The funny position of Nicks legs when he sits without his prostheses is caused from an outward rotation of his hips. I think.
Nick and I have been ITCHING to make the formal announcement of his first jump back, something he’s been working toward for 18 months. A motivation so strong it’s kept him going through his darkest hours dealing with pain and the loss of so much. With a barrage of set-backs along the way, we are thrilled to say, “It’s HAPPENING!”
I’m sure many people think he’s foolish or crazy to jump again. We get the million dollar question often: Why? To us, him jumping again isn’t even a question. There hasn’t been a millisecond of time since Nick’s accident that he’s questioned skydiving again. It has always been a matter of when and how; not if or why.
But to people who don’t understand, who don’t jump, or who don’t know Nick, I realize that “Why?” is a legitimate question. Nick and I have talked about it a lot, I’ve heard him answer the question many times, and yet, I don’t think it’s something the English language could ever illustrate properly.
Nick has expressed himself in a variety of ways, saying things like, “It’s part of who I am. It’s my life. I love it. You don’t stop driving if you get in a car wreck. It’s like that moment you discover you can orgasm for the first time.” While these are solid, maybe a little too graphic answers, and certainly worthy of consideration, I’d like to take a stab at answering the question by making a more universal comparison. I may not have been hurt, but I was there living the nightmare with him, and I’ve since returned to the sport that stole so much from me. I understand where he’s coming from and support his return wholeheartedly.
Skydiving is a lot like love.
If you’ve jumped, you know what I mean. If you’ve been in love, think about it. Try explaining the feeling of being in love with someone… to a 6 year old. That ecstatic, heart-racing, toe-tingling, mind-numbing, nothing-else-matters, I-can’t-get-enough, want-to-feel-this-way-forever feeling when you’re falling in love for the first time.
You can’t describe love, even though poets and scholars have tried for centuries; you just have to feel it. Even after 2300 times, I still can’t put my finger on why it feels so good to jump out of a plane and fly through the air. Nick’s accident was like a mud-slinging, life-shattering, multiple affairs, no prenup, front-page-of-the-tabloids divorce, and now 18 months later he’s healed and ready to love and trust again.
All this to say:
Nick is finally jumping again!
NEXT Saturday, December 8th at Tsunami Skydivers in Oceanside, CA.
Everyone is welcome to come out and be a part of the celebration. We will be arriving early to prepare for the jump(s), and taking off around 12 noon. We will be Barbecuing for lunch, our treat. If you want something besides hamburgers, turkey burgers, or veggie burgers, bring it and we’ll throw it on the grill!
It will be a cozy, laid back atmosphere with lots of friends and fun.
We already have several tandem jumpers lined up to join us, including a few of Nick’s therapists. If you’d like to make your first jump, call their office and set it up in advance. Jumping over the beach in Oceanside offers the best views anywhere in Southern California. If Fener can do it, you can too!
To get a rough headcount for the BBQ, please message me or make a quick comment if you plan to come.
Thank you Rich Grimm and Tsunami Skydivers!
Nick and I have always had a relationship of steel. It’s come naturally, and we know how lucky we are. But even so, it’s a choice and it’s work.
A dear friend sent me this article that, in my opinion, accurately describes what it takes to be happy with someone long term. What it takes to keep your partner fulfilled and faithful for the long haul.
With lots of love to all my friends; single, committed, or confused. Give this a read, absorb it, and share it with those you love.
Read here: 10 Ways to Affair -Proof Your Marriage by Samantha Parent Walravens
A funny young girl checked us out at Home Depot. Well, she wasn’t checkin’ us out, even though we are quite a spectacle, she just rung up our items and took our payment.
She wore a pair of white Vibram shoes, the ones with the separated toe slots. Nick asked her if they were comfortable and if she thought they’d be comfortable for him too. Without missing a beat, without blushing or stumbling on her words, she said, “Yeah, why not?”
Then we all got a good laugh visualizing Nick slicing his fused plastic toes apart with a knife and cramming them into his own pair of Vibrams. Size 12. And since he’s getting his new set of feet tomorrow morning, we could easily make this joke a reality with these current, outdated feet.
Home Depot homegirl gave Nick an over-excited high five and a “Hell yeah!” with the news of getting his new feet tomorrow.
Hell yeah! High five!
We spent a whole day and a half out in the desert over Thanksgiving weekend. You know what’s cool about that?
I can chalk it up to a totally crucial WIN for Fener. He used to be a desert rat, spending holidays and every other weekend either in Glamis, Barstow, or Ocotillo for years. That is, until skydiving burst into his life. But even then, he (we) went to the desert all the time. He even bought me my own quad to ride back in 2006.
