damn fat to run, but I can hurry. He was on the ground and at first I thought he’d just fallen – it happens; his knees are shot and the dogs are clumsy. But he kept calling until I was right up next to him and put my hand on him. He appeared to be bleeding from his eyes, his face was bloody and scratched. “Get an ambulance!” he wheezed.

We live 20, 30 minutes from town. While we waited I hurry-hurry-hurried inside for blankets and pillows – not much use against the cold ground – I didn’t dare move him – but better than nothing. He’d fallen below the bucket of the tractor, and I didn’t trust the hydraulics to keep it up, and even more I didn’t trust myself to raise it, so I scurried about finding random objects that I could prop under it so it wouldn’t drop and crush him. I called the Cool Dude, who called our neighbor Light Man, who arrived and then left immediately to chase down the ambulances and lead them down our private road. (They brought in a helicopter as well; it landed in Vos’ pasture, but he was too busy eating apples to care.)

And then the the bustle of people whose clothes glowed luminous orange and yellow, reassuring smiles, figuring-it-out frowns, staying out of the way, staying close enough to answer questions. A wail of pain as they lifted him, the juddering roar of the unwanted helicopter leaving, the wail of the ambulance on the road to the hospital. Cool Dude insisted on taking me in and then didn’t listen when I told him the way to the new hospital location. His battered, swollen face on the white hospital pillow. Internal bleeding that demanded a flight to a better hospital in Spokane. I came home when they took him away, took a shower, threw some clothes in a bag, fed the dogs. I put fresh bedding on the bed so it would be nice when he came home – which seemed to make sense at the time.

He has a fractured pelvis, broken ribs, a cracked scapula, and bruising, but no organ damage. The scans also revealed a lump in his throat – something unrelated to the accident – so before they released him they biopsied that, which gives us something extra to think about.

I spent the first interminable week in Spokane sitting, first in ICU then in the orthopedic ward. I kept insisting that I hadn’t married him for his looks so his brain better be okay until, to shut me up, they showed me scans that proved the wheel had missed his head. I cracked inappropriate jokes about every indignity, photographed under his hospital gown so he could see the astonishing size and purpleness of his swollen groin, nagged him to suck on one plastic tube and blow into another, coaxed him to eat, bitched when his blood sugar soared, applauded when it dropped, and, hour after hour, waited for the doctors to come.

He’s been in rehab now for a week, and the waiting continues. He can sit up, can get from his bed to his wheelchair, can use a portable commode if they get it to him in time, but it’ll be a while before he can walk. He’s on heavy doses of pain medication, so of course he also needs laxatives, and … well, suffice to say they’ve spent the past few days figuring out how much of those he needs and how long they take to work. I’d like to think that next time the need for laxatives arises they’ll be in less of a hurry for them to work before they wallop him with an extra dose, but since the people giving the laxatives aren’t the people cleaning up when they do what they’re meant to do, that’s by no means certain.

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The Hubbit’s little princesses, Patchee and Ntombi, are learning to make do with me. Today I took them to visit him for the first time. Ntombi was most interested in befriending the man in the other bed, whose wife had brought snacks, but Patchee trembled and lay down under the Hubbit’s wheelchair, and when it was time to leave she begged me to let her stay.

I visit him for an hour or two most afternoons. Usually I take a dog or two. Sometimes we chat; sometimes we seem to have said everything we will ever have to say to each other. They put him through an array of tests when he arrived and, for the first time in his life, he didn’t ace the cognition test. His world has shrunk; it encompasses his pain scale, his physical therapy exercises, his carb intake, his blood sugar count, his bowels. He has a pile of books that he doesn’t read. For the first time in as long as I’ve known him he watches television. I’ve bought him a Lumosity subscription for Christmas, and when he’s dull and spacey I release my inner bitch and pick fights with him over his failure to despise that asshole in the White House as comprehensively or intensely as I do. (Sometimes it takes a poke with a sharp stick – or the verbal equivalent – to send a good surge of oxygen-laden red blood cells shooting brainwards. One does one’s wifely best.)

