Just a little over 6 months ago my world was literally flipped upside down (4 times) and I haven’t been the same since. Anyone who thinks a concussion is just “getting your bell ring” should walk, or rather try to awkwardly balance in my shoes for a day.
4 weeks ago I went to a specialized TBI Clinic, and what I found out was eye opening, and a little earth shattering. My balance is severely impaired, I couldn’t stand on one foot if you paid me. If I was ever asked to do a field sobriety test..just take my license. I can’t walk heel toe no matter how hard I try😢
Kyle would tell you, Mom you were never the most coordinated person on the planet..remember BLEACHERS!! I can’t navigate them for the life of me, my family always wanted to sit way up high. I always stop about 3 rows up and park my ass right there!
Little by little my eyes are starting to track side to side better, up and down is still a crap shoot. My favorite hobby has always been reading, but for now that is out the window. It gives me an atrocious headache. The TBI Dr told me to take a piece of card stock and cut it so only 2-3 lines come through at a time. The problem is, I read a whole page at once and my brain removes all the unnecessary words, and, if, or, but, the, than, etc. Then if I need them I put a word back in.
I still can’t walk heel toe, nor can I multitask, I have to write everything down, and scatterbrained really doesn’t begin to describe me. I somehow misplaced my “Best Bonus Mom Ever” travel mug in the house yesterday 🤯
I have confidence that I will get better, maybe not 100%, but I will regain the things that are most important to me. As my Uncle Peter Whalen says..”I have faith that there is an ocean, because I have seen the Brook. 🌊🌊
Last weekend was a rough one, to say the least. Mark and I put up the Christmas Tree, something that the boys and I normally did. This is the 3rd tree that I have put up without Connor. Jordan came to help one year and Kyle normally helps, but due to the fact that he is working in towns that are considered COVID RED ZONES. He is doing his best to limit his exposure to me, I am high risk due to my asthma and he is doing the right thing, but grr it sucks.
We have an artificial tree, a nice one, but still artificial. I am deathly allergic to real ones. The last time I had a real tree I was a freshman in College, my dad was sure I had “outgrown” the allergy, I spent 90% of the day in the Formal Living room. As far away as possible from the tree. That night my mom took me to the ER, on the way out the door she said to my dad “that tree needs to be gone when we get back”. When we got home, the tree was in the snow bank, with all its lights, tinsel and decorations on it, he listened in his own way, lol.
To make artificial trees look real each branch needs to be arranged and fluffed. It is a time consuming project, that normally ends in laughter and Christmas stories. This year it was Mark and i fluffing, with me telling him how to do it, and him telling me it was fine. Even though there were sections of the tree with huge holes because the branches were matted flat.
Then came the lights, even though this is a pre-lit tree (with white/clear lights). I also put 8 strands of multi colored LED lights on it as well. I have a system, we start at the bottom, running around the tree evenly. With each layer spread equidistant apart. None of this on an angle shit!! I spent a lot of time re-doing what Mark did.
After the lights came the beads, I gave up tinsel a long time ago. With pets in this house, that eat it..and what goes in must come out. You get the picture🤪🤪. Just like the lights, there is a system for the beads. The long ones get draped along the branches, much like the lights. The short ones get tossed onto the tree, think Mardi Gras and the tree is the people you are tossing the beads to. All of this needs to be artfully done, so it doesn’t look like a toddler did it.
Once that is done, then and only then can we add the ornaments. This year all the fancy breakable ones will stay in a box. Only the un breakable ones make the cut. Jezebel is already chewing on the branches, a good glass ornament..aah I think not.
Have you ever done something that was terribly hard when you did it, but you knew in the depths of your soul that it was the right thing to do? I have done it twice, the first time 3 years ago when we made the decision to turn off Connor’s machines, and just now when I made the decision to stay home for this holiday season.
That is the way I feel about Thanksgiving this year, we normally spend it in Connecticut with my parents. The last time we didn’t join them for this holiday was the year that Connor died. 2017, as far as I was concerned that Holiday Season could have just disappeared. That year we spent Thanksgiving with Mark’s boss John in Southwick, MA. We had prime rib, and all sorts of great sides. I drank way too much wine, and John introduced me to the cheesiness of Hallmark Christmas Movies.
In the depths of my soul I know that going to CT to spend Thanksgiving with my parents during this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic isn’t smart or safe. My mom suffers from MS, and has for 38 years, my dad has recently been diagnosed with A-Fib, add my asthma to the mix and it isn’t safe for any of us.