This weekend, we rolled into a camp full of friends and blended right in. There was very little talk of, or focus on Nick’s injuries. We didn’t speak much of his accident or therapy, or catheters, or pain, or prostheses. Well, maybe a little. But come on, that’s part of our “new normal.” What I’m saying is we got to have a blast despite all that. And there was never any waiting for Fener. He never held up the program. Never the weakest link. He held his own.
We slept in a tent, sat by a fire, rode in a buggy and ate lunch in a shady crevice in the middle of a vast desert. We laughed with friends, lit fireworks, roasted marshmallows (me, not Nick), and came home content with being caked with dirt from head to (prosthetic) toe.
The only modification we made was the toileting situation. Nick had to use a friends trailer, no longer able to “rough it” like me or you. Other than that, we were good to go. It was just more work for me than it ever used to be, loading and unloading everything. But I’m totally fine with it. May as well get used to it. That’s our “new normal.”
Here’s Fener carving the turkey at Mom’s house, with Paul cheering him on.
This year at Mom Fener’s, Nick climbed the stairs on his own, was able to finally use the guest bathroom, carved the turkey, avoided a post-feast nap, took minimal pain meds, helped me make a yummy sweet potato dish and cleaned up afterward, and when we left he got behind the wheel and drove two hours into the desert, allowing me to digest the meal I ate that could have fed an entire village. Who am I kidding? It could have ended world hunger. And it was delicious! Thank you Mama.
We made a last minute decision to join the extended Nootbaar clan for a day and a half in the desert. So here we are, in our green, triangular Coleman tent in Ocotillo Wells, enjoying the perfect weather, big bonfire smell, clear starry sky, random fireworks, and the “braaap braaaap braaaaaap” of dirt bikes in the distance.
Holy smokes am I grateful! We just passed the 18 month mark since the accident, and if you told me a year ago that we’d be camping in the desert over Thanksgiving holiday the way we used to, I’d have said you were out of your fucking mind.
But here we are… slowly, but surely, getting our life back together. And not just any life: the amazing life we used to have, minus the convenience of pristine health and the naiveté of untraumatized youth.
Thank you to EVERYONE who has helped us along the way. Physically, emotionally, financially… we have not made it this far by ourselves, and would have long since crumbled without the immense and unfathomable kindness and dedication from our friends and family, and strangers too.
We love you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you… times ten million!
Unorthodox after-hour prostheses fitting with Cyrus. I know it appears as if he’s baking us cookies, but he was actually slaving away to get Nicks new sockets juuuuust right. It’s so cool having a reliable, overachieving prosthetist who is also fun to be around.
Today I am particularly sad, the saddest I’ve felt in a while.
November 16th has been a distinctly mournful day for me for five years now, as I struggle to find a way to honor my Mother’s Birthday without her. This year, her birthday does little but remind me of her absence. It magnifies the hole in my heart that no other person, activity, or pint of Ben & Jerry’s could ever fill. A hole so immense, in my worst moments of loneliness and confusion since Nick’s accident, I thought I would fall in and evaporate into nothingness.
I miss my Mommy, and the safety and wholeness I felt when she was around. For eight years before her death, she was a burden to me unlike anything I would wish upon another, but the burden was all mine. It was my identity, my knowingness, my home. I’ve never fully recovered from losing her, having only three brief years of healing and floundering, attempting to make sense of who I am in relation to my Mom’s illness and death, until the day I became what happened to Nick, 18 months ago.
Today I reflect on the impossible but delightful thought that I could have hugged her when I worried most about Nick and our future. I crave the comfort in our silence, the innocence of her raspy laughter, and her familiar loving eyes staring into my soul when I talked. I realize that logistically she couldn’t be alive today. I couldn’t stretch myself so thin to care for both her and Nick simultaneously. Sadly I know she would have lost, despite her being my first love: my infinite desire to rehabilitate Nick being anything but a burden, my hopeful future with him overshadowing the painful past dealing with her.
Happy Birthday to my Mom. She would be 68 today. One of her greatest gifts was teaching me how to love unconditionally and be a selfless, persevering caregiver, skills I’ve undoubtedly refined and put to good use.
Here’s a video I am conflicted about sharing. I surprised her with a motorized wheelchair in February of ’06. She never got the hang of it unfortunately, and ended up passing away just two years later. But the very end of this clip, when she exclaims “FAR OUT!” is so precious to me. That raw excitement was rare for her. I’m so grateful to have captured this moment on camera.
Nick’s had his legs for a year now, and what a ride it’s been. He’s had two sets made due to the rapid and drastic changes that an amputee experiences in the year or so post-surgery. A lot has happened in the last year, prostheses wise. We’ve spent hours upon hours at the various Hanger offices around Southern California: Murrieta, Riverside, Redlands, Hemet, depending where his prosthetist is at that particular day. We’ve built a relationship with one amazing prosthetist, only to lose him to a promotion, to then (thankfully) fall in love with another guy.
