Friends, I implore: Try really, really, REALLY hard not to get run over by a truck at work because the runaround you’re given by insurance carriers and billing agents even years post-accident will exhaust your wife to the point that she’s left little more than an enraged, cursing like a sailor, hollow shell of her former wise-cracking self.
Sometimes just putting it in writing and tossing it out to the universe is enough to rattle my cage of rage and move on.
You though? I hope you are having a marvelous Monday. For reals. I hope the sun is literally or metaphorically shining upon you and that people you call and email to help arrange medical care have the common courtesy to return those contact attempts. (OK, that last part might be a wee bit personal and specific to me and may suggest just a tiny bit that I’m not completely ready to move on, but as it’s been famously said, tomorrow is another day–a whole twenty-four hours ripe with the possibility of a return call or email–the anticipation is simply killing me.)
I got biffed by a pitcher yesterday, and long story short, I called in sick today.
Let me explain: Under Sunday’s picture-perfect, clear, sunny sky my husband and I met one of his brothers and his lovely, talented, brilliant, funny wife for brunch. Not that his brother’s not lovely or talented, you understand, but it just flows better describing her. Mark, you’re the best. And the luckiest. I digress. . .
We rarely go for brunch, so the al fresco meal and cocktails (because it’s legit to drink alcohol at brunch, you guys!) made for an ideal Sunday. And then one of the servers lost her grip on a carafe. From what I gathered, the pitcher bounced off a support post and into my shoulder before hitting the ground. I only got a little wet, so no biggie, and this poor server was horrified. I felt for her, I did, because it’s something I totally could see myself doing. And with my son now working in food service, I would want patrons to be kind to him in the event of a mishap. Also, I’m pretty nice just overall. I said it was no big thing, told her it was OK she didn’t hug me (she said she wanted to), and she comped my meal, so yay, free shrimp and grits.
Later yesterday, the Bloody Mary wore off and my shoulder began to throb. I was all, “No. You can’t seriously be in pain from that. You cannot seriously be to the point of ibuprofen and distraction.” But of course it turned out that I could 100% be to the point of ibuprofen and distraction. I barely slept last night, which probably I owe as much to the WTF is happening to me in my old age? incredulity as the physical discomfort. But mostly I think it’s the WTF is happening to me in my old age? I can be fierce and feel badass; alternately I can be annihilated by a beverage receptacle. If you’re wondering just what special kind of luck or talent it takes to get injured while dining, it’s exactly my kind of luck.
Welcome to 54, the age at which I feel just comfortable enough calling into work because I need a nap.
But of course, I won’t take that nap because I’m old enough to need it but not old enough to sleep during the daylight. I’ve already made tomorrow night’s dinner (white bean chili, so much yum) and tossed in a load of laundry because I feel guilty not being at work, so I’m compensating or some such nonsense by being industrious at home.
For the first time since my baby started high school, I watched the kids get in the car and drive off to school together this morning, and that made my breath hitch. My senior drives them to school. I have a high school senior. I have a high school sophomore. When did that happen? How did I get to be “I can retire after next school year” years old?? How did THAT happen?
At least hourly while I’m at work, I find myself checking in on the district’s COVID dashboard, hoping, hoping, hoping not to see cases reported at their school. My children need to be in school. I want them in school, so I find myself checking the COVID report with alarming (read OCD-like) regularity. The district has a formula for determining when enough COVID cases necessitate a move to “flexible scheduling,” and so far, my kids’ school remains fully open for in-person teaching and learning. And Radio and Drumline and Football. Thank stars. I was stunned to learn that many more colleagues than I’d expected around the district don’t want to be teaching in person and that some even refer to the pandemic as “the alleged COVID thing.” This is a subject for another day however. Actually it’s a subject I’ll probably let fester about.