My world is misshapen and discombobulated, and to find my way around it I’m redefining the boundaries of what matters, and excising everything else with a sharp and ruthless blade. Some days I look at the weeks or months ahead and blaze with a kind of excitement – this is a shake-up, an opportunity to change, to renew our marriage, our life, ourselves. I’m acutely conscious of God’s grace, and hungry to draw close to Him. I make lists of the things I can make better, develop strategies for personal growth and home improvements. Other days I drag myself out of bed and put one foot in front of the other until it’s bedtime again, and then sometimes I can sleep.

Let’s talk. Have you had periods in your life when every time you thought things were as bad as they could be they got worse? How did you cope?

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About Belladonna Took

Into my second half-century and still trying to figure out what to be when I grow up. Born South African, naturalized American, at constant risk of losing my balance and landing ass-first in the Atlantic. A wife, a mom, a daughter and sister, kind of a grandma. Until recently a full-time dog rescuer, now more concerned with rescuing myself. User of dog hair as accessory, decor and garnish. Technical writer, strategic thinker, occasional entrepreneur. Voiceless poet and storyteller. Born again Christ-follower and former missionary schoolteacher chewing on some uncomfortable questions. Ignorer of rules, challenger of assumptions, believer in miracles. Skeptical libertarian, equal opportunity despiser of politicians and assholes. Gonnabe gardener, wannabe beekeeper, Monsanto-hating tree-hugger. Morbidly obese chocaholic, with a horse I don't ride because I might break him, and if not he would probably break me.

27 responses »

  1. Oh, what a thing to happen. I hope his recovery is total and quick, and that the lump in his throat is benign and easily dealt with. And that you get to feel less stressed, too, from this heartache.

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  2. OH! I am so sorry for all Jim and you are enduring with this terrible accident. I am praying for you both and asking Him, whose birth we celebrate, to bless you with strength, healing and peace. Please keep us informed!

    Love,

    Karen

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    • Thank you, my friend. You have his phone number and email, I believe? He has his phone and would LOVE to hear from you and Kappie. I’ve been feeling bad that I didn’t let you know about this right away – we’d have welcomed your prayers and the words of encouragement I know you’d have sent – but it’s been a distracted time, to say the least.

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  3. I can’t imagine what kind of nightmares this has produced for both of you. I’ve had some rough times in my life (self induced) and been in some terribly rough spots. I always clung to the though that things could always be worse. For me, it has always been about adjusting. Adjusting to my circumstances and using the tools I had available to keep moving forward. love, susan

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    • Yeah, that “it could have been so much worse” has kept me going lately too. I still don’t know how the wheel missed his head. I mean, it’s a hard head … but probably not up to bearing a 3-ton weight…

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  4. If you need to talk. I’m here.

    I went through what I called our year of death, birth, and death. It was actually longer, but I like the sound of it. It felt that compacted and yet it was also drawn out in agonizing detail. Time has a weird way of stretching the worst parts to last longer than necessary and yet, looking back, the year went by so fast I could only wish I had the time back. To do it over. To do better.

    You will never get all of your time right. You can’t always make good choices. Sometimes, it’s a choice between bad and worse. Or, as my husband would say, “It’s between being shot or stabbed.” There will be moments of inappropriate humor. Blunt and painful truths. Hateful moments of dread and avoidance. There will also be love and sharp-edged fear of loss and longing. You will wish it all over with and you will feel like it is taking for ever. But, it’s like war, there is no going around it, you can only go through the trenches to get to the other side. Be brave when you don’t feel you can. And gather your people close. That’s what they are there for.

    Also, I’m listening to the Instrumental Guitar version of “That’s Christmas to Me” and it makes a poignant backdrop to reading your story. I’ve been fighting back tears remembering how hard that time was for me and feeling so very sorry that you are going through a similar trial. Let’s hope you have much better days to look forward to.

