Why Not?

He opened his golf umbrella on that sunny, blustery day as he walked toward us, meeting us for the first time. “To keep the wind away from him,” he said.

I looked into his eyes and searched his face, not quite believing he was that concerned. Not after the other school bus driver. Not after the Troll.

The Troll, with his fuzzy reddish hair standing up on the very top of his head, had said nothing to us as he helped as little as possible to secure us in the bus, closing the doors and starting the engine before we were totally buckled. He drove way too fast considering his riders, speeding through the windy country roads. He dropped us off on the cul-de-sac in front of my long, snow covered driveway, with the sleet hitting our faces, the wind whipping around our ears, and he drove away without a word, with me staring at the back of the bus wondering how I was supposed to push the 100-pound wheelchair which held my 170-pound son, the distance through the driveway slosh and up the steep, icy ramp at the back of the house, and carry my huge, purple Nike duffle bag at the same time.

Tears poured down my face at the unfairness of it all that day as I struggled to get my son into the empty house, knowing he was cold and uncomfortable. Knowing I was not strong enough to do this on my own. We had just gotten him back to high school for his senior year after more than a year off, most of it spent in acute care rehabs and ICUs. He was not supposed to even be alive. At the most, he was supposed to just exist as a vegetable, if you believed the doctors, but here he was back in school, and I wouldn’t, couldn’t, leave his side.

I had been so excited for him to return to school, but at that point, at the end of that day, I was exhausted and had little strength to be excited for anything. I had no strength to push the chair. The end of the driveway may as well have been the end of the school parking lot. And the Troll drove away, leaving me there. Leaving us there.

So, that next day, in the windstorm, I was reluctant to even hope it would be different.

“Can he communicate?” this new driver asked me.

I nodded. “He understands everything. He speaks just a little.”

“My name is Tony,” he said to my son, bending down to make sure Damon heard him. My son surprised him by reaching his only working limb up in a handshake, the strength of that handshake never failing to shock most people as they never expect such strength to come from such a compromised body.

“Backwards,” he continued, “Tony is spelled YNOT. My friends call me Ynot.”
Damon smiled slightly, his gorgeous lopsided half smile. And a friendship was born. The best kind of friendship. Beautiful, pure, and totally unexpected.

“Do you mind,” Tony-Ynot asked me. “How did this happen? I just want to know.”

“Car accident,” I answered. “A year ago.”

That day and every school day after that through Damon’s graduation day, he drove us home from school, to the top of the driveway, and insisted on pushing the wheelchair to the back of the house and up the ramp, making sure my son was safe, making sure I was ok. He wouldn’t let me lift a finger. You do too much, he’d tell me.

Some days he drove us to the school, when we had no other appointment before class. Other days he arranged to pick us up at the rehab facility when we were finished with our 8:00 am appointment, so I wouldn’t have to arrange for other transportation to get us from rehab to school. Often he’d stop with the school bus next door to the rehab at the Dollar Store, and run inside to do some shopping or bring Damon a gift. A train whistle, a hand exerciser, a fedora hat or an umbrella hat.

He was always early and we were always on time for Damon’s Chemistry class, his only class that marking period. From the windows of the bus, we watched winter turn to spring and spring turn into summer, the three of us together that year. He purposely drove past horses and fields, dropping any other students he might have that day off first, so that Damon could see the sights, so Damon could be last to get off the bus, and Tony could visit with us a bit on my back deck. And he would talk.

I learned so much about him through his stories, the stories that 80-year-old men tell of their lives, with that far-away look in their eyes reliving the past, the happy, the sad, the memories. I knew he had been walloped with the passing of his wife a few months back. He would never get over that loss that devastated him, that rocked his world off its axis.

I learned about his daughters, of whom he was so proud, his sons-in-law, and his own sons. I learned of his grandchildren, his great grandchildren and his friend from Arkansas. I learned of the lengthy list of jobs he had had through the years to support his family.

He was a New Yorker at heart and no matter how far away he lived from the City, he would always be a New Yorker at heart. He had driven cabs, had an oil company, a printing company, a landscaping business. He took care of the love of his life through her very last breath. He had a story a day, and better yet a great sense of humor. Self-depreciating humor. “I only use nickel words,” he’d say. But he had million dollar stories. He had million dollar advice.