Today though? Today is about delicious breakfast leftovers, an embarrassingly sore and aging shoulder, and visions of my not-babies heading off to school. *sniff*
Probably it’s better for the district that I’m out today because the seven computer mouse clicks and four minutes I spend daily on monitoring COVID closures really takes away from my productivity, so I’m doing them a favor. Nevermind that I never actually step away from my desk for my alleged “duty-free lunch” and that I answer texts/calls/emails before and after hours AND that I’m still super pissed that they docked me thousands of dollars when they disallowed my sick time use after my husband’s accident. Yep, still bitter about that. Y’all, I really know how to hold onto a grudge. Which reminds me–I have to forward the latest bill for my husband’s treatment to the Workers’ Compensation Insurer, because somehow, the hospital system cannot be made to understand that I’m not shelling out one thin dime for my husband’s post-accident care. Maybe I need some work on that holding a grudge thing. . .
If you’ve read this far, you’re likely wondering if that carafe had actually hit me in the head and not my shoulder. I’m a little all over the place, OK, a little more all over the place than usual. But I’m really tired, which is the whole reason behind even being able to ramble on here! Let’s be honest though–you don’t read my stream-of-consciousness blather for its linear, snap-crease narrative precision, do ya? Come on, we both know better than to expect better from me!
I think to me it’ll always feel like yesterday, but more than two years have passed since my husband’s near-fatal accident. There is not enough space on the internet for me to detail how distinctly un-fun and completely dispiriting I find working with the insurance carrier. “Working” is not the verb that captures our relationship, in fact it’s the diametric opposite. But whatever. You know what I mean.
Eleven months have elapsed since his facial reconstruction surgery, and after receiving non-answer upon non-answer upon straight-up ignore in response to our questions about continued treatment, finally and IN WRITING we received confirmation that he can receive Botox treatment to address the facial asymmetry resulting from the paralysis. Synkinesis is the word we were given to describe the faulty healing that occurred in his face. Just another in a long list of vocabulary words I never wanted to have to learn. . .
Synkinesis is involuntary facial movement that occurs with the voluntary movement of a different facial muscle group. As an example, but not precisely indicative of his particular mis-healing, synkinesis occurs when one smiles, and their eye crunches up or when one closes their eyes and their nose twitches. Get it? Remarkably, his facial nerves knitted new pathways after having been smashed and severed on the right side of his face, but they didn’t retrace the entirely correct pathway. It appears strange on the screen, “faulty healing,” but that is an accurate representation. His nerves regenerated and made connections, but the nerves didn’t all connect to the spots nature had originally intended.
(I believe) he’d waffled on having the Botox injections done as a direct result of those remotely-humanoid-appearing women of a certain age over-lifted and duckbill-plumped Real Housewives types. Plus, he’s a dude who worked in the trades. So, between indecision and insurance, honestly? It slipped my mind until yesterday when he mentioned today’s appointment.
“Hope your appointment goes smoothly,” I called to my husband as he scurried off to work this morning. I paused for the briefest of moments, realizing my ridiculous choice of words. I’m mild-to-moderately embarrassed to admit that I cackled, not real quietly (also, I hadn’t gotten dressed yet and may or may not have even brushed my teeth by then. All this is to explain that I was still a wee bit tired and easily amused. Ah, what an accidental comic I am!).
“Smoothly. Get it? Smooth?? Botox will make your face smooth again. Byeeeeeeeeeee.” It’s a wonder the man didn’t sprint right out of our bedroom. I mean, who would blame him??
Yesterday was my boys’ first day of in-person school since March 13, 2020. Sunday morning my older son rose before dawn to join fellow Husky classmates at the literal dawn of their senior year. I can’t think of a sweeter metaphor for a big beginning such as the kick-off of senior year than watching the sun break the plane of dawn. Prior to last summer, I’d never made the point to do that, to watch day break over the waters of our very own Great Lake, and I’m glad my big kid did not wait as long as his mama did. He did not regret his decision, and you can see below why I haven’t either.
Upon returning home, both kids animatedly reported to my husband and me their first day play-by-plays, and the general consensus was this: Theirs were good first days. Really, really good first days.
