Jeff and I had talked about what we were going to do that weekend for the last couple months. We thought about having some friends over to celebrate the fact that Jeff is alive - that things could have turned out so much worse than they have. But in the end, we just decided to spend the weekend like most other weekends - just with "us." We knew that emotions were going to creep up on us, so we wanted to keep things mellow.
For me, emotions hit me hard, and rather unexpectedly, early Saturday morning. I awoke in the dark, pre-dawn hours of the morning and my mind took be back to the night immediately following the accident. The night I had to spend alone in our bed. The longest and worst night of my life.
The ICU staff made me leave - made me go home to our daughter - assuring me that Jeff was in good hands, heavily sedated, completely out of it, and wouldn't even know I was gone. Chad drove me home, and there I had to somehow do "normal" things like fix Evie dinner and clean the cats' litter box. I did these things on auto-pilot.
Later that evening, I gave Evie a bath to clean all the caked-on sand off her body. As I undid the tight pigtail braids I'd so meticulously put in her hair earlier that day, she looked up at me with scared eyes, and asked in a small, hesitant voice, "Did Daddy die?"
What a big question for a 4-year old child to ask.
Amazingly I held in my tears and reassured her: "No, baby. He didn't die. But he is very hurt. And he'll have to stay at the hospital until he gets better. Probably for a long time."
Her question showed me that even at 4 years old, she understood the seriousness of our situation.
Back in present time, these events played in my mind almost as clearly as when they'd happened, and my tears were a reminder of that first difficult, scary night.
Jeff doesn't have memories of that night being that he was so sedated for weeks following his injury. But he does remember the accident and the panic that followed. Those are difficult things for him to relive. Understandably he struggles with how this injury has affected his family. He sees how challenging it is for me to juggle everything - how much work goes into taking care of him. He'll never stop wishing that he could help more. I reassure him that despite his physical limitations, his presence at home, his input on everything we do as a family, that is more helpful than he will ever know.
* * * * * * *
The Monday following our emotional weekend, we received the photo book I talked about in a previous blog post - the one I made from the photos Evie had taken last year. We were so excited to open it. Jeff asked me to hold it up for him and flip through the pages. He wanted to browse through it quickly as he still has a hard time looking at pictures from our past - especially of himself as able bodied. We flipped through the pages with bittersweet smiles. Then we came across one picture that, while hard to see at first, has an amusing back story, and a funny Evie anecdote attached to it.
It's a picture of Jeff's legs - battered and bruised from a river trip he took a month before his accident. He and his buddies all turned 40 last year, and in June 2013, they took a trip to the Kern River to celebrate. Jeff came home with these cuts and bruises.
He laughed when he saw the picture and said he remembers how much his legs hurt after that. I told him when Evie first looked at this picture when I was putting the book together, she said something funny. Here's our conversation.
"Those are Daddy's legs!"
"Yep. That was when he came home from the river."
"That was when Daddy could stand."
"Yes. You took this picture just a few weeks before Daddy's accident."
I could see her processing this and knew she was going to comment on the day of the accident. She sometimes recalls the events aloud, and of course we let her do this, knowing it is her way of processing everything.
"So when Daddy dived into the ocean, he hit his head. Maybe on a rock ... or a whale."
I grinned at her imagination. "Well, I think it was just the sand."
"But maybe it was a whale," she persisted . . .
I told Jeff of her imaginative version.
He thought about it for a second then nodded and said, "A whale would've made for a better story, that's for sure."