Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho

For the whole of my entire life, I heard the lyrics to the work tune sung by Snow White’s cadre of little friends as, “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go,” like they were super excited to head off to the mines.  For a few weeks now, I’ve been singing “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work he goes” only to learn that the Seven Dwarves sang not a cheery dirge (oxymoron, sure) so much as an anthem of relief as they skedaddled at quitting time, “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s HOME from work we go.”

Context?  OK, yeah, sorry.

About five months post-accident, my husband was sent back to work.  Off to work he went, heigh-ho, heigh-ho.  I am not making this up.

A quick survey of current events suggests that even to the uninitiated, NOTHING these days may be considered beyond belief.  No display of human behavior or “decision-making” is off-limits anymore it would seem.  Where once we had shame Where once we demonstrated integrity (and kept our loony little rants in our thought bubbles and not on social media), we now find ourselves in a world of anything goes.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when the medical professionals reported bones no longer to be broken, organs no longer to be lacerated, and paralysis no longer to be, well nevermind about that one because the paralysis–while much improved–lingers.  When the docs could check all the boxes, they could declare him fit for returning to work.  Utterly and completely beyond my belief anyway, he’s back at work. Holy.  Crap.

Now me?  I can’t even drive past the site where the accident occurred.  I have a school assignment whose most direct route from Point A to Point B involves driving right by the accident site.  Nope.  No way.  I am taking the scenic route, y’all.  But my husband, warrior that he is, has returned to the scene (no, not THE scene, the scene of the world of work).  His triumphant return hasn’t been completely without incident–some sensible safety restrictions remain, so it’s a ramping up.  But he’s on the ramp.  It’s beyond my belief.

This card and sweet, sweet message of support was left on my desk today by my coworker and friend, Nicole.  Just because, for no special reason.

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It’s good to have friends. Thank you, Nicole.

I’m a lot of work at work myself, and can’t imagine having survived these last five months without Nicole and the rest of our gang at my side.  I’m not lucky that this happened, but I’m so lucky to have the people I do helping me through.  If I’m repeating myself, I know I am.

I don’t know what it’s like not to worry anymore.  Every second I’m awake, some piece of my brain is dedicated to wonder about what he is doing, where he is working, with whom he is speaking, about what he is speaking, all of it, everything, all the time.  But the broken bones have healed as have the internal organs.  Mostly.  He’s up, he’s out of the house, and he’s back to work.  If you’d seen him lying in that hospital bed, you’d never believe he’d EVER be back to work, let alone be returning within months of the big bad day.  His coworkers are stunned like I am–many of the guys, upon hearing of the accident, wrote him off for dead.  I assume they’re happy to see him haunting the shop now, but what must it be like for someone to say to your face they assumed you’d die?  I hope I never know.  I hope you never know.

His birthday is coming soon.  I’d wanted to throw a gala “YOU DIDN’T DIE and YOU’RE TURNING 50!” extravaganza.  Tom turning 50 wasn’t a guarantee, you know, and I wanted to mark the occasion in a big way.  But my guy isn’t a center of attention, celebrate in a big way kind of guy.  You didn’t die.  You’re turning 50.  Can we at least have tacos??

PS–I know this post lacks a thread to knit my misfiring neurons-induced prose together, but James Joyce wrote Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man more than a century ago, and college professors are torturing freshman English students with that ridiculous stream-of-consciousness garbage STILL, and his husband wasn’t injured like mine was.  I mean, not that Joyce had a husband because he died in the 1940s, which was a considerably less progressive time and was married to his muse, who was female and all that.  And not that I’m comparing my writing to Joyce’s (how is it a classic?) classic, but you catch my meaning, right?

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Believe

As I scrolled through Facebook this past week, I discovered a new (new to me anyway) celebration: National Daughters Day.  I don’t have daughters, bud I “liked” the posts my friends put up extolling the beauty, brains, and virtue of their daughters.  It’s fun for parents to brag on and celebrate their children, and I enjoy reading how my friends love their children.  Love begets love.

I’d closed that tiny portal in my brain when I closed my web browser, but then this:  Not to be outdone by their XX-chromosomal counterparts, National Sons Day, according to Facebook posts, arrived a day or two later.  Is this really a thing?  Google’s top hit revealed something different.

Once, behaving like the petulant pre-teen I was, I had asked my mom when “KIDS” day was, seeing as she got Mother’s Day.  I recall a distinct tone as she responded that “every damn day is kids’ day,” and being no dummy, I shut my sassy mouth.  But now there’s actually a daughter and sons day??  It does not compute.  At this point, I find myself mostly bowing out of social media, in a corner, waving a little white kerchief in surrender.