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    • Kiri, thank you. I’ll find you on Skype, I’m sure. What you say about the changing shape of time is so true. I feel as though so much time has passed since this happened, yet what have I done with it, apart from sit around making stupid jokes in between feeding critters? I feel as though I should treat the time I have, while he’s in rehab, as a gift – there’s stuff I can do that will make him so happy when he comes home – but I open my eyes in the morning, spin around a few times, and when I’m ready to close them at night nothing has happened. I wish so much my Girl Child could be here … but that’s a story for another post… I am very blessed in the people I do have around me.

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  5. I don’t have it in me to answer your questions at the moment, but I’m thinking on them. And, in the meantime, wanted to wish you a love-filled Christmas; your parting words here have added to the quality of mine, thanks. ❤️

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    • Hey, ABM, thanks for stopping by. He’s making progress, but oh my word it’s slow! We learned yesterday that he likely won’t be home until March. I’m taking care of me, using the time to do some projects that are hard to get to while he’s home (the man does NOT like change!) But sometimes the best I can do in terms of taking care of me is just to have a good long cry, and nobody has time for a lot of that.

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  6. Sending love and as much support as I can squeeze into a comment box. I’ll second what Adoptive Black Mom says: Remember to take care of yourself as well. And if that seems selfish, think of it as a very practical way of taking care of him.

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    • Bless you, Ellen – these comment boxes hold a lot more than we sometimes realize, I think… 🙂 And as I told ABM, I’m taking care of myself – even when that means telling him, “Sorry, honey, but I’m not visiting you today.” So long as friends keep coming by to visit him we’ll be fine.

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    • That “like” button, wherever one finds it, is so … ugh … lacking in nuance. On the other hand now that FB offers me an array of options, from “heart” to “crying face”, that somehow doesn’t improve the nuance. What one needs is an ear icon, for “I hear ya”. Writing all this stuff, mainly I want my yawp to be heard. Thank you for hearing me… 🙂

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  7. OMG Val! I confess that when notification of this post landed in my inbox, I could not open it to read. We had just had news of yet another sudden death of a relatively young man in our circle in the village. He choked. Literally.

    I am so sorry to hear this. What agony for Mr Took and for you.

    I hope that you were able to count some blessings this Christmas. You have really had such a crap year. Actually, few of us have had good ones. I can’t wait to see the back of it.

    Here’s to your health, Mr Took’s recovery and a much better 2019 for us all.

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    • I’m so sorry, Fiona. The relentless waves of tuff stuff can threaten to overwhelm. How horrible, what happened to that young man … It has to be one of the worst things to happen to one.

      And yeah, I’ll raise my glass to your wishes for a better 2019 for all of us.

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  8. Oh my, I am so sorry that Hobbit is this hurt, but relieved that he is recovering! I hope his recovery is quicker then expected. Also, I have to say, I love that the dogs are allowed to visit! I suspect they help brighten many people’s days.

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    • Hi, MPB … Well, we’ve just learned that he’s likely to be in rehab until late March, not late January. But the point is,he WILL come home, and they’re confident that they can whip him into shape before he does so…:) Thank you for the good wishes. And yes to what you say re the dogs … If I were in his situation I think I would have to insist on keeping my boy with me. I don’t do well without his sweet furry face poking up against mine (as often as not trying to push a wet tennis ball into my ear).

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  9. To answer your question….Yes, things ‘always get worse’ for me. How do I ‘cope’?? Well, it’s ‘not’ that I don’t “Cope” but rather, I’m so used to the way things are and have been, that I just assume things worsen- and often they do. Hope you have good things ahead for new year…. nice blog

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    • Thanks for the compliment and for taking the time to comment, 16eparis. The Hubbit’s life philosophy is similar to yours. He used to tell me (until I whacked him with a frying pan) “If you don’t expect anything you won’t be disappointed.” I find that worldview intolerably pessimistic … I would jump into a slough of despond and wallow there forever if I believed it. Don’t you think maybe expecting things to get worse kinda makes it more likely that that’s what you’ll be left with? I mean, in that if you’re expecting bad, and good comes, you won’t believe it’ll last, so you’ll stare gloomily at it until it slinks away, and then you’ll go, “Yeah, I knew it couldn’t last” – and you’ll never have enjoyed it! What do you think?

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  10. Pingback: There’s a black hole in my pocket | American Soustannie

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