Eating dinner as a family of four is an increasingly rare occurrence as our sons have gotten older, engaging in activities and taking on responsibilities outside our home. Big kid DID get the job, and is working three to four evening shifts per week. He is enjoying his work, his workmates, and the CASH he’s earning! I do believe he physically sat up straighter after his first shift–I radiated bearing witness to his pride in a day of good, hard work. In addition to the older kid’s job, the younger kid has begun football practice. I’m ravenous by our late dinner time, and lately, I feel we have been a snacky, grab ‘n go family instead of a sit-down at the dining room table for the meat and potatoes meal foursome.
The first day of school merited a meat and potatoes kind of night. Shortly after digging in, my younger announces to the family that he’s brought home some extra laundry from football practice. Of course, I’m all, “Oh shoot, was I supposed to wash the jersey you wore for the scrimmage Friday night?” He’d returned his practice gear to school that morning, so my mind immediately leapt to what I’d missed, thinking he’d brought it back home, and that I needed to get my Oxi-Clean game on STAT.
Instead, from his pocket he sneaks out a gold-colored shirt, saying that his coach had given it to him to recognize his play in Friday night’s scrimmage. He referred to it as the “Dark Side” shirt, given to him because he played hard, so hard that his dark side came through (probably not his exact words, but I was already tearing up, so I may have missed something). I can’t define it more clearly, but it sounded to me like his coach thought that my baby had shown in that scrimmage another side of himself as a football player, maybe dug deeper, demonstrated a game-sense he’d not yet shown in practice.
My little one says the word is he can wear the jersey or keep it in his pocket. He’s decided to keep it in his pocket, keeping himself humble.
There are a hundred thousand ways to question your parental decision-making, a million more to second-guess and envision other scenarios about your coulda/shoulda/wouldas. Not this time. Not with this kid. He is a better human than I could even dream to be.
The “making up what kids have lost academically during the pandemic—they’re behind!” rhetoric being spewed as schools reopen this month is exhausting me. Maybe instead we celebrate that children emerged from an unprecedented lockdown mostly emotionally intact, how about that? I can’t bear the thought that my kids’ continued physical attendance in school isn’t a for-sure. Day One was exceptional, and I’m bursting with pride and joy. Let’s make sure there’s a Day Three, a Day Forty-two, a Day One Hundred Seventy-nine.
If you had told me in January of 2015 that in six years, my son would be applying for a summer job, I’d have been flabbergasted. Every so often I’m reminded of what I consider the “early diagnosis” days. I don’t know what I saw in my son’s future, but I do know that I didn’t think it particularly bright in terms of mobility. My heart broke for him, and my view was a glass half-empty future for my kid. Everything changed that day.
But. Six and one-half years already have passed. My son isn’t an elementary school student; he is heading into his senior year of high school. He’s achieved some benchmark life events unimaginable to me back in those early days: he plays in a competition drumline, he is a member of a calypso steel pan ensemble (and let’s face it, there just aren’t that many kids who can say that), he got his driver’s license, he grew his hair rock star long, and subsequently lopped off those rockin’ locks.
Next in the progression from high school couch potato to productive member of society comes the summer job. As industrious as I am as a real adult person, my parents too shoved me into the abyss of the world of work my senior year. I recall, not proudly, high school summer days that I slept til the early afternoon. It takes a special kind of sloth to sleep through the noon airing of Days of Our Lives, but hey, at least I made it to vertical to catch General Hospital, which aired here at 2:00 PM. I was positively petrified to work. Not OF work, but TO work. The prospect of a job interview and working with people I didn’t know was paralyzing. I now recognize that fear as not-sloth but anxiousness, but I am certain sloth was my parents’ perception.
Recently we met with friends whose son is off to college in fall. Their son is as eager as ours to leap in to the pool of wage-earners, which is to say not much at all, and Sean put it into words perfectly: You don’t need a job because you need money, you need a job so you can learn how to work. THIS. I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have repeated that since dinner that evening. And by the way, who flambés Bananas Foster on a quick “let’s hang out tonight” basis? Jane. Jane does.