I’d intended to write today about my husband’s return to work.  Yes, you read that correctly: My husband was sent back to work last week.  Four months after nearly bleeding out on a city street, doctors determined him to be in physical form strong enough to return to work.  However vehemently opposed I am to this series of what-the-actual-F medical decisions matters not.  Off he went.  I’ll save this for another blog post.

Today I’m going to write not about my husband’s terrible accident and miracle recovery, and not about my number one son’s muscular dystrophy, but about my number two son.

My little one (“Little,” HA!!  He’s thirteen and stands 6′ 1″) is the nicest boy you’ll meet.  He’s a quiet child.  He’s hilarious, but you might not know that about him because he doesn’t seek the spotlight.  He’s a deep thinker with a deep voice you don’t hear often enough.  He isn’t a crack-up laughing kind of kid, but when he lets loose, his laughter is the most joyful of music to my ears.  He’s thoughtful, writing me birthday messages expressing how proud he is to be my son.  He’s kind, always lining up at the end to let everyone else get in line for the first crack at whatever is up for grabs.  He’s the kid who’ll rub your shoulder when he passes by or lean in to hug you just because.

He had to give a speech in English Language Arts class about a person he valued as an effective leader.  He chose to write and speak about his math teacher, who also happens to be his flag football and basketball coach.  I was surprised initially and just a touch hurt that he did not select his father, given what his dad has overcome in 2019, but the presentation wasn’t about inspiration so much as leadership, he said.  What’s that about still waters running deep?  I did not get to hear his speech–I asked!  And try as I might have (I may have visited his room more often than usual while he studied his notes in rehearsal), I didn’t actually find out which qualities he ascribed to his teacher/coach.

My kid has a natural athletic build, works his butt off, and swear to the stars, he is almost two feet taller than many other kids his age, but he doesn’t have a killer instinct–it’s just not in his makeup.  I’ve said it before about him, and it’s likely going to hold true: what makes him a terrific human being will likely prevent him from being a next-level athlete.  And that’s OK.  Not that some elite athletes aren’t also nice humans, but it takes a certain intangible to become that athlete.

Sometimes all a kid needs is someone to believe in him, or for that kid to believe that someone believes in him.  And right now I believe that his teacher/coach is that person for my younger son.  Sure, my kid’s size is a gift–you can’t coach height, they say–but size doesn’t magically equal ability or confidence as we learned in baseball.  Baseball season was a total loss.  With my husband’s accident, hospitalization, and rehab, neither of us was present to support our boy like had always been the case prior.  I was a damn dumpster fire of a mess, my husband was incapacitated and/or rehabbing hard to recover what the accident had stolen from him, and my poor kid. . .  he floundered.  Floundered would be generous, actually.  And when it was clear that those around him had lost faith in him, he lost faith in himself.

But this coach believes in him, and if he doesn’t, my kid believes that he does anyway.  Between the sidelines, my baby is a go-to guy, and as much as he says baseball is his favorite sport, he’s better suited for football.  How I love watching their games!  Yesterday morning he scored two offensive touchdowns, and for him, the holy grail of football accomplishments–the pick-six (an interception run back for a touchdown).  He probably snagged 7-8 flags (tackles in flag football) too.  But you’ll never hear him talk about it to anyone else.  It’s just not in his nature, but clearly it IS in mine to brag about him a bit.

If National Sons Day is a thing and not just a Facebook posting prompt, I’d proudly overshare what I love about this kid (well, both of them, but today, just the “little” one). But then I have this little blog, where unlike Facebook, I can write on and on and on.  And on. . .   There’s more to life than sports, there’s also good citizenship, take this for example–

Think back to your formative years.  Who believed in you, who had your back?  Was it a family member?  A coach, a friend, a teacher?  It’s really something, the feeling you get when someone believes in you.  Like love, belief begets belief.

No joke.  Take action.  For the kid or friend or relative or neighbor who needs to know someone has their back–be the one.  Be their believer.  Maybe someone will write a speech about you.  Maybe they won’t, but you can rest happily knowing you’ve made a difference, which is a king’s ransom of a reward in itself.

