Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Survival Day #14

It's been fourteen years.  I see no need, this year, to rehash what happened 14 years ago.  A fleeting thought passes through my head that I wonder what's happened to the girl who caused the accident.  (I last saw her shortly after I had returned to work, over a year later...that was, in fact, the only time that I saw her; we hugged it out and that was mostly it for our interaction).  As I said, it was a fleeting thought...I've now spent more time on it and her than the thought actually resided in my head.  I hope she is well, I hope she has made something of herself, I hope she has moved on.

Time has moved on.  By the very ebb and flow of its nature we are all carried with it.  My life is vastly different now than I ever would have expected.  Just as it is easy to tie every previous negative moment or adversarial relationship to the event that took place on this night fourteen years ago, thus allowing me to logically lay the blame for an event that forever altered my life at the feet of people and events that are in no way connected to what occurred fourteen years ago, it's easy to give credit for every positive moment that has come since to the results of that car accident...but who's to say?

Have I moved on?  I like to think so, most of the time, but a series of horrible phantom pains can wipe away fourteen years and put me right back in that moment.  The past week or two has been difficult...phantom pain filled, most likely due to changes in atmospheric pressure and other weather related science stuff.  I try to stay positive, to stay polite, to be mindful of the needs of others around me...and as time has moved forward there are a lot more people regularly around me now than there were in the first nine years or so...but there have been a lot of sleepless nights lately and the nerves (both physical and emotional) wear thin.

I have moved forward, without a doubt.  There was no way to avoid it, as time inevitably moves us onward.  This past year, as with every year, has been full of lessons brought on by change.  We moved into our new home just before Christmas last year (though we purchased the house in August it took until the middle of December to be barely accessible enough for me to live there...and I do mean barely).  We "renovated" my old house and sold it in February and then continued to work on our new home throughout the year.

I learned how to install a hard wood floor and also a vinyl plank floor...the vinyl plank was much easier.  We completely updated the kitchen with new counter tops, appliances, refaced cabinets w/new hardware and pull out shelving, the afore mentioned vinyl plank floor...I still need to do the lighting in there but otherwise that was the last area of the house to need a major project.  We built a new deck...mostly during one of the rare rainy weekends that we had this summer, but that was when help was available...with ramps to access the yard and garage, and laid a new path with re-purposed pavers from around the yard.  I used the scrap from the deck to build a rack for our firewood.  My father, step-son, and I repainted the entire house in a week.  I've added dimmer switches and updated lighting throughout the house.  Irena has done a lot of preliminary landscaping and has made a valiant effort in the beginning of an on-going war to reclaim our yard from the wilderness that is forever encroaching on us (this wilderness consisting of the 4-5 foot wide border of thick vegetation and small trees that runs along our neighbor's fences).  I "restored" an antique table (as best I could) belonging to Irena's family that had been in storage for as long as I've known them.  Now it sits proudly in our entryway.  Irena and I escaped to French Lick for our third anniversary, but have largely been close to home this year.  I have learned new skills and become re-acquainted with skills I forgot I had...some that I honestly can't recall ever having learned before.  But have I moved on?

Though I have had extensive physical, emotional, and cognitive therapy, and will probably have more down the road, right now I'm not sure how to answer that question.  In truth, I feel like a rubber-band with one end forever physically anchored to that spot, while the other end is steadily drawn further and further away.  No matter how much I move forward, no matter how I augment myself to overcome the challenges presented, no matter how much I evolve and adapt, no matter how much I add to my life, my legs did not move on from that moment and I am confronted by that daily.  It impacts every aspect of my life from waking up and getting out of bed, to bathing, to getting dressed, to everything I do during the day...not even sleep is unaffected...and inevitably, in those moments when I'm so enjoying myself that I dare forget and it all melts away, a phantom digs its claws through the negative space where my flesh and bone legs belong and holds my absent feet in a fire that has been burning for fourteen years now.

While working on the two houses I came to realize how much more effective I was without my prosthetic legs and crutches, either in the wheelchair or on the ground, whether working with tools or paint, I was more functional without my legs on.  As a side effect of this and the amount of time I was spending working on house related projects, the amount of time I was using my prosthetics diminished dramatically.  Similarly, the amount of time that I spent playing guitar while hanging out at home diminished dramatically.  The result was that walking became far more challenging, and I forgot how to play a lot of the songs I had learned.  As we have finished the major projects at home (I do still plan to build a dog house before the weather turns much colder) and life has begun to normalize, I have been wearing my legs more and am controlling them better, and I have brushed up on the guitar a bit and am now learning to play my own arrangement of Hotel California.  The lesson...just like with a musical instrument, I have to practice walking and climbing stairs, curbs, etc. to stay adept at it.

Have I moved on?  I don't know that it's ever going to be possible for me to fully move on from a moment in time that so changed me physically, but recognizing that helps me to understand how important it is to live in the present and plan and hope for the future.  Now, I'm going to stop ruminating on the past and go live in the present...on the couch, in front of the TV, with a guitar in my lap, and I'm going to kiss my wife when she gets home, and probably figure out a way to use Halloween decorations to scare my step-daughter...because that's the life that I have now, fourteen years later, and I wouldn't change it for the world.              

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