He had bad hearing back then before his hearing aids, and I would have to scream from the back of the bus to tell him something. We laughed then and still do at the day about one week after we met, after four bus rides home, when he looked at me in the mirror of the bus and told me about the house sale he was having. “Where do you live?” he asked me.

What? I thought, He’s driven me home for a week and today is asking me where I live?

“Um…..” I answered, yelling from the back, “……with Damon?”

“I know,” he yelled back, not quite hearing and definitely not understanding. “But where do you live?”

This went on for a minute or two. “I’m his mom,” I said, praying that dementia or senility hadn’t set in so quickly. “I’m Damon’s mom.”

“What?” he yelled back. “What?”

“I live with Damon. I’m his mom,” I was screaming at this point.

“Oh my,” he laughed when it finally hit him. “I thought all this time you were his aide. I never thought you were his mom.”

“And I thought you were losing your mind,” I laughed.

From that day on, even though he was younger than my dad, I adopted him as my Grandpa and Damon’s great Grandpa. Because he had thought I was too young to be Damon’s mom. Because he felt like family.

When he told me he ate Dollar Store cans of soup for dinner I made sure I made a little extra food when I was able to cook dinner, taking him some the next morning. Greek salad was his favorite in those days when I had more time to make something.

I laughed at most of the stories and told him I’d write a book someday. A book on his life and his stories.

When the lady at the front desk of the high school told him she’d like to introduce him to her dog, because he loved dogs, I teased him that that pick-up line was better than “Would you like to come to my apartment to see my fish tank?”

Two years later, wanting to give Damon the fish tank he had for years in his house, he wrote to me, via text, “I can’t stop laughing,” he said. “I really need you to come over and see my fish tank to see what you think of it for Damon’s room, and I keep thinking of your comment when the lady wanted to introduce me to her dog, and I can’t bring myself to ask you if you want to come see my fish tank.”

So many stories, but the story he couldn’t get enough of was Damon’s story…..the story of the miracle boy he drove home from school every day.

When both newspapers ran articles that winter on Damon and his recovery, Tony was first to ask for his autograph, his glee obvious as Damon wrote “To Grampa Ynot; Love, Damon.” I gave him a 120 page printout of every update I had ever posted to Facebook on Damon’s accident and recovery. He wasn’t a reader, but he couldn’t put it down. “What an inspiring story. You can help people. You have helped me,” he told me. “You don’t know the people you’re helping.”

He named Damon “Rocky” and me, Mrs. Stallone. And he says he will be the one when the time comes to drive Damon to the Court House stairs so Damon can run up those stairs with the music of Rocky blasting in the background. It will happen, he keeps saying. Write a book he always tells me…except the last chapter isn’t ready yet…the last chapter when he runs up those stairs.

When I told him that first spring with tears in my eyes that Damon had a beautiful date and would be attending the senior prom, a miracle in itself, he insisted that he would be in the driveway with the school bus and drive him and his friends to the event. I laughed. They won’t allow that, I said. You watch me, he said. And the bus was delivered the morning of the prom so we could decorate it with streamers and balloons and he showed up later in his dapper suit, playing the role not of bus driver but chauffeur.

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Prom night 2013

I had planned a pre-prom party to get some pictures of my boy who was not expected to be alive let alone go to his senior prom. I nervously fretted about the weather for two weeks prior to that day.

“I’ll get you sun,” Tony told me. “I have an in with the guy upstairs. He owes me.”

And it rained all day. “Where’s my sun?” I texted Tony in the morning.

“Believe,” he texted back.

It rained as the beautiful girls in their stunning gowns and handsome boys in matching tuxedos piled into my house. “Tony? It’s raining,” I panicked.

“Believe,” he replied.

And it rained until, on cue, after everyone arrived, it stopped, and the sun broke through the clouds and heated everything up while it gave us chills. Immediately the ground dried, and it somehow was magical, unworldly, and pictures were gorgeous and the day was perfect.

We joked after that: Can you get me sun for graduation, as well, Tony? What about for Damon’s grad party? For the weekend? I told him he reminded me of George Burns in the movie, “Oh, God”.

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Prom night, 2013

He also managed to secure the bus for graduation that year and my entire family rode in style to the huge event, not having to worry about parking or anything for that matter. Television crews came to film Damon take a few steps across the stage. And we felt like celebrities and that school bus was our limousine.

