I promise to love you even when you look as old as the shelf life of a Hostess Twinkie (RIP). I promise to love you even when your skin is saggy and wrinkled like a Chinese Shar Pei.
I hope you can do the same for me.
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.