At present, the service industry is suffering badly from a diminished workforce. If you’ve ventured back into the post-quarantine world of dining out and shopping, you’ve likely seen “Help Wanted” signs posted in the windows and on doors of retail and bar/restaurant establishments. Our school district sent email upon email with links for kids to explore local job opportunities. We were hopeful our son would become, shall we say, one such explorer?
The boy can procrastinate like it’s his job (yeah, I know. . . sorry about that particular turn of phrase here), but blah, blah, blah, long story short, my kid had a job interview last week. I work with students my son’s age in speech-language therapy. While many high schoolers think having to go to Speech therapy in high school is super lame (read: they ditch unless you take great care to build relationships with them, working on concepts they view relevant and important or meaningful to them), they almost all tune into therapy activities involving language and social skills needed for the world of work. There is so much nuanced language and social communication required for applications and interviews alone, so it’s therapy time well spent.
SLP mama here worked with her boy to practice interview questions and answers. I don’t know why this surprised me, but my kid looked at me like I was magical when he discovered I actually knew what the hell I was talking about! Nevermind that I have interviewed SLP candidates for jobs in our district for almost twenty years now, so I am PRACTICED when it comes to interview behavior on both sides of the table. . . I think it was a window into his mom as an actual person who knows actual things that threw him so. Anyway, I thought he was as ready as he’d be as did my son, and off he went. During the post-interview interview interrogation with his dad and me, he reported feeling that the interview had gone well.
To my understanding, it is not legal to ask a job candidate if he or she has a disability, but we did tell our son that it might come up indirectly. There are some quite real physical limitations inherent in a muscular dystrophy diagnosis, and it’s also required that one be truthful in a job interview. He thinks so rarely about MD that he says he sometimes forgets he has it. I guess when you don’t know life any other way, you just plow through, right? He’s never known the ease of fluid movement or tremendous strength, so you don’t miss what you never had. Something like that.
His practice answers made me cry. He was forthright and direct: here’s what the disease is and what it means, and suggested possible easy accommodations and strategies. I do not know exactly what he disclosed in the interview, and I’m not going to beat him over the head about it. He did speak about both the interview and MD with his friends in the days leading up, and the very fact that he even mentioned it says how much it had to have been on his mind. Teenagers aren’t known for their top-notch decision-making skills under the best, most comfortable of circumstances–I’m going to hope he said or did what felt right and good and safe for him.
My husband and I walked the dog that evening, chatting about our kid’s big first. The job sounds like a nice fit, and I asked if my husband thought our son would land it. He said that he thought he would if he played the MD card. Ugh. Really?? Who would choose that card if they weren’t dealt it? No one. No one would select degenerative neuromuscular disease over no degenerative neuromuscular disease, and no one would want to “play” it. My kid just wants to shut us up, earn a couple bucks, and dip his toes into the world of what comes next. I’m not even hammering on him to check his email every 10 minutes or so. He is supposed to hear back in the next week or so, once he clears the criminal background check (background check???). My fingers are all kinds of crossed. For the job offer, not the criminal background check thing! As guileless as they come, that one is.
As he gets older, my son has to face and make more and more mature, complex decisions. And more and more I realize that my story to tell is nearing its end. Everything changed that day. For me. Not for him.
Apparently hiking the perimeter of Geneva Lake has become an annual event for my husband, so it’s an event for me as well. It’s not a mountain climb in terms of vertical feet; in fact, it’s a fairly flat, even path. It’s just that it’s so long, between 22-23 miles depending on your source, and you don’t exactly plan for anaphylaxis, you know?
The Lady In The White Mansion
Six of us began our lap at 8:00 AM. The day could not have been more pristine, more perfect. The sun shone in a cloudless sky, a light breeze kicked off the lake, and we came prepared this year. I’d packed band-aids and ointments, hydrocortisone and capsaicin creams, ibuprofen, Tylenol, AND migraine meds, along with first aid tape and scissors. We brought a stash of water, energy bars, granola bars sufficient to fortify the six of us through lunch. We were GOOD.