Damon’s graduation ended our bus rides but not our friendship. Armed with donuts for Damon’s sweet tooth each time he visits, he never turns down a cup of coffee. We trade my Greek salad for his Easter pie. He stops by also to visit, unannounced, at therapy, noting Damon’s progress, cheering him on. Everyone knows his name. Tony-Ynot.

He plays the lottery for Damon. “Wait for that 11 pm call,” he always tells us. “When we win, I’m calling immediately.”

“Yo, Tony!” is Damon’s greeting, every time he sees him. “Antonio Josepe” Damon always says, using Tony’s Italian name and then reciting some of the Italian words and jokes Tony has taught him.

He’s 82, now, and celebrates his birthday each year by wearing a T-shirt that sports his age, and he increases the number on the shirt by hand with each birthday. I’ll wear this shirt on my birthdays ’til I’m 100, he jokes each year. He has a Facebook account and a smart phone and just a few times has needed instructions, but otherwise manages this new technology quite impressively.

We text instead of call, because I know his hearing won’t have any impact with texting, and besides he likes to use smiley face emoticons with mustaches.

He was there for me when my dad died, but I never told him about my husband leaving. He figured it out eventually, but with his Italian temper, I didn’t want to be the cause of him getting him riled up and upset when the leaving was fresh. He was the only one I thought of when I needed help with my daughter’s recent graduation, having to push my mom’s wheelchair, maneuver Damon in his power chair, take pictures and watch the event. “What time should I be at your house?” he texted back the minute I asked him his availability. He drove us in our wheelchair van like in the old days. He pushed my mom into the stadium even though he’s just a few years her junior. He made it all doable.

He just recently traded in his house for an RV, which has added a spring to his step and shaved years off his features. “I feel terrific…years younger,” he said. “I’m getting into the driver’s seat and just going he told me. No real destinations, no set plans. I’m taking off in the fall and I’ll return in the spring. Unless of course Rocky is ready to run up those stairs. Then, I’ll return immediately.”

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Riding high, 2015. Courtesy of Jen Rae Monte

So many people have come into my life, especially since Damon’s accident, and even more people have gone out of my life. But the special ones don’t come often enough. The special ones with their smiles and their stories, their huge hearts and their golf umbrellas are a rare find and a true blessing, especially for a 20-year-old disabled boy with a middle aged mom who pretends she’s young enough to have an 80-year-old grandpa.

This friendship is a true two-way street, two people helping each other, each thinking they have gained more than the other. This friendship, like Damon’s story, thankfully doesn’t have a last chapter yet, either. Somehow I am sure it will tie into the other last chapter of the other story I’m writing, on the Court House steps.

Believe. Because…. Ynot?

***update March 6, 2016*****

I thought my heart couldn’t break any more. I was wrong.
This is not how I had written the final chapter in my mind. But I am happy I wrote the rest while he was alive to read it.
“Get better,” I told him a couple weeks ago.
“Make sure you get Rocky to those court house steps,” he answered.
“I can’t do it without you.” I replied. “We need you to get better.”
“You will and you have to,” he wrote. “Don’t you dare let me down.”

Yo, Tony. Rest in peace. We love you.

Truth Be Told, or Written

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My best writing came out of an online class I took last summer.  It wasn’t so much due to the instructor because the instructor didn’t really instruct,  and all her critiques on everyone’s pages seemed to be nothing but positive.  It was moreso because the prompts were fantastic and could be tailored to my story and because I was forced to write at least 300 words a day for about four or five weeks.  And it was because I was honest in what I wrote.  Truly honest.

I amazed myself that I wrote as well as I did considering most of the time I do not reside in a physically or mentally quiet place.

Sometimes I wrote in hotel rooms two hours from home, totally exhausted after tucking Damon in for the night after a long day of physical rehab.  Sometimes I wrote at home, after a twelve hour day which included driving to and from rehab,  again after Damon was in bed for the night.  Sometimes I wrote during the rehab session itself, in the waiting room, in a panic that I was coming up on the class deadline and I wasn’t even near finished.

And sometimes I just wrote during the day at home amid the noise of Damon’s online games, his loud music and YouTube videos, and in between fetching this or that, doing laundry, cleaning, bathing, dressing, or feeding this 21- year-old, brain-injured son of mine.

 I don’t ever have the luxury of a bulk of free time to dedicate solely to my writing.  I do have a quiet room, a beautiful writing room, but never much opportunity to sneak into it to use it.  Such is the life of a parent caregiving to her disabled child.

