One year ago today, my nephew fell off climbing wall in what would turn out to be one of the defining moments of his life. I remember that day. I remember the call. I remember we had found out we were pregnant the day before. I remember seeing him in the hospital before they wheeled him in for the first of many surgeries, listening to him say that he couldn’t feel his legs. I remember sitting with his mom, gently repeating the prognosis that she was having difficulty absorbing. I remember sitting on such happy news, such wonderful news, in the waiting room until the wee small hours while the surgeons dug splinters of bone out of my nephew’s spinal cord.
A week or two later, when he was more stable, and while the family was still gathered, we shared our news. It was earlier than we would have otherwise done so, but it seemed alright…we all needed some good news, and we were all together. There was a lot of celebrating, but the kind of muted celebrating one engages in when one knows there’s grieving going on too. It really does not feel like this could have been a year ago.
I remember how getting laid off suddenly seemed providential, that it seemed like a great idea to start helping my husband out with the business and then just transition into being a mommy while helping out here and there. A good way to not have to leave the work force entirely, but to still get as much mommy time as I needed. On that front, things were working out.
And then we had that horrid ultrasound. I remember we found out the baby was dead the day before my nephew left the hospital. My husband insisted that we go to the party they were throwing for him. It was too soon. I was raw with grief. In hindsight, it might be good that some of them saw me like that. Otherwise I think they might assume that this whole thing was fine. I just don’t think they have any idea. People said some well meaning but clumsy and hurtful things. I tried to not look as though my heart had just been ripped out. I smiled for the photos.
On the one year anniversary of the fall, my nephew is walking. He walks with a cane. He wears a catheter. He has no feeling in his groin or backside. His foot has been welded together in a solid lump of bone, and he has some brain damage. He is in almost constant pain. He has a sense of humor. He’s the same charming, self-effacing, fun-loving, slightly lazy kid he was a year ago in many ways. He’s adapted amazingly well to his new life. But I’m still unwilling to accept that this is his life. I still want more healing. I want him to be able to use the bathroom and have a normal sex life. I don’t want pain for him. It’s such a mixed bag. So much to be thankful for, and still much to grieve.
And in my parallel little trajectory, I’m getting inseminated tomorrow. My husband came out of surgery ok and is expected to regain function of his arm after his accident. So much gratitude that he is ok. So much gratitude that I have him. Some grieving over a career cut adrift for no reason and a year lost without a child. Some grieving of our son who would be four months old. Some grieving over the uncertainty of the future, the “what-ifs” that will come into play even if we are pregnant again this time. Some distance from family and friends who have ceased to be enthralled with our struggles and are just waiting to tune in for the happy ending. Some loneliness.
I guess life is a little bit like this.