IN THE MOVIE Apollo 13, there’s a scene when the astronauts are stranded on the far side of the moon. The troubleshooters in Houston’s Mission Control dump duct tape and wire and hoses and empty boxes onto a table, making a pile of everything in the spaceship. Their task, using nothing but what is on the table, is to invent a way to bring the astronauts safely home.
When Martin is hurt, everything we have—Sarah’s energy and independence, my anxiousness and compulsive note-taking, Tom’s impatience and his many questions, Martin’s stubbornness and his crazy-making slowness—is there in the pile in front of us.
We just need to find new uses for a few old parts.
Some of our obstacles suggest new paths. When the hospital’s occupational therapist says she can’t help, we find Chita. When we can’t rent our little house with the ticking time bomb tenant, we make a safe place for Martin to live.
After a small stroke, my mother keeps forgetting to wear her emergency call necklace and refuses the walker that helps keep her balance. I tell Martin my worries, and he says, “You know you can’t keep her safe.” His words help me. If I can’t solve every problem, I can at least accept uncertainty as a given in my life.
We work with what we are given. Tom and Sarah and I cannot rescue one another. No longer looking for rescue, I find them beside me, sharing the journey.
I keep climbing out of fears that beset me, learning to take things as they come.
I AM DREADING the accident’s first anniversary, Martin, back at Harvard, calls to say he is hosting a party that evening. He celebrates his survival. So do we.