His And Hers And Hamilton

One Of Us Is Definitely Recovering Better Than The Other: A Tale of Two Recoveries and Some Dangerous Musical Juju

His

Against all odds, and in continued miraculous fashion, my husband has bested every expectation and prognosis his twenty-eight diagnoses handed him starting in May.  He (I believe) overestimates his stamina, so (in my estimation) works just a bit too hard at everything he does.  Naps are no luxury item; they’re necessary.  You will never hear Tom complain–it’s just not in his nature, I guess–so when the “You Have to Go Back to Work” bell rings much sooner than certainly I am ready for, he’ll go.  Without complaint. Therapy, exercise (his physical therapist cleared him to volley tennis balls, y’all!), returning to activities under the terms of his restrictions–he’s on it.  He’s the most drama-free dude you’ll ever meet, but that doesn’t render him “cured” quite as quickly as (I believe) is being demanded.

Hers

Have I mentioned that he is amazing?  He is amazing.  But this looming return to work thing is freaking me right out.  I’m feeling total “mama bear” mode, except the protective instinct covers my husband, so is more like “spousal bear,” but “spousal bear” lacks the imagery and verbal panache “mama bear” carries.

Four months ago, my husband was knocked down and wedged under the truck that backed over him.  Slammed to the pavement, he can remember three distinct thuds of his head on the concrete, matching the stories the long crack from his eye up past the crown of his head and two crushing injuries tell.  He describes watching blood pour out of his head, thinking “this might be it” as in IT, the end.  The day after, he told me he never wanted me to have to know what happened to him, that it was so terrible he didn’t want me ever to have to envision it.  A few days after that, fuzzy from IV meds and brain injury, he related to a team of doctors and those of us in the room the complete, gruesome chronology as he remembered it.  It broke me.  OK, it buckled me.

I haven’t recovered from the crash near as well as my husband has.  I remember a thousand different details he can’t.  I don’t know what it’s like anymore not to worry about him every second he’s alive.

We do this thing at our monthly meetings at work, where we acknowledge good deeds and kind words, a public thank you to colleagues who’ve helped others in the spirit of collegiality and professionalism.  Our supervisor reads them to the department when we assemble as one; we don’t get pay raises or bonuses, so it’s a small way we can recognize each other and give verbal pats on the back.  I’d written a bouquet to thank our department for the wonderful messages of concern and support during the early days post-accident and since then for my supervisor to share.  Instead of her reading those few lines, she asked if I wanted to get up and say something myself.  I did not want to get up and say something myself.  I’m much clearer in writing, and I cry less easily and frequently behind the keyboard, but what do you do when put on the spot?  You get up and you say something.  In the maybe fifteen seconds it took me to reach the microphone, everything flooded back.  I could picture myself talking to the police in the waiting room before seeing him the first time, convinced the lack of information meant he had to be paralyzed.  I could envision the Emergency Department treatment area, hearing him barely able to utter “There’s so much pain.”  I could see the stitches and staples holding his swollen face and head together.  I could picture myself standing in the hallway outside the family center, calling my mom asking for help with the kids and late that first night, getting the late-night text from my best friend asking if everything was OK because I’d called her twice–late–without leaving a message.

I don’t even know what I said at our meeting last week, but I know that 184 people were silent as I stood there rambling.  I am not recovering as well as my husband is, but with weeks of practice now, I can pass as a mostly functional person.  Really, I should be short-listed for outstanding female lead performance in a human drama.

And Hamilton

Today’s my birthday, and as per tradition in our house, my birthday “surprise” was outed long before the actual day.  My husband is hands-down the absolute worst secret keeper on the planet.  He had promised me Hamilton tickets for Christmas last year, then didn’t buy them because his cheap-o wife suggested waiting until after the holiday rush, hoping ticket prices would return to not-Christmas-purchase-frenzy prices.  Then he forgot, which I don’t know how possibly he could, me all performing My Shot 100% accurately and pouting over not going pretty much on the daily. Eventually I bought tickets for the May 10 show, with the plan we’d each take off work that Friday, our wedding anniversary, spending the day with our Founding Fathers and maybe a nice dinner in Chicago.  The universe had other plans for us, and the accident canceled that itinerary.

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Sorry about my ridiculous add, but my husband has been cleared to volley tennis balls, you guys!  The fact that he’s alive is a miracle.

So we’re hopping the Amtrak to see Hamilton today (happy birthday to me)! I feel like the universe has already asserted itself, telling me in no uncertain terms I am not meant to see this show though.  Like something bad is going to happen when we spit in the face of the pre-ordained plan–I mean we have been warned!  What if I actually find myself in the room where it happens (sing it with me)? Superstitious weirdo stuff from me? Maybe.  Yes.  I mean, it’s super unlikely my husband will get run over again, but who knows what else the universe has up its sleeve?? I shouldn’t be going, and we are spitting in its face. But it’s time for us to move forward, universe. Be kind to us, will ya?  It’s my birthday after all.

