Every week, I go to the gym with Edivan. When I was living in Berkeley, this meant that I would wake up early (8:30am!) every Friday, roll out of bed into my shorts, walk to the gym, and wait for Edivan and his wife Laura, as they were usually ten minutes late.
After a few months, we developed a good routine: Laura would pull up to the curb and Edivan would open the door. Turn body to face the curb. Left foot down. Right foot down. Stand up straight. Don’t hold onto the door. Right foot onto the sidewalk. Left foot onto the sidewalk.
Two years ago, Edivan was attacked and beaten into a coma, suffering severe brain damage. They didn’t think he would live, but he proved them wrong. When he survived, they told him he would never walk, but he proved them wrong again. Laura tells me how Edivan had to relearn how to swallow. How crazy is that?
Sometimes I wonder what goes on in Edivan’s head, if it’s ever frustrating that he must expend so much mental and physical energy to simply step onto a sidewalk. Laura tells me stories about Edivan’s past playing semipro soccer, how he would compete and run and do backflips. These days, our most genuine celebrations might seem rather mundane to most people: “Last week at the park, Edivan jumped!” or “You should have seen Edivan today, he stood on one foot for two seconds!” I find the humor that Edivan and I share to be bittersweet, marked both with sadness about what has been lost and hope for the things to come. “Laura says I’m getting fat,” he’ll joke. “Yeah, when are you gonna get your six-pack back?” I’ll ask. “One day…”
He says that a lot: “One day.” When we watch other college students lifting weights, he’ll point at them: “One day.” “When are you going to do a backflip again Edivan?” “One day.”
Most weeks, I don’t really think about these things, about the heartbreaking trials that Edivan has gone through or the immense hope found in his progress. I don’t think about him lying in a coma or relearning how to walk and swallow or how many years it will take for him to play soccer again. Usually all I think about on Fridays is how early I have to wake up and whether or not Edivan is leaning too far to his left when he walks. But every once in awhile, I step back and really think about the man in front of me. And sometimes when I’m out and about it hits me: what a miracle it is to simply walk, breathe, and swallow, what a joy it is to be alive. But those moments fade. And eventually I get back on the eternal treadmill of to-do lists and emails and somehow creating more clutter trying to unclutter my life. I hope that one day I’ll be able to find joy in every step, to celebrate things like standing on one foot for two seconds, to be present to every one of God’s miracles. I hope one day I am as alive as Edivan is. One day.