I knew he wasn’t staying home when he pulled his travel mug out of the cupboard. I watched him from my place on the couch as he poured: coffee, cream, sugar. Each addition seemed to steal the air from my lungs. The two of us were thinking the same thing—dreading the same thing—but neither of us dared to say it out loud. Because maybe today would be different. Maybe today was the day we could get through it, and mentioning it would be the catalyst to bring our fears to fruition. So, we stayed quiet and let the room fill up with the sounds of feigned normalcy: our 19-month-old son narrating the Thomas & Friends episode that was playing on the television, the occasional newborn squeak from the bouncy chair in the corner, and the scraping of a metal spoon against stainless steel as my husband stirred his coffee.
Marriage & Family Life
We fought about a plant the other day. Even as the argument unfolded we both knew it was ridiculous. Who fights about a plant? I mean, it was clearly not really about a plant. The plant was just the mutually agreed upon scapegoat for our individual frustrations—the symbol of my anxiety and his desire to fix it. The rain didn’t help matters much either but, I’m getting ahead of myself.
We decided to dress up for New Year’s Eve. Ok, that’s not totally true. I decided that we would dress up for New Year’s Eve and played the “Please do it for me card” to get everyone else to agree. After spending a week in pjs and sweatpants—wait, who am I kidding? After spending most of 2020 in pjs and sweatpants—I needed a reminder that we could still put in the effort, shake off the dust and get, just a little bit, fancy. Even if it was only to go to our kitchen table.
I run a tight shipwreck.
Why? Because my ship—once new—crashed on a beach years ago. But that broken ship suited me far better than anything well-kept or smoothly-run—I made it my own and it’s worked well for me. I patch it—make it pretty—and sometimes can even fool people into thinking it doesn’t constantly take on water. I survive far better in a messy, broken environment—one that inspires innovation and spontaneity—than I do in anything predictable. Yes, if I run anything even remotely successfully, it is a shipwreck.
Large family photos like this one are often captioned with something sweet like “All because two people fell in love”. But let’s cut the crap. This family looks like it does because of a lot more than two people falling in love. It was love, sex, babies and one broken condom fifteen years later to complete our original family of five. Add in husbands, wives, ex-wives, more sex and babies to create the grandchild generation spanning 17 years and voila! This is what you’re left with. But I suppose—however honest—that caption doesn’t set the same sweet tone. But families are complicated.
Who else relies on their calendar to keep their life straight? My calendar sits open on my kitchen desk 7 days a week (yes I still use a paper calendar). But for two weeks over the Christmas holidays, it was closed inside a drawer and I felt the freedom of a schedule-free life. Now the holidays are officially over and we are back to real life in all of it’s scheduled glory. While I do enjoy the predictability of an organized calendar, I definitely look forward to the laid-back weeks of vacation in-between. But the last two weeks of freedom from the daily grind were not long enough for me to miss the routine. In fact, as they came to an end I was questioning our entire lifestyle. Are we too busy? And as the calendar is back in its place on the desk, I am left wondering if the schedules we’ve created are helping or hurting our family dynamic.
After a long day of marathon Christmas shopping and gift wrapping—the kitchen table still covered in forogtten scraps of paper and empty wine glasses—we headed to bed. You turned off the Christmas tree lights and dealt with the dogs while I checked on our sleeping children and made sure the house was locked. We were both exhausted from the crowds and you—more than me—were annoyed we skipped the gym to get our shopping done (well, mostly done). But as we laid down beside one another in the silence our dark room—beside you being the only time I’m comfortable in a dark room—you thanked me.
Six months after my accident, my son started a new school. I knew nobody—truthfully, I wasn’t certain I knew myself yet inside this new body and new reality. My son was understandably nervous to make a change, but I was terrified. Many people who experience sudden disability say it shows you who your true friends are. They lose people. That never happened to me. Everyone I loved, showed up for me and my family. I didn’t want to meet anyone new. I was different now—obvious—a bit of a mystery, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to unravel all of that with strangers. And any parent can tell you that the drama within the social circles of the adults can sometimes rival that of the children. So to say the least, my anxiety was heightened as my son and I both found ourselves in new territory.
The day I got married—13 years ago today—I knew that growing old with someone wouldn’t always be easy. I knew that in order to become a couple who celebrates 50 plus years of marriage, we would need to withstand some storms. But I never imagined those storms would get so strong before the first decade was even behind us.
From the beginning of this injury, it was never just my journey I had to concentrate on. It was never just my grief, my trauma or my transition to a new life. My accident happened to my entire family. All five of us—myself, my husband and our three children—were there as our life took a sharp turn in an unexpected direction; we were the only ones there. Our daughter—too young to understand what was happening—has no memory of it. Our boys however, can vividly recall their versions of the story and it breaks my heart. No, it was never just my journey I was worried about.