He Survived

You get these moments–so sudden and exceptional that you’re uncertain your senses are telling you the truth.  You could not possibly be hearing and seeing the tableau unfolding the way it is right in front of you on an actual, literal stage in your actual life.  Could you?

It’s been three weeks back to work already, and I’ve graduated from looking down at my feet, barely making eye contact to appearing maybe 68% life-like.  I was panicked at the thought of returning to work.  But over the course of the most recent three weeks, my husband’s progress has marched forward on the same rocket-fire trajectory he began by not dying in the first place.

Since my return, Tom’s been cleared from his Aspen collar neck brace, and from a distance resembles his pre-injury self.  The scars and paralysis are visible up close, but from afar, only those acquainted with him before would notice that his one shoulder is sloped and his neck rests at an offset, asymmetrical angle.  Passersby notice (read: stare at) the eye patch, but from across the table, the contour of the ear that was reattached passes enough for the original, and doesn’t every guy have some kind of scar on his forehead?  Sure, Tom’s suture line is longer than the distance I can cover stretching my thumb and forefinger, but the take-away here is that his skull was fractured along an eight-inch fault line and was crushed in two other spots, but the man is walking and talking.  He is a medical marvel.

Besides caring for and transporting my husband, I did nothing over the summer months.  Literally nothing.  For my entertainment over summer break, I got my hair cut and colored (I mean, nature really meant for me to be mostly blonde, so a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do, even when the chips are waaaaaaaay down!).  I went out to lunch twice and breakfast once without my husband.  Those four events are the sum total of what I did for fun between home ADLs and our near daily commute to the hospital and clinics for the constant stream of therapy appointments and physician follow-ups.  The thought of something fun was strictly off-limits.

The notion of attending a concert was laughable.  How was I ever going to be able to A) Leave my husband all night long after I’d already been gone at work the full day?, or B) Take my husband to a concert at a 37,000 seat outdoor venue known for public drunkenness and debauchery?  And you don’t need to ask me how I know about public drunkenness and debauchery at Alpine Valley because I grew up ten miles from there and may have “heard a thing or two” many a Friday or Saturday night in my teens and early twenties.  Anyway.

I’d been down the rabbit hole, slogging through some down days when Barenaked Ladies announced this tour last winter.  I just wasn’t supposed to be there–couldn’t make the Ladies Ladies reunion road trip, couldn’t get to the local show.  But an eleventh hour opportunity arose, so I asked Tom if he wanted to go to Friday’s BNL show. To my delight, he said he’d be excited to go.  Yes, he said excited.  If you’ve paid attention here at all these last several years, you’ve noticed I’m rather a fan of the band.  Some cast the term obsessed in my direction, which really?  Obsessed suggests unhinged and unhealthy, which is definitely not accurate; my friends and I prefer “concentrated hobby” in describing our commitment to the band.  Semantics, you guys.

It may sound weird to hear a woman my age fawn all over a band, but I do love them and the music.  Genuinely.  They’re good humans, talented and kind men who take the time with their monster (and casual) fans.  I’ve stumbled awkwardly in conversation with and verbally tripped all over them, and in return they’ve been total rock stars, which technically is redundant.  Even when I’ve said some galactically stupid shit, and oh but I have!, they’ve been total pros in return.  I love them.

At the close of a Barenaked Ladies show, Ed and Tyler switch places, Ed moves behind the drums and Tyler takes over lead vocals. “Actually seriously good,” in fact, according to the review in our daily paper!

 

 

At the close of last Friday night’s show, Tyler did what he does–entertains and amuses the fans who understand that the show is almost over.  For us concert weirdos, the opening of the Big Bang Theory signals the beginning of the end, but the Tyler show is the end-end.  He’s fun and funny up there, and the last thing he does is introduce the members of the band, himself last, usually with some goof of a name or title.  But he threw in a little surprise Friday night.

