It took me almost 2 years, but today was the day that the boxes got packed. In hindsight I should have dealt with the items back in the fall of 2015, or any of the following months. But hope kept me from tackling the task. Now, after nearly 30 years of “Protecting and Serving” I have capitulated and packed up all my husband’s work and military uniforms for passing on. It has not been easy to come to this point for either of us, but work will not be something he is able to return to. And for anyone who has had a career identity that was a lifestyle, you know how hard it is to make the change. For someone who has a brain injury it is even tougher, as part of your mind still feels you can do the job, even as you know you can’t. Trying to adjust to this new life we have has been a varying challenge, but there you have it- life does that and the options are, stay locked in place or continue to move forward in a new direction. Accepting uncertainty, and going off script has never been easy for me, so this is a whole new terrain to navigate and one we both often resent having to navigate. It has brought restrictions to both our lives that we didn’t expect. It has also brought time to spend together that was missing when duty called. Light-dark. up-down, yin-yang all part of our new season.
Last year on August 9th I revisited the place of my wedding reception. Twenty six years had passed, and the entire place has fallen into a state of decay and is abandoned. It was a very sad sight to see, and left me feeling more than a bit uncomfortable, that pit of your stomach fluttery feel. 4 days later, just 6 days from our anniversary, I sat in an ICU room beside my husband and all the machines. Now I am not saying that visiting the old Woodlawn Club gave me a premonition or anything, that is just a weird conincidence. Hindsight gives us the ability to look back and see things clearer, so I can’t say that on August 13th everything was fine, but I can say that by the end of that day very little was fine. And for many days and weeks after that it was difficult to know if fine was achievable. The whole fall went by both quickly and slowly as amazingly progress was occuring. Now we are approaching that year mark, the point at which we can move from the “a year ago life was fine” stage into the next one. 364 of 365 is upon us. We will step beyond the initial year mark and then beyond the ones of seeing Joe learn how to walk again, talk, feed himself, and all the other tasks we mainly do without thinking. We will pass the year mark of coming home, of bypass surgery, the loss of a lifelong career due to being unable to return to work. There is much to celebrate at the end of each day as his brain continues to recover, rewire, recall and relearn. It can be a painstaking process at times that feels endless, yet it is amazing in what the brain can do. Only 1 other family we met in the Brigham’s ICU , where Joe was transferred to, had a family member leave to go to a rehab facility. So we feel very lucky. Fine is achievable, fine also has to be elastic.
Some days I catch a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye of how life used to be, but of course when I turn to look it isn’t really there. What is normal now, is far from what normal was. After much thought, I made the choice to give up my studio. I considered sharing the space, but decided money in my pocket was the best option. I only have been able to get in and use the space a couple times a month since last August anyhow. It has been a tough 9 months and life has forced changes I didn’t foresee having to embrace. My husband’s recovery is a slow and uncertain process,brain injuries are like that. But I am grateful he can walk, talk, laugh and joke, read a bit, and do some daily tasks. That doesn’t mean it isn’t frustrating for both of us as it can be a slow slog some days. Everything has changed, and continues to do so.We are getting through it as couples do, one day at a time. As far as the studio, the unused dining room will be re-purposed as I try to do more online to offset the foot traffic which I would normally get on open studio days. We’ll see.