But then we weren’t. We were not good at all. About six or so miles in, my husband ate a blueberry Larabar. I’d read the ingredients list for the lemon Larabars, so warned him off the bars in the yellow package. He has a nut allergy, and energy bars aren’t usually on our grocery list, but I selected bars that didn’t have nuts in their names. Don’t ask me why I noticed the nuts in one and not the other, but there it is. He neglected to read the ingredients himself, and soon after eating the snack in the blue wrapper, went into anaphylaxis.
As we continued, I asked how he was doing, like as Joey from the show Friends would ask, “How YOU doin’?” My husband quietly replied that he’d tell me later. I cracked back, “But what if I want to know now?” thinking I was being cute, and he then admitted that he was having a bad allergic reaction, and didn’t quite know how he was, in fact.
Naturally I felt 100% at fault. I tried to assess the situation logically, and develop a plan, if that’s even a possible thing at this point, a “plan”. . . Other family members had coordinated meeting up with us walkers for lunch at the halfway point, so I dialed up one bro- and sis-in-law, pleading with them to purchase some Benadryl as quickly as they could, and drive in our general direction. And they did. Minutes later, we encountered a lake resident, a woman overseeing installation of her pier, and I interrupted her awkwardly and desperately, inquiring if she had Benadryl he could have.
She did, and invited me to her home (about 200 yards up the hill) to get the medicine. I am sure I began to act frantically now that I knew we were close to at least some immediate relief for him, and as we walked up to her home, my brother-in-law called to say they were on their way. I explained to him that this incredibly kind lady had agreed to give us a few Benadryl pills, and for the moment we were likely going to be OK. She overheard me say that my husband had unknowingly ingested nuts, and she put the pedal to the metal. Maybe in response to my (I’m sure obvious desperation trying not to freak out) comments to my brother-in-law, she and I raced up to her home, two doggies at her heels, to get those pills.
I hesitated to enter her home, feeling like a terrible intruder, sweated up and grubby to boot, but she warmly invited me in while my tears began to fall. How could I let this happen? How could I not have noticed? She dashed to her medicine cabinet and returned with the goods, then volunteered both bottled water and a ride back to the shore via her golf cart (yep, that’s how far up her home was from the shore, and how willing she was to help). I declined both, now clearly desperate to get that medicine in my husband’s bloodstream, and ran back down the hill. Before I left her, I thanked her profusely and sincerely (at least I hope that was the message she received). I mumbled something about if not for stupid COVID, I’d have hugged her and how much I appreciated her doing what she did, opening up her home to some random woman passing by during a pandemic.
I wondered what she thought of our brief time together after the fact. I wish I knew her address because I owe her a thank you letter. I hope that if when we hike the perimeter again next year, I recognize her house and have the chance to thank her personally. I thought she probably has some story to tell her friends and family given my dramatic performance, and I hope she knows she did something truly good that Monday.
May I Use Your Bathroom Please?
An effect of anaphylaxis is internal distress, and by distress I refer to nausea and intestinal, ummm, uncertainty. You probably think that the severity of my husband’s allergic reaction meant an end to our trek around the lake. OH NOOOOO, not my husband–if a little thing like massive trauma and nearly dying after being run over by a truck didn’t stop him, you can bet that something so inconsequential as this silly little allergic reaction wasn’t going to stop him either.
We did lose track of him for awhile, which you may think is impossible and perhaps even irresponsible. Like, Wendy, you nearly murdered him with cashews and you can’t even keep eyes on him? Yep. In his quest to reach the restaurant we were to meet the rest of the family and avail himself to their facilities, he walked so far ahead of us, we lost sight of him in the crowd. My brother-in-law says I worry too much, but when you literally lose an adult, you wonder about your ability to take care of your shit. My relief at being reunified with him was a living, breathing creature, I swear.