After introducing the guys, and before shutting it down for good, Tyler told the crowd about some guy in the audience who they were happy to see there, this guy who had survived: Tom Weir.  And while maybe three other people in the crowd knew who he was (it was at least three because they each texted me OMG emojis with lots of exclamation marks!!! within minutes), thousands “wooooo-ed” while my husband and I stood there in stunned silence as Ty dedicated their performance that night to my husband.  I wish I’d known he was talking about Tom because I would have tried to commit every word to memory, but honestly, neither Tom nor I remember it exactly.  Afterward, Tom told me that as Ty kept talking, he thought it sounded a little like he could possibly maybe be talking about him, but of course, that’s ridiculous! No.  Though it surely has to have been a dream, it was for reals. A dream I didn’t even know I had came true (and not the dream of my husband not dying because while, yes, that’s a super good dream, I never really thought he would die until receiving “the call,” so it wasn’t on my “dream” radar).

Tom’s modesty is genuine–he didn’t do anything to earn the shout-out, although not being dead? Really, Honey, is like the top thing you can do.  I can’t explain why I’ve felt kinda quiet since Friday, when after every concert it’s ALL I CAN TALK ABOUT!  Maybe I’m afraid this bubble of a magical spell will shatter, become real the more I talk about it.  I’ll never find the right words, and as it can, a simple “thank you” feels flat.  It’s absurd to want to keep this close when tens of thousands of people heard it Friday night too.

The world has continued to show our family unbelievable good when we’ve been at our unbelievable worst.  Thank you all.  Maybe soon I’ll even stop writing about Tom’s injuries and return to the good old days when muscular dystrophy was my toughest row to hoe.

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Not everyone complied, but most let me have my Facebook moment anyway.

See, this is why my favorite band is better than your favorite band.

Closed for debate. If only they’d have found that hoodie though.

The Train Has Left The Station

At the very moment my husband was in surgery having his vertebrae fused, my coworkers who are also my friends materialized in the hospital’s family waiting center. So many people wanted to help, they said, and Rebecca organized a meal train to facilitate that. Since the accident, friends have brought or bought our family a meal twice a week, and that is in addition to many others who left behind their 9×13 pans of love. I heard the meal train filled so quickly that people were denied. Those lovely people shut out of the official list sent us restaurant or grocery gift cards. We will not go hungry anytime soon!

The train has left the station for good. Just now, I was washing out the cooler that sat outside our door for almost three months to prepare it for its return to Rebecca’s house. I was reminded again that the accident–a wife and mom’s worst nightmare realized–has also shown me the absolute best in generosity and support from those who surround us.

Thank you. I’ll never be able to repay you—and I hope you NEVER need a meal train. But if you do, I hope you have remarkable people in your lives the way we do.

How do I begin to thank the people who gave us life?  Friends, family, and neighbors showed up and stepped up to do what I either couldn’t literally or “couldn’t” figuratively.  I want every single one of you who sent us even one positive or kind thought to know that it mattered.  I truly believe that those messages were what helped pull my husband through those early days of intensive and acute trauma care.

My sister- and brother-in-law picked up the kids to bring them to the hospital that first terrible, terrible night. My parents dropped everything to arrive at our house before the kids got home from school the day after. My best friend booked a flight and spent “vacation” days here.

Our friend P.J. showed up with a huge, still warm! pan of food for us on the Wednesday after the accident.  I can recall holding that Rubbermaid container against my belly, with tears in my eyes gushing that it was still warm.  How do you thank someone for showing up with sustenance at a time like this? I recall that I lapped it up almost animal-like, barely taking the time even to taste that savory Alfredo sauce as I turned back around to pack up an overnight bag.  Tom had asked me to sleep at the hospital that night before the surgery, and there was nowhere else I could possibly be.  Not that I slept, of course, but semantics, you understand.

Our neighbor Neil brought over the absolute best lasagna I’ve eaten ever in my entire life a day or two later.  I’d thought to ask him for the recipe, but nothing will ever taste as good as that lasagna did to me that week.  I’d never duplicate the taste or supreme satisfaction I derived from every slice.  Since the accident, Neil has taken care of our lawn.  How do I ever repay him for that?  How could he ever possibly know how much it’s meant to me??  I can cut the lawn, and so could have the boys, but Neil did it every time.  Even when I’d mentally say, “OK, tomorrow is grass-cutting day,” I swear he’d be up and running laps in our yard before I could get out there myself.  The weekend prior to the accident, my husband had reseeded the entire yard, and it would have broken me for it to have failed without the care it needed.  Now, thanks to Neil, the green, green lawn will be a lasting testament this “period of time” (The Accident) and the growth that can occur under expert guidance and tender care.  There might be some kind of metaphor there, I don’t know.

Jane picked up my boys so they could just hang out with her boys on a Sunday afternoon, like they did before. And let me tell ya about the garlic bread!

