Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Monday afternoon, my wife and I were hiking a trail above the American River, aiming for a spot we’d seen from below all these years but never knew how to get to. There’s some kind of structure, a picnic canopy or something, on a promontory overlooking the river from what seems to be the highest point around for miles. That day we knew we’d found the trail that led to it and we were no more than a quarter mile away from the big payoff when Sue slipped on a muddy patch and fell.
Her cry as she went down was stark. I knew right away this was bad. When I ran back to her she said on an inhale, “I think I broke my arm.”
I helped her into a position where I could see what I could see, and it was clear something was wrong with her left upper arm. Nothing poking at the skin from inside, no blood or bruising, but it just didn’t look right. I sat her up and started feeling around, but I stopped the moment I felt a crunchy texture inside. That thing was busted. We worked to get her on her feet, and as soon as she was up she said her arm wasn’t connected anymore. It was just hanging there.
Three hours later, after hiking a mile and half back to the car and making our way to the hospital, we saw the x-rays. Her humerus was in two pieces, snapped like a pretzel stick, way off line too.
After a long stint in the ER, we left with her arm in an immobilizer and instructions to see a bone man in a couple of days. Sue declined pain meds, preferring to keep her wits about her, so it was a tough night.
Early the next day I got an email from an agent who’d had a full manuscript of mine for almost four months. She declined to offer representation.
A break of a different sort, but you know—considering the humerus context—I didn’t really care. I’m jaded about publishing. I admit it. My wife was in trouble and all I could think about the agent was, What else is new?
On Wednesday, the bone man fitted Sue with a much more stable splint and told her what to expect over the next couple of weeks. It won’t be pretty, but the doc wants to avoid surgery if possible so we’re going step by step. Unfortunately, Sue’s left-handed, as am I, and it’s her left arm that’s cracked, so I’m her personal writer/typist now. I’m sure this will turn out to be some of the most useful writing I’ve done in a while.
Incidents like this, sudden and shocking, always provoke a change in perspective. I’ve realized these last few days that writing is a gratifying form of expression and something of a luxury, but like so many similar pursuits it pales in comparison to the biggest things in life. Sometimes I feel grossly spoiled, bellyaching about agents and editors and gatekeepers who stand in the way of my self-defined destiny, but at times like this I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones. In fact, I love my daily existence so much that I often question whether I’d really want to swap it for the life of a successful novelist—the readings, the interviews, the compromises, the pressure. Might be better, all things considered, to be a gentleman-writer who puts out his own stuff on his own terms and keeps his eye on the much more important things that give life its real depth.
Meanwhile, Sue is taking little steps each day, and we have a long process ahead of doctor’s appointments and rehab. She’s blowing me away with her resilience and inner strength. I’m overflowing with pride for her.
Things are improving a little more each day. We’ll get there. Healing is a journey.
The best thing, only four days after the accident, is that Sue’s already laughing again. I’m laughing too, because there’s a lot to appreciate in realizing that you already have what you hoped a lifetime of writing would bring you, and much more.
Like the man said, the road to heaven is heaven.
Photo by Doctor Jana via a Creative Commons license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en).