Our whole family has, too. But Jeff especially.
In the blink of an eye, he went from a completely independent, physically strong individual to someone who is now entirely dependent on others, who can't even breathe on his own for more than a few hours (sometimes only a few minutes).
In the extremes of life, his pendulum has swung far and wide.
I've written before about the love Jeff and I share. How our relationship has deepened since his injury. But I've been thinking about something different lately. Something that, when said, might not sound as strong as a feeling of love toward someone, but is just as important in making a relationship stand the test of time.
I've been thinking about how much I like my husband.
We have been so fortunate along this journey that Jeff has remained the man he was before his accident. Lucky that he didn't suffer a traumatic brain injury when he hit his head on the ocean floor. Lucky that our friend Chris rolled Jeff over in the water so his brain could receive much needed oxygen even though his breathing was labored. And lucky that during those first few critical, immensely difficult months following his injury, that my husband didn't completely disappear into a bottomless depression leaving me with a shell of the man I married.
There's no doubt that this injury has changed him - more than just physically. He's not exactly the same person he was before. He's not as loud. He's not as boisterous. He's kind of a subdued version of himself when it comes to the physical aspects. But at the core of who he is, he's the same guy I married nearly ten years ago.
Lately I've been reminded just how much I like being around him. It's almost like we've gotten back to the reason we kept wanting to hang out with one another after we met.
Jeff loves to make me laugh. And he does it better than anyone I know. His goofy sense of humor just resonates with me. Our life is filled with inside jokes, and funny made-up words that have meaning only to us.
The other day I came across Jeff's old mullet wig that he used to wear at Halloween (or sometimes he would just put it on around the house to get a reaction out of me. It always worked). This wig is like part of our family now. We've all worn it at some point - gross, I know! Evie loathes it. She says it smells like a dog. Jeff was so excited when I showed it to him. He immediately had me put it on his head. He was outside in front of the house, and he kept it on his head for a good 30 minutes. He hung out in the driveway and donned his nappy locks - drove up and down the sidewalk with it on - anything to make passersby do a double take.
He said he liked how snug it was on his head and that the "party in the back" covered and warmed his neck nicely. He even wore it for a bit when we got back into the house.
Here's another example of his humor. Jeff and I love the show The Walking Dead. I found a shirt online which I had a feeling he would like. When I showed it to him, he wanted me to order it right then.
Here he is wearing his new shirt:
It's kind of hard to see the words with all the tubes and seatbelts and whatnot covering it, but the shirt reads, "All My Friends Are Walkers."
Obviously the shirt has a double meaning for Jeff.
It's stuff like this which is why I like him so much.
It's also why I love him.
But it's mostly why I like him.
That said, it not just Jeff's sense of humor that makes him such a likeable guy.
Here what I mean:
The day Jeff left Rancho los Amigos to come home - after spending nearly seven months in the hospital following his injury - he had lots of visitors from the hospital staff. One of those visitors was a respiratory therapist named Irvin who had seen Jeff almost every week of his hospital stay. As they were saying goodbye to one another, Irvin gave Jeff one of the best compliments I've ever heard anyone say about my husband. Irvin stood by Jeff's bed and said, "The thing I've always respected about you is that you never once played the victim the whole time you were here. There's a lot of people here who complain about what happened to them. People who want you to feel sorry for them and tell you how miserable they are. People who think the world owes them something because of their injury. You never did that. And I respect you for that."
I couldn't agree more with Irvin.
Jeff makes taking care of him easy. The tasks themselves can be demanding and overwhelming and oftentimes seemingly neverending. But the person is kind. And funny. And patient. And respectful.
Jeff has handled his paralysis much better than I ever thought possible. I admit that when he was first in the hospital and I let my mind wander down that path to a murky, unknown future, I thought I was going to have to dig deep to find my husband. But to my surprise, he emerged himself. His character pushed itself through, and every single day I am grateful for his resiliency.
Just another reason to like this husband of mine.