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.
Marriage & Family Life
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.
It’s the end of January—the month so many people feel is never-ending. While I’m fairly certain it’s rare for anyone to be living their best life in any given January or February, these two months carry weight for me. This is the time of year I reflect on what were my final weeks before my accident. They weren’t extraordinary by any means, but they were real, simple and honest moments of our everyday lives.
Have you ever cried after sex? How about in the middle of it – bringing the entire sweaty, messy thing to a crashing halt? I cried last night. It wasn’t the first time – I’m sure it won’t be the last – but it was the first time in a long time and it caught me off guard. Sex after spinal cord injury isn’t something I’ve talked a lot about. I’m not sure why, as it seems I’ve talked about everything else. But for those of you hoping this is some sort of paraplegic’s guide to sex, I’m sorry to disappoint – may your Google search take you to a different corner of the internet. This is a little about sex, a little about loss, a little about adapting and, quite simply, another little piece of my story.
Spinal cord injury awareness month is still on my mind. My last post talked about the aspects of SCI that I struggle with the most: bladder and bowel control. But I was thinking about what awareness really means and how shining a spotlight on only the challenges can draw focus from the accomplishments and the awesome lives people with SCI are living – it can skew people’s perceptions. And while I think it is incredibly important for everyone to understand the struggles and barriers that someone with a spinal cord injury comes up against, it is equally important to understand that so many of us choose to face those challenges because we still want to live our lives – spinal cord injury and all. There is happiness, adventure and so many amazing things still possible and bringing awareness to SCI means showcasing that as well.
Do you have a favourite place? Somewhere that holds a special place in your heart? A place you return to knowing it will look the same and feel the same every time you go there as though it stays frozen in time during your absence? The first time I came here, I was sixteen years old. It quickly became one of my favourite places.