A visit to the restaurant restroom, a tiny little lunch, and two more Benadryl down the hatch, and we were off for the second half. He could breathe, though was swollen, itchy, red and rashy, but I knew like I knew my name he was not going to end his quest. One of our six had called it a day at the halfway mark (still an incredible feat, mind you!), so the remaining five of us sallied forth.
There are few restaurants or public parks along the shore path, so in terms of food, drink, and potty stops, you’re limited. During the week, many homes are vacant, so you actually see very few people around the lake. Should nature call, the guys could find woods or sneak behind a tree for the most part, but for us girls and those of us whose bodies are trying to rid themselves of toxins, public facilities are scarce. I could detail how uncomfortable he was, but that’s my hubby’s story to tell, not mine. Suffice to say that it takes real nerve to approach a random stranger tending to the gardens outside her home, and ask to use her bathroom. He did. She said yes. Hero #2 of the day, that one.
Need a Ride?
Shortly after the bathroom incident, another of the group decided he’d had enough. To be more accurate, I guess it’s fair to say his back decided he had had enough. As we had processed out of Lake Geneva proper earlier, I said to him that we were kind of at a point of no return, meaning he was committed til just shortly before the bitter end (another ten miles or so), so he better be committed. . . Well, I was right and I was wrong. It wasn’t easy, but he continued for some time until he happened upon Good Samaritan #3 du jour. A motorist offered my bro-in-law a ride back up to the main highway from the shore–turned out to be an almost three mile drive! He was delivered to a local pub where he waited for his personal Uber driver, his sister. It didn’t seem like hitchhiking, but I guess that is exactly what he did. Not a scary, crazed potential axe murderer to be found, just another kind soul, understanding of the toll that shore path can exact.
Monday was a good day for humanity.
The Finish Line
Ten hours after beginning, sidetracked by lunch, allergy, and injury, four of us crossed our imaginary finish line. I felt so accomplished! My husband told me I looked strong, and I felt it. “Nearly murdering you,” I said, “was motivation enough to get to the checkered flag with you. There’s a responsibility there, you know?” Though my hips, ankles, knees, and brain were numb, it was a good-numb. Something like that anyway.
The moral of the story is to read carefully. Or maybe the moral of the story is to be kind. You pick. Monday provided several examples of people doing the right thing because, for no other reason, it was the right thing to do. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers, there’s no other way to say that. I thank you all, strangers and family, for your role in getting us there, to the start/finish. Overlooking the lake from any vantage point, you can’t help but marvel at its size. It’s. So. Dang. Big. I must be nuts to have done this. Again.
Knock before entering. It’s a rule of polite society. There are even pre-printed signs indicating the preferred practice.
Before we nodded off into blissful slumber last night, my husband and I had lain in bed reading. My Number One Son came barging in, saying because he wasn’t sure we were still awake, he didn’t want to knock. You know, in case the knock would have woken us up.
“You always knock!” I replied. “That’s what we’ve taught you to do. I respect your privacy in the same way. I don’t enter your room without knocking first, do I?”
“But I really didn’t want to wake you up if you were sleeping.” (Which, OK, I’ll concede, was a demonstration of good judgment, yes.)
“What if we were doing it?”
“WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT?”
We weren’t. And I’m sure the boy had never even suspected it might be the remotest of possibilities in that moment. Or ever. I can only imagine the million thoughts racing through his mind in the few seconds before he replied. But I can tell you for sure his face screamed horror.
(I. Am. Dying. Laughing.)
He continued, stammering, “Now it’s all I can think of. I can’t. Uh. . . Now, oh my god, I just. . .”
“I bet you’ll knock NEXT TIME though, won’t you?”
He hung around for a couple minutes more, all of us chatting about the issue he actually came to us about in the first place, and him in particular working overtime to un-imagine the conversation and imagery that had just transpired. Me? I could NOT hide the stupid grin that refused to be stifled.
Me to my younger son, as he’s getting dressed for his baseball game: I just love your school colors!
My son: Not exactly a vacant stare, but not exactly a look of accord.