Damon has little patience and can’t seem to comprehend that if I am holding his urinal bottle in place for him chances are pretty high that I can’t get him his phone, get him a drink or stand on my head at the same time.    I only have two hands, I say, and I wince, because that is double of what he has functioning, right now.

So he certainly doesn’t have the patience for me saying: One second.  I’m in the middle of a thought. Or: How badly do you have to go? Can you hold it until I finish this sentence?

Even right now, during this short spurt of writing, I have been summoned to his bedside three different times to adjust his pillows, to fix his sleep mask, to rub his ankles.  I write a sentence, I get up, I write two more sentences, I get up, and I come back to finally finish a paragraph.

During the online summer course, however, somehow, regardless of my ups and downs and ins and outs, despite the urinal bottle and the showers and the pillow adjustments and wheelchair transfers, I did find time to write every day for those four or five weeks. I felt so inspired by those online prompts and so hungry to get my words into sentences and paragraphs and essays that I wrote any and every few minutes I could find throughout my crazy day. Of course, I also didn’t want to be  embarrassed that I failed to produce something on any required day even though grading for this course was not a factor.

And, even more amazing than all that, I was happy when I read what I had written.  Seriously happy.  Confident.  Wowed by my own essays.  I thought some of them were so good, I sent them on to friends, just waiting to bask in their adoration of my words. And bask I did.  For those four or five weeks.

During the course, I was also required to read the other students’ writings and critique them. And they mine.   I felt like a buffoon at first, critiquing English majors and “real” writers, because honestly, I had no clue as to how. I do not know about juxtaposition, split infinitives or allegories (Yes, I googled those.  I’m an accountant for heaven’s sake).  But as we got going through the weeks I realized, that like an average reader, I either like what I read, love what I read, or I don’t. Not because of juxtaposition, split infinitives or allegories; for no other reason than it’s a damn-good, well-written, truly honest story.

It was scary as hell to write for and be critiqued by those who knew so much more about everything literary. Even though I knew I had a damn good subject.  And I knew I could write.

What I didn’t know was if I could be honest and raw and real….everything required to tell a story like mine.

I didn’t know if I could truly write from my soul, from seething pain to sheer joy.

Brain injury is a journey of emotional turmoil for the loved ones of the injured.  We are thankful beyond measure our loved ones are still with us. We grieve beyond measure at the daily reminder of whom we lost. Neither emotion can be hidden; both need to be acknowledged for the story to be true.

I found it easy, after a few attempts, to be more honest in front of faceless strangers.  Much easier than being honest in front of friends, Facebook or real. They didn’t know me.  They had no expectations.  And I felt they were not there to judge my topic, only my presentation.  And therein lay the difference, the step-up in my writing.  My honesty, transcribed into words.

Looking back today, however, I’m actually frightened of what I wrote last summer. I’m frightened not only in sharing what I wrote; I have little confidence now that I can continue at that honesty level, which is the level of writing I need in order to take the next step in actually writing the book.

Honesty requires bravery and I’m scared to be so vulnerable.

It’s no longer  just about me staying honest about myself, as I was last summer.   I need to step it up now and go even  further than that to tell the whole story.  I now also have to be honest about others, regardless how they come across on the page. Honest about their reactions. Honest about their emotions and the way they impacted me and the situation.

Honest about the hell that comes with brain-injury and caregiving. 

Honest about what happens when life shatters and then just keeps on shattering.

During the early days, actually the first few years after Damon’s accident, I wrote on Facebook every day. It was a cathartic healing for me, a way to deal with what was going on around me, to make sense of it, and to send out hope, to update friends. But I wasn’t always real.  I was seldom totally honest. I couldn’t look over the edge into the darkness, so I wrote of light.

I stayed cautiously positive and hopeful, instead of writing what the doctors told us about vegetables and nursing homes and pulling the plug, because really, I thought, who wants to read the negative shit?

Responses and comments came flooding in, gushing about how inspirational we all were.  How much love our family had.  Our strength. How we exemplified  the meaning of family.  And I read them all as I sat in the rubble, the charred remains of my life, the crumbling of my family unit.