Paul and His Crew of Dudes came over to take our patio set out of winter storage. Sitting on my patio drinking AM coffee or reading under the sun is a slice of happy place for me.  I was elated to be able to sit outside once Tom was released from the hospital.  Even when the breaks I got were brief, sitting outside in the happy place was a break I cherished. 

My Speech cluster colleagues, my former coworkers at Grant, teachers from my son’s school, my husband’s coworkers, neighbors, my son’s baseball team, even strangers! sent gifts for our family.

To the people who sent us those restaurant gift cards, I’m forever in your debt.  Not having to cook in the immediate, with the added bonus of not having to purchase groceries has meant a world of difference this summer.  To the people who sent us money. . .  At first I didn’t get it–I felt like a thief.  Prior to the accident, I didn’t fully understand why people enclosed cash with get-well or sympathy cards.  Oh, but I do now!  To be able to give the kids a couple bucks to run to the store or to buy some goodies at a baseball tournament and not have to hit up an ATM or count the pennies? A gift. I’ve been crabbing about getting docked 7+ days of pay, and while I’m real ornery about that, we have been so fortunate not to have fallen into desperate financial straits.

I almost want to publish a list of names, like an honor roll, but how inadequate and lame is that? I’ve been pretty good about thank you notes and messages via social media, but I know I’m forgetful. I’m sorry to anyone I’ve missed, but know that some form of written thanks is getting there.

I’m back at work, but I don’t know how to “be” now that I’m thrust back into a social arena. Staring at my feet is OK for now, but it won’t work for the long haul. My husband has been released from the neck brace, so the bone breaks are recovering, which couldn’t have come at a better time now that Wendy’s summer Uber project has to be placed on hold. But I never don’t worry. Sometimes I feel that because he has achieved the gains he’s fought for so far, people believe he’s “back to normal.” He’s not. He’s healing, present progressive. Healing to a degree I’d never have dreamt three short (but really long!) months ago. Still it’s been only three months. You bet I worry.

I know there’ve been an abundance of quotation marks in this post. Sorry, but there’s still no font for my tone of voice. If you know me, you know how to “read” me. And if you don’t, I bet what you imagine isn’t too far from my heavily-inflected, maybe a bit quieter these days though vocal tone reality. Anyway.

Thank you.

What Doesn’t Kill You Sometimes Does Anyway

I remember thinking it would kill me when the economy tanked in 2008 and my husband was laid off. Not too long thereafter, I thought it would kill me when my husband got re-hired during that recession, but worked a mandatory ten hours-per-day six or seven days a week while my older son was in K4 and my baby was still in day care.

I thought it would kill me when the benefits and pay structure along with the respect once enjoyed by educators were upended in early attempts to dismantle public education here. I felt similarly when my boss and my four close colleagues retired on the same day leaving the cheese to stand temporarily alone.

I thought it would kill me when our son’s neurologist told us he had muscular dystrophy.

I thought it would kill me when I arrived in the emergency department, but was not allowed to see my husband for hours, being told only that he knew my name and phone number which was a “good sign.” It nearly did kill me when I finally was let in the ED, my husband lying in that massive hospital bed, barely coherent using 1-2 word phrases to communicate how much pain he felt. I didn’t know where I could even touch him so broken was he.

I thought it would kill me to rifle through the bags of his bloody, cut-up clothing searching for his car keys upon returning home that horrible night.

I thought it would kill me when Nurse Jen wheeled Tom away to surgery, knowing it could be the last time I ever saw him alive.

I thought it would kill me when my husband’s brain injury erased the man I knew and loved for a few days.

I thought it would kill me to leave my children in the dust, in a distant, distant second place to their father with his myriad needs when I practically moved into the hospital just when they needed me practically more than ever in their lives.

I thought it would kill me when I changed his neck brace in preparation for when they entrusted his post-discharge care to me. Then I had to change the brace daily. I was undone when I helped him shave for the first time.

I thought it would kill me when I randomly discovered that my wages had been docked, and that I owed my employer another week of pay despite the more than 1,300 sick hours I’ve accrued over a nearly three-decade career.  You’d think someone would’ve, at the very least, had the decency and professionalism to tell me.  Being forced to make any significant life decision while hovering around the surgical ICU is not going to yield the most sound results.


It’s gonna kill me when I have to break my baby’s heart later today delivering what will be bitterly disappointing news.

I can’t bear the thought of returning to work tomorrow, leaving my husband’s side for the first time since May 7, forcing my sons into the caregiver role.

