At last, a tax refund. And all it took was a $40,000 drop in income to finally, finally get a tax refund.
It’s (not) funny how things in our post-accident life reveal themselves. By most barometers, 2019 was not especially kind to our family. The Accident was the star of the shit show obviously. First and foremost, my husband didn’t die, so I’m reluctant to complain about the accident. Early on, one of the rehabilitation physicians said to Tom, and it was so accurate and pointed that I engraved it into my memory: “You’re lucky. I’m not saying you’re lucky your buddy backed over you with that truck, but that you emerged from it with as much intact as you have is extremely lucky.” Early on, I said that any complaint I would lodge flies in the face of the “he didn’t die” lottery ticket we cashed in.
So I’ve kept complaints to myself OK, kept them to my closest friends and my poor coworkers, cursed by their proximity to me, but even then I censor and heavily edit myself. But there are legit complaints I could file to the deaf ears of no one in particular. You wouldn’t want to trade places with me, right? I mean really.
What’s less obvious are the latent effects of the accident–slides and differences you couldn’t possibly have conjured up when your days and nights were spent in the ICU hoping against hope that your husband would simply just stay alive. Slides and differences like your kids’ tanking grades and sports performance, spending inordinate parcels of time sorting through insurance documentation and waiting on return calls I know aren’t coming, becoming a hermit first by necessity and then by choice, having to delay jury duty only to later get seated on a jury for a homicide case, realizing you never ever, ever stop worrying anymore.
Preparing our taxes this year provided a sobering butt-kicking. Taxes always suck. No way around that, and we always end up paying in, waiting til April 15 to file and separate our cash from our savings account. Super suck. Last January, I began chunking out an extra amount in withholding so this January’s hit wouldn’t feel quite so lethal. What a non-issue that ended up being! A side-by-side analysis compared our taxable income between 2018 and 2019 and revealed a $40,000 discrepancy. Forty. Thousand. Dollars. Maybe that’s not substantial to everyone, but it is to us. I actually laughed out loud when that screen came up on Turbo Tax, because what else could I do? How the hell did we manage?? Between the almost eight days my employer docked me (still real pissy about that, yep) and several months’ worth of Tom’s payroll “vacay,” along with there no longer being overtime pay for him, the numbers told quite a story.
But we did manage. He did receive injury pay, and we had legions of people who fed and funded us over the summer. And honestly, still? When I think about the kindness and generosity of our people, I cry tears of gratitude. You really do wish you had the people we have in our lives, you guys. We didn’t get through this alone. Aren’t getting through this (present tense) alone. The bottom-line discrepancy from one year to the next wasn’t the full $40K, but it was, my friends, quite a lot of bank for a couple public employees.
The big reveal wasn’t for me the year’s diminished income and it wasn’t the massive tax refund we are mercifully getting! I anticipated a substantial change in our tax situation, all things considered. The lasting effects of his full-body throttle mean he won’t be returning to the same job classification. He liked his job, liked the guys he spent his days with. And it’s garbage that his job’s been sorta taken from him. It’s garbage that my kids struggled and have had to watch me meltdown, repeatedly and rather unprettily. Our family’s income will be affected for my husband’s employable future–the no-overtime pay thing is gonna continue forever and that’s garbage too.
But because of the experience, I’ve also been given an opportunity, so not everything is garbage. One of Tom’s ICU nurses is studying ICU delirium, and has asked for my perspective. She noticed me writing in a notebook (writing tells me how I feel) while I lived bedside in the ICU, and we’ve kept in touch. I hope that what happened to my husband would never happen to another single human being, but bad stuff doesn’t quit, and we don’t own all the sadness. Maybe something we picked up in this ordeal can help another patient in the future, and that is exactly the opposite of garbage.