They wrote of my strength as a mother.  They asked how I kept it all together.  They didn’t see me go 4 or 5 days without a shower, sometimes unable to put one foot in front of the other.  My total exhaustion.  My heartache.  The pains in my shoulder and back so bad that I couldn’t get up to walk.  They didn’t see me throw things or cry myself to sleep.  They didn’t see me wiping up vomit or shit or screaming at the top of my voice.  They didn’t see it because I never wrote about all that.

I never wrote about it because writing of the negative wouldn’t serve my purpose.  I couldn’t mention my shattered surroundings.  Because, again, who wants a daily dose of negative?

I wanted my readers to come back. I wanted them to be happy and hopeful.  I wanted them to follow the story.  I needed to keep Damon in their minds, because by being in their minds, perhaps he remained in their prayers and perhaps the universe would shift and miracles would happen.  Perhaps sending out the positive would cause the positive to be returned to us, to him, tenfold or more.

And we know that miracles did happen.  Miracles the medical profession just could not believe. Miracles they never saw as remotely possible. Of course we have so far to go.  But Damon is with us.  He is alive.  Damon can communicate.  He can laugh and make us laugh. And most importantly, he can love and be loved so much right back.

But he’s not the son I had. And this isn’t the life I wanted.

 I feel the time has come to tell the full story, complete with the darkness.

I need to share my fear, my panic, my broken heart, my broken home, my broken dreams.  I need to write of the depression. My need to be in control.  My losing control. My selfishness and my selflessness.  The loss of marriage, of friends, of a life that looked so picture perfect from the outside. The shattered happiness and loss of such a bright future. 

I need to entwine those truths with the miracles, the inspiration and the faith with the horror and the hell. And I need to tell it from my viewpoint.  It’s my story.  It’s my life. And it may upset  a few people.

Why don’t they understand what I’m going through?  I, exasperated, recently asked a friend about a close family member of mine.

Because you have made it look too easy on the outside, he responded. You’ve sugarcoated it.

It’s been anything but easy.  It’s been anything but that.  And I need to write it all down. Because the truth may help others.  Others on this journey.

My ultimate wish is just that, to help others following in these footsteps.  I can’t do that by glossing over the darkness. It will be no help to them if they read words of inspiration only without the words of despair pushing out from behind the inspiration.

I want to write an honest memoir and I want to try to fully open up.  It is time.  But, for me to write anything on a serious level, honest or not, I need to stop procrastinating.  I need that kick in the ass. That pressure.  Those deadlines.

So, I signed up, once again, for another online course.  This time it’s ten weeks long.  Ten weeks of writing every day. Of reading others’ writings every day.  I can massage every prompt, like I did during the first session, to fit my story however I want.  In this setting I hope to flourish.  I plan to be as truthful as I can.  I will piss people off.  And I will try to write a damn-good, well-written and honest story.

I hope to include the essays I write over the next ten weeks in my blog, well, as many as I can without compromising my book.  And I promise to…..

Hold on to that thought….I need to get Damon his breakfast.

 

 

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Driving in Reverse

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For a split second, in my mind, he was not quite seventeen yet. For a split second, as the wind whipped through our hair and the music blasted and the sun beat down through the open roof, I was sent back to that summer before it happened, that summer of happy, when he was just a beginning driver and the Jeep was only six months old, and dreams were alive and opportunities were endless and his future was wide open and we were all free and everything was perfectly fine.

For a split second I forgot that it had just taken three people to physically lift him inside his Jeep and place him gently onto the passenger seat, adjusting his legs and his arms because he couldn’t do it himself. I forgot that I wasn’t sitting next to him because I was teaching him how to drive. I forgot that I was driving because he couldn’t, and I forgot that he probably wouldn’t ever sit behind his steering wheel, again.

I forgot that all our lives were now shattered.

As we drove, that entire three-and-a-half-year-heart-wrenching-span-of-time since the accident just seemingly blew out the windows and swirled with the dust particles that had been sitting inside the Jeep for the same amount of time, and then disappeared.

The heartbreak, the grief, the dread, the denial, the refusal to believe what the doctors told us, the twenty-four-hour-a-day care, and the total exhaustion. None of it existed in that split second.  Time rewound in sync with our distance and speed, and we drove faster and further away from the present.

As I navigated the roads, he adjusted the volume on the country music stations I had taught him to listen to and love so many years ago. He turned it louder and louder with his one good hand, and as he sat back and listened to his favorite songs he watched the old familiar roads and the scenery, the scenery he can’t usually see from his perch high up in the wheelchair van.  I knew how happy he was to be in his Jeep with the top off and the hot wind in his face, and my heart became lighter than air but full of something so much heavier.