It will kill me.  And it won’t.

For myself, I’ve done and accomplished exactly nothing this summer. There is, I hope for my sons, one takeaway: that I tried.  I tried to do everything I could for the people I love most in this world.  It was messy, it involved a lot of uncertainty and tears (but never a major meltdown), but when life deals you a superbly lousy hand, you’ve no choice but to play it. I hope one day they remember not my tears and our fears, but that I cared for their dad when his life depended on it.  I hope against hope neither of them ever again have to endure another trauma such as they’ve faced as adolescents with their dad’s accident and its aftermath. But if they do, I hope they remember seeing how their mom took every hit and kept getting up.  I hope they’ve learned to be grateful and say thanks to those who offer and step in to help.  I’ve tried.

People say I’m strong.  I don’t know about that, but I know I keep doing what I have to do.  Is that what strong is?

Game Over

This year’s baseball season is in the books. Nothing in 2019 went his way, but my kid? He showed up. Even when he thought his dad was going to die, he showed up. Even when his mom was an absolute wreck pretty much every day, he showed up. Except for the very last one, he never missed a practice; he never missed a game, and even though his parents were barely able to show up, he still did.

He doesn’t show high emotion, he takes it all in—the kind, quiet nature that makes my baby a terrific teammate and a genuinely good human being will likely stand in the way of his excelling as an athlete.

Here’s to finishing what you’ve started and to the good people who brought you to the finish line. Thank you all.

Ain’t Nothing Fair About Any Of This

I’m not naive enough to believe that life is “fair.”  I’m a grown up after all.

But it does feel especially unfair to have to pay my employer for the days I took off from work to be with Tom while he was hospitalized.  I’m a hard-working, loyal employee–I would have to be near death to call in sick to work myself, ask my colleagues.  Even with two paid maternity leaves in my work lifetime, the bank of sick hours I’ve accrued is enormous.  Ridiculous, really.  I show up.  The occasions I do call in to work are for when my children are sick or have appointments during the day.  Oh, and there was that time my husband was nearly killed a few months back.

I learned yesterday that not only did I get docked three days pay from my last paycheck (which I’d believed was being made right), I actually have to pay them back.  I literally have to give them back another week’s worth of pay.  I don’t get paid over the summer, so I have something like a negative balance, and will owe them money once I begin working again.  I have to PAY MY EMPLOYER to get to work there, which is pretty much the opposite of how I thought this going-to-work system was set up.  I owe them money.  THAT, friends, is not right.

Every detail from the first call I got saying there’d been an accident to my wait in the emergency department before being allowed to see my bloody, broken husband for the first time to signing informed consent for neurosurgery to watching him suffer more intense pain than any man should have to endure to losing his personality and memory to regaining some of that personality and memory to the panic of watching him walk again to the sheer terror of being responsible for his care upon discharge to everything he’s lost and we’ve lost as a family has been running through my consciousness on this constant loop since I’ve come to grips with this ludicrous payroll information.  I’m reliving my own real life horror movie, and I can’t stop crying.  I do believe this is the part where I, at long last, completely lose my mind.

The truth?  I was sick while he was in the hospital. It would not have been dishonest to have called in sick for me for every day I missed work to be with him  My heart was broken, and I was disoriented.  I couldn’t eat or sleep and my head hurt all the time.  I was legitimately sick, but it was pretty obvious that the underlying etiology of this particular strain of illness was my husband’s accident.  But because I didn’t call myself in, I’d exhausted my allotment of sick time allowed for the care of others per the employee handbook.  So it’s my fault.  It’s not enough that this nightmare accident threw our lives into chaos, there’s this added bonus of feeling like the fucking idiot for not knowing better.  I’d hashtag “epic fail,” but I’m not feeling particularly cute about this.  I’m beaten.  I surrender.

The moral of the story apparently is this:  Lie.  Everyone else does.

I received hundreds of loving, supportive text messages while I held vigil over my husband in the ICU, but one keeps coming back to me this morning.  A friend told me how unfair this all was, the accident and its fallout.  I remember texting in reply to her, “Ain’t nothing fair about any of this.”  Nope.  Not one thing.