Me: Do you know what color this is?
Son: I know it’s either blue or purple.
Me: It’s the best shade of royal blue. Come here once, let me show you something.
Me: Take a look at this tile in the kitchen backsplash. What color is the outside square?
Son: It looks blue to me.
Me: It is. What about the inside square?
Son: Pink or red maybe? There’s no way that’s purple.
Me: Yep. It’s purple.
In the grand scheme of things that can be obstacles, but aren’t precisely devastating, among them is color blindness. It’s not going to hurt him physically (unless he decides maybe to try his hand at electricity), but sometimes I see what he can’t. There is beauty in the most everyday of scenes.
I think when they, whoever “they” were, drafted the wedding vows that have become pretty much today’s standardized script, instead of saying “for better or for worse,” the pairing should have been led with worse, as in “for worse or for better.” They do the sickness before health part in the vows, so they shoulda gone for consistency.
Leading with “for worse,” it just sounds more serious, like probably you should pay more attention to Item A than you do Item B as your wedding officiant goes through the spiel. It’s more in your face, right? Oooh, worse? I mean, that’s something I should really lock down. Sticking with anything when it’s better? That’s easy. It’s the when it’s worse part that requires more depth, more commitment. When you’re marching down the aisle in your white gown, bouquet of tulips in hand, you don’t actually envision worse. It’s ridiculously incongruous to the celebratory theme. I mean.
At their wedding, no couple really thinks about worse as they stand smiling up in front is what I’m saying, but the worses, well they’re there. (And did anyone notice I used their, they’re and there in one sentence?) Today marks eighteen years since our “I do.” Happy anniversary to us!
OBVIOUSLY when I write about “worse,” I’m referring to “the accident.” Sorry for all the quotation marks in this post here, geez. There really needs to be a font for my tone of voice. Anyway. THE ACCIDENT. That’s about as worse as worse gets. It’s a curious fallback topic–when speaking to people who don’t know me well socially or know me only through professional contact, there’s always THE ACCIDENT to take up conversational space. People are so kind to ask after my husband’s well-being, and I appreciate their asking. It’s a kindness, that concern, and honestly, the accident occupies a great deal of my mental bandwidth a great deal of the time, especially around May 7, the worse of the anniversaries I observe this week.
At a weekend family gathering, a few people mentioned the anniversary of the accident to my husband. Unlike me, he doesn’t mark this date in his calendar. He asked if I thought it was odd he didn’t even remember the date, or that May 7 didn’t carry significance for him. (Internally, I was like, Honey, since your head was smashed and cracked open on the concrete, that’s just one thing of a million you don’t remember. . .) I wish I had his particular brand of amnesia! I can’t wait for the year I wake up on a May 7 and the memory of meeting Yellow Wood Doe in the Emergency Department isn’t the first mental movie scene punching me in the face. And isn’t that the most bizarre John Doe name ever, Yellow Wood? That was who he was for a week, Mr. Yellow Wood Doe.
Worse is when you learn what you’re made of though. Sometimes I feel like a dang superhero–how did I not lose my mind? My survival of his accident was entirely different in scope and scale than his; he WAS a dang superhero to have survived.
My younger son’s baseball season opened Friday night, Friday, May 7; in my mind, baseball and the accident are inextricably linked. I distinctly recall thinking that what I was doing for the kids in the days and weeks following the accident–getting the boys going to school, arranging for them to get to baseball and music lessons–was meant to help them, to keep them in “their routine” while understanding full and well that I was screwing things up. Scrubbing baseball pants clean (I am SO GOOD at this, you guys), I’m reminded of how much I messed up then and how much I’m messing up since.
I tried though. I tried then, and I’m trying now–and I don’t just mean about getting grass and dirt stains out of baseball pants. My attention span is shorter and I’m a weak conversationalist, either grunting single words or babbling incessantly. I’m constantly worried, and I’m easily distracted. My brain is much like my work computer with a hundred tabs open at all times, but I’m still trying.