We’ve made emergency, same-day appointments to solve issues that, as a new amputee, we could never anticipate or prepare for. Just last week we met his prosthetist at a gas station on the side of the road for a quick adjustment and assessment. Nick has invested countless hours into research and reading about prosthetic feet, ankles, and sockets, combing YouTube and manufacturer websites for information and ideas.
And here we are, we’ve made it one year. Four metal legs later, it turns out the journey is just beginning. Tomorrow we will go to the Hemet office where he will be fitted for his third set of legs.
The last few weeks have been tough for the health of Nick’s stumps. His legs are now too big for him, and have been adjusted and modified several times, essentially just slapping a bandaid on an unfixable problem. The skin on the front of his stumps has opened up. He’s been bleeding for a few days now and tonight we’ve decided he HAS to keep off his feet for several days to allow the wounds to heal. He’s getting fitted for the new set tomorrow, but won’t actually receive them for about two weeks.
For the first time in a month, I grabbed the wheelchair out of the car and brought it inside the house so he can give his poor stumps a break. I’m afraid that if they get worse we’ll be facing a much more serious problem. And at this point, we just can’t jeopardize his skydive, which is happening in a little over two weeks.
So tonight is bitter sweet, with the anticipation of lighter, better fitting legs, contrasted with the sad truth that he is taking another mini step backward in the process.
“I’ve been working really hard lately, and I’m just now getting to the point where I feel like I’m getting ahead.” –Fener talking to a friend on the phone while on our way home from Project Walk today, in a surprisingly minimal amount of pain.
Here’s a super cool video of Nick at his first amputee running clinic, shot a few weeks ago on October 20th.
In preparation for Nick’s first skydive, in less than a month, we took a trip up to Hollywood for Nick to practice his free fall skills in the iFly tunnel.
Nick flew a total of 15 minutes, late at night after a long day and a long drive. Afterward he said he could have flown even longer. He was minimally sore the next day, but I think that’s from sleeping it off for 11 reparative hours. That, and he’s quickly gaining endurance.
He’d like to fly in the tunnel at least one more time before the big jump, which is happening on Saturday December 1st.
Watching Nick fly in the tunnel, smiling hard but flying even harder, choked me up a few times. I felt proud, like his stunning accomplishments were my own, even though I know I’d have never made it this far if I were the hurt one.
What a day! We had to cancel Nicks regularly scheduled therapy at Project Walk because his stumps are getting rubbed raw from his prostheses. They opened up last night, making it obvious he needed to get some adjustments.
Since we had to be in Redlands for that emergency appointment, we decided to swing by his old rehab hospital in San Bernardino. Good ol’ Ballard! I lived in that parking lot for a month and got to know the town quite well. It felt good today when I couldn’t remember how to get there and we had to map the directions. That means I’m gaining emotional separation from that time in our lives.
We got to see Nicks amazing therapist Jon, who was responsible for getting him up and out of the hospital so soon. We saw our friend Lori, and a few of Nicks favorite nurses, Karen and Denise.
It felt so good to say thank you to these people now that some of the dust has settled and we can see more clearly what a pivotal role they played in Nicks recovery.
Nick and I voted today. Would’ve been a shame to waste our right to vote, considering there are people in other parts of the world who would give anything to have a say in their country’s politics, especially women. And if I was this age a mere hundred years ago in this country, I’d have been fighting for my right too.
So today, we voted, and it felt good.
We parked right in the front, there was no line whatsoever, we were prepared with our ballot selections ahead of time. Super easy! That is until Nick got up from his chair to turn in his ballot. His rigid ankle hooked the chair leg. The room was quiet when he hit the floor, face first with a loud bang, the carbon fiber prostheses knocking hard on the tile. A uniform gasp from the dozen or so people was louder than the fall.
Two men ran over immediately and helped pick him up, saying kind words about him being so young and how sad they were that he has to live this way. Nick brushed it of like a champion though, not embarrassed a bit. He walked away unhurt and unaffected, assuring me that being embarrassed would be futile. “I’m going to be falling down for the rest of my life. I’d better accept it.”
After all this time, he’s still my hero.
Sorry y’all… I don’t feel like writing about how insanely cool the Steps event was at Project Walk last weekend. It was pretty epic. Definitely one of those events where you just had to be there.
Smiles. Tears. High fives. Triumphs. Family. Friends. Achievement. (More tears.)
I have no pictures of Nick on the red carpet, only video, which I’ll edit and share later. Maybe.