I turned slightly toward him, and as I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye I pretended he was no longer disabled.  In my mind, then, he was fully abled. He was strong and tanned. He was sitting tall without slumping, without any form of assistance. He was all that a carefree teenage boy with a new Jeep and a new license should be.

I fully turned and looked into those beautiful blue eyes and I saw him smile. From my vantage point I could only see one side of his smile, so to me that smile seemed perfectly symmetrical and the muscles on both sides of his face gave the illusion of working together.   And as he smiled, I laughed. I laughed as untroubled and easily as I always used to laugh when I was with him in his Jeep going anywhere.  And I laughed until I began to cry.

How often had I begged to no one in particular in the dark hours of the night when my heart screamed with the pain of losing the boy I knew….how often had I begged and offered my soul to whomever might want it, for one more chance to be with him as he was before his accident?

“Please let me go back, just one more time.” 

On that day, in that moment, as the dirt roads passed under his Jeep, we drove forward but time somehow reversed.  I knew I had been granted that wish of reliving a memory with the boy I once had. Not just in my mind or in pictures or dreams.  This memory was real enough that I could feel the wind in my hair and the sun on my shoulders.  I could smell the fresh cut grass and the wild flowers as we drove through the fields.  I could reach out and squeeze the hand of the boy sitting next to me in the passenger seat, and he could squeeze back.   I could taste the joy and wild freedom from so long ago, now so lost.

For a split second, I went back to the time before time stopped.

Tunnel of Trauma

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It’s three years.  Three years.  We’re not through the tunnel, but the tunnel has side lights, it has lights wired in, it’s not total darkness all the time anymore; although the bright light at the end is still so far away, still so very dim.

As we journey past those side lights, life’s amazing windows in that tunnel, we see two beautiful sisters flourishing in spite of what life has handed them.  One highly achieving in school, in sports, becoming the most loving sister to her big brother, planning now her own future, based pretty much on his experiences.  I don’t know many adults that could have endured what she did throughout these last three years, and handled it with such grace and such strength.  Many can’t and won’t ever understand her part in this journey and may always continue to judge it, but they never, I am certain, could have filled her shoes, or walked her path.    We see the other sister redefining what she thought her life path would be; finding her inner peace, a journey on its own; helping others find their inner peace; opening her own yoga studio so close to home, so far from what and where she thought she’d be today, prior to that day, three years ago.

We forget, until we look back, the hidden toll this journey must have taken on both of them.  We forget until we look at the happy, before pictures:  a grinning brother lifting his sisters up in bear hugs, driving them in his Jeep, taking care of them both; a brother who appears stronger than life.  We don’t realize the extent of their loss until we compare it to the after pictures: sisters spoon-feeding that same brother, holding him up because he can’t sit on his own, pushing him in his chair.   We never see in any of the pictures what the past three years have emotionally cost these sisters, their inner turmoil, their demons, their struggle to accept.  What we only see is their beauty, not their strength; their smiles, not their pain.  We never see that both of them had to grow up way too fast, way too much on their own.  We don’t see their heart aching, their silent comparison of the brother that was to the brother that is.  We don’t see that they each face their loss anew every day, a fresh sorrow, as they walk down the stairs each morning, toward his bed.

The darkness still sometimes overcomes much of the light, as we move through our days.  Emotions constantly collide as grief slams into joy, anguish meets up with gratitude.  We lost the boy we had, there is no way around that, and we grieve for him, for us, and for his lost dreams and ours as well. On the other hand, our gratitude that he is still with us and our unconditional love for him is beyond measure….but it’s a teeter totter inside our minds, happy and sad, up and down, day by day, minute by minute.  We’re ok for a while, and then we’re not, and then we are.  Up and down. Up and down. The new norm.  Ever changing emotions, never finding their level ground.  The train speeds through the tunnel, speeds by the side lights, toward the light at the end, still so far away….scaring me sometimes that I am wishing away the ride so I can just get to the bright light.  I’m terrified to think what if after all endured, after all this time chasing the bright light, we never get there or it is not so bright.  What if it is forever dim?

Three years is forever.  Three years is a blink of the eye.  It just depends which side of the teeter totter you’re on that day, or which part of the tunnel you’re driving through at that precise moment.