Today is not a for worse day though, it’s a for better. Happy anniversary.
Over the previous several weeks, I’ve covered a range of emotions, most of them strolling down the less-than-sunny side of the street. Today however, I woke with a renewed enthusiasm and more optimistic view of the world.
Several weeks ago, our school board voted to return to in-person teaching and learning for the first time since COVID-19 took over our world. For reasons I’ll never understand, the Board dropped an eleventh hour bomb, adding an amendment minutes before the opening gavel for the meeting. They proposed and passed the amendment to exclude students in 9-11 grade from returning, requiring instead that they continue to stay home, accessing classes via their Chromebooks. So my children, a freshman and a junior, weren’t even afforded the option to return.
The Board’s decision to exclude 9-11 graders included a caveat: Students would be allowed to return IF they were in danger of failing.
My first reaction to that news item was, oh yeah, super, let’s make kids who are failing feel even worse, let’s single them out and “let them” go back. Two things: One, super discriminatory, no matter how you slice and dice it. It was much later that I arrived at thing two, turning thing one on its ear–let’s punish the kids who aren’t failing by keeping them isolated. Point two didn’t truly hit me until I received a text from one of my kids’ friends’ parents, asking if their child could hitch a ride home from school with mine. I launched into a rather unattractive rant (not to this parent via text obviously, just to myself) about my children working their asses off, excelling academically though virtual, and being denied the opportunity to be with classmates. Socially distanced. Masked. But still, WITH PEOPLE. Ugh.
I drafted a rant-y blog post, and subsequently pulled it back. I don’t need to put my ugly out there. I reframed. My kids are lucky enough to have excelled academically. It should be enough. (It’s not enough, but I’m trying to make myself believe it’s enough.) I’m focusing on the one school-related activity one of my sons can do: baseball.
Locked out of in-person instruction, at least the district opened up spring sports. Though sports are limited in scope, my baby gets at least to be part of a team this spring. He’s been able to pitch, hit, and run, and if he’s not better for it, I know that I am. I know that he is too, actually, and he’s actually not pitching, but he IS going to don the RRHS blue and grey. Go, Huskies!
They were set to scrimmage their cross-town rivals this afternoon, his first crack of the bat at the high school level. Naturally, and in keeping with his long history of picture-perfect weather on every day except game day, there’s a near certainty of thunderstorms at game time. Come on Mother Nature, can ya give these kids something???
It hits me that it’s possible that I need him to play baseball more than he needs it. I was so looking forward to seeing a game, doing what I’ve done and loved doing since he was six years old. Baseball has been an evolution for him. He was an exceptional tiny guy ball player, because even when he was a tiny guy, he wasn’t physically tiny. He towered above other kids his age, and had good ball sense. He was strong and fast, and hit legit over-the-fence homers when he was ten. He suffered a growth plate separation at age eleven, which effectively removed him from pitching or even throwing that season; it affected him physically as well as accuracy- and confidence-wise.
His dad was run over by a truck at age thirteen, and in my son’s own words, “I just wasn’t able to keep my head in the game” that season. I remember thinking then, almost exactly two years ago now, that getting him to baseball practice and getting him to his games would retain some semblance of “normal” or “routine” while his dad lay hospitalized, nearly dead. I also remember thinking then that I was messing him up bad, playing the “let’s keep your routine” charade. I was, and this is a generous assessment of my mental and emotional health in the accident’s aftermath, a goddamn mess. There was no way to win. The coaches cut him at the end of his dreadful season, which hurt his heart and broke mine. He’s not the aggressor he once was, and I don’t know that he’ll ever recapture that, but beast mode is not exactly his nature.
My kid shows up, he works hard, and is as loyal as the day is long. My quiet, wouldn’t-say-shit-if-he-had-a-mouthful son, the kindest, sweetest, gentlest of giants still gets to be part of a game he loves, and I am 100% happy about that. I can’t wait to see him play this season! Be it a little or a lot, it just probably won’t begin tonight if Mother Nature has her way.