Dumpster Fire

Sometimes dark humor pulls a girl from dark days into the light. Some days dark humor provides enough to keep me putting one foot in front of the other. My little one introduced me to term “dumpster fire” the other day, and I’ve adopted it as the perfect descriptor for my state of mind. And also, I found three different Bitmojis to illustrate. Here’s one–

While my husband was hospitalized, it seemed like a different household item went kaput each day.  When I arrived home from the ICU late the night of the accident, I clicked on the lamp on my nightstand.  The bulb buzzed for a nanosecond before giving up for good.  You might think I’d have done something so easy as change that light bulb, but I didn’t even have that in me.  How many electricians’ wives does it take to change a light bulb??? More than one anyway.

Getting dressed the next morning, I pulled the cord of my closet light, only to have the cord shake loose from the fixture and land in my hands. How does one dress for a day in the ICU anyway?  Now I couldn’t even see into the closet, but I know that at that point, I couldn’t have cared less about my outfit.

Since the day, the side mirror from our car was smashed off (surprisingly not my doing), the dog knocked over a table lamp, pieces and parts scattered, my car battery died, my car’s backing camera is on the fritz, the dog went through a window screen, the rain gutters overfloweth, and a panel of glass from our back door shattered and fell to the ground.

My baby FaceTimed me while I idled in my husband’s hospital room asking how to put a temporary patch on the window.  When I reported back, Tom instantly went into obsession mode, cooking up an idea to replace not only the single panel of glass, but also to replace the entire six-panel leaded frame with a custom art glass piece to fit the colorful theme of our house.  Any modern designer would burst into heart palpitations seeing our orange living room, inside of an avocado-colored dining room, cider-tinted kitchen, and golden hallways and basement.  WE love it, but then we don’t pray to the HGTV 2019 color palette the way the rest of the world seems to.  Anyway, Tom had an idea.  And at that stage in his recovery, whatever idea he held was locked in with a death grip.

Tom phoned a stained glass artist with whom we met shortly after his homecoming.  Tom described what he’d envisioned (it WAS awesome!), and the glass artist returned some sketches.  Together they came up with a clean, colorful, beautiful design.  Fabrication began and yesterday, six-plus weeks after concept, the glass was installed.  It turned out exactly as I’d seen it in my mind, better really.  It turned out exactly as my husband had hoped, and he smiled each time he walked past it since the install.

His accident occurred over two months ago already.  So much has happened since that first day.  So much needs yet to happen to find equilibrium again. A bright new window maybe triggers brighter, less dumpster-y states of mind?? That’s my hope.

I’m pathetic company these days, even my friends are tired of me. And while my social calendar wasn’t exactly buzzing from May 7 til now because, you can imagine, my time’s been heavily booked otherwise, I’m not seeking company either.  I know I’m a super downer. I find myself reliving the accident, well reliving MY experience of the accident quite a lot, and I’m sad.  A lot.  And, as I told a friend, I feel like any trace of complaint I would voice is a betrayal of the HE DIDN’T DIE lottery ticket I held back on May 7. 

And I’m mad.  A lot.  The incident was truly accidental; I know this.  I haven’t for one second believed it to be anything but an accident.  My husband apologizes over how the accident has changed my summer plans, and I’m practically shouting back that the accident changed OUR ENTIRE LIVES!!

I knew we’d get here, here being the period of time just west of imminent danger–when the relief of having survived is supplanted by rehab and the reality of the permanency of his injuries. And though I am no fun whatsoever, I am so damn happy I still have a husband, because it wasn’t a guarantee.

My friends say I’m strong. I want to want to feel happy and normal-ish, but instead I kinda want to slog through a pool of woe-is-me for a brief while. I know I should want to be dancing on rooftops, thanking the stars above (and oh, every day til this week, I have been!!), but meh is me.

To me, this window represents light and cheer and holy crap, he didn’t die. I call it the “You Didn’t Die Window” and I love it.

Let there be light. Please.

I Miss

I miss being an automobile passenger

I miss not being in a constant state of heightened awareness

I miss the perfectly ridiculous/ridiculously perfect lasso dance

I miss having a handyman to repair the long list of items damaged, dying, or dead since the accident (reading lamps, automobile mirrors, window screens, door glass panels, car batteries, gutters, overhead light pulls)

I miss his smile

I miss the boisterous, sassy cacophony that my three trash-talking, wrestling boys can generate, four boys I guess when the dog joins the fracas

I miss running errands whenever

I miss receiving his full paycheck, with the overtime that can build during the summer months’ long daylight

I miss feeling like I can answer, “How are you?” honestly

I miss asking others how they are

I miss the safety of a hug so tight it’s almost hard to breathe

I miss when I thought muscular dystrophy was the toughest thing I would ever have to face

I miss watching all seven innings of my son’s baseball games

I miss before