Just because I know that this is the right decision doesn’t make it any easier. My parents and my brother are my rock. They have held me up, when my legs were too wobbly to stand on my own. They have given me the confidence that I will make it through this overwhelming loss. That no one walks through this valley of death by themselves.
I know this is the right decision, as hard as it is. It will be the same decision that we make for Christmas. These are holidays, holidays that we usually spend together. But I have learned the value of loss in the past 3 years, and I want the rest of my family to be here for these holidays next year.
So this year we will spend them here in Colrain, and when we get a vaccine and it is safe. We will have a hell of a bash, be it Easter or sometime in the summer.
Just when I think I have this grief well in hand (yes I should know better, it always bites me.) Something sneaks up and grabs me out of nowhere. Today was one of those days, if it wasn’t songs on the radio. Damn Hardy and their tear provoking songs, followed by Chris Young and Drowning.
As I was driving down Main Street in Greenfield, there was a man getting ready to cross the crosswalk by where Wilson’s used to be. That man could have been Steve’s twin. Navy blue t-shirt, khaki shorts, and eyes glued to his iPhone. My eyes said..That’s Steve!!!, my heart said..OMG!! He is right there..but my brain said NO, that isn’t him..you know it isn’t!!
Then as I pulled into Stop & Shop today my heart nearly stopped. There in the parking lot in front of me was a young man that could have been Connor’s twin. Blue t-shirt, faded jeans, half-tied Chippewa Boots and a Black Fox Hat.
I parked my car, and followed him into the grocery store. Once I stopped to pick up a head of cauliflower, and then looked back up he was gone. Like he was a figment of my imagination to begin with. But I know he wasn’t, I know he existed, I saw him, as plain as day, heard his boots make that unmistakable sound as they clunked on the linoleum floor.
My eyes said..That’s Connor, my heart said..OMG!! He is right there..but my brain said NO, that isn’t him..you know it isn’t!!
I knew that this “phantom” young man wasn’t “my Connor”. Just someone that looked eerily like him, enough so that I thought there was a ghost in Stop & Shop with me.
Some days there are just no explanations for what we see or feel. Just that it hurts, I am not naive enough to think that the pain will ever stop. I just live for the days that I can keep it far enough at bay that I don’t end up bawling in my car in the Stop & Shop Parking Lot. Today was not one of those days, but maybe tomorrow will be.
PTSD is a funny creature, just when you think that you have it under control. Something comes out of the blue to shake your world up and dispel you of that notion completely. We are never really in control, we may think we are, but it is an illusion, a fantasy if you will. We cling to that fantasy like a life raft, when in all reality we need to let it go, and understand that we are just along for the ride.
Last Wednesday I was running errands, minding my own business, checking things off my to-do list one by one. My monthly waxing appointment in Florence, pick up prescriptions at Walgreens, get Cat Litter for the picky babies, get my car inspected in Buckland then go back to Greenfield and have Sheila the Nail Goddess fix my nails.
As the phrase goes “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I accomplished everything but the car inspection and getting my nails done. I was driving up Route 2, minding my own business, headed to Mohawk Repair so that Keith Alletson could inspect my car.
As I approached the intersection of State Street (on my left). I began to turn, and that is when all hell broke loose.
I was rear ended by a car traveling at a high rate of speed. My car began to roll, I remember the first roll, but that’s it. The brain blocks out things that it doesn’t want us to remember. When I came to, my car was back on its wheels, there was a man in a yellow safety vest knocking on the windshield, all of the side curtain airbags had deployed, and there was glass everywhere.
I unlocked the door as he requested, and they scooted me out under the airbag, telling me that EMS was on their way. They carried me to the grass, and I asked them to call my husband. He came blowing up to the scene in less than 2 minutes.
If any of you know me personally, you know I don’t drive a vehicle or even ride in one without my sunglasses on. The force of this accident shot my sunglasses off my face, and my flip flops off my feet!
EMS arrived, collared me, put me on a gurney and transported me to the hospital. Mark’s arm was all torn up from getting all my personal effects out of the car, and the kitty litter that I put in the back hatch, ended up in the backseat on the floor.
At Baystate Franklin I was Ultrasounded, and CAT Scanned from head to hip. I sustained a concussion, bruising and soft tissue injuries, scattered like an accident road map, up and down my body.
But worse than any of the physical injuries, I feel like emotionally I am back where I was when Connor died. All the hard work I have done to get to where I was on 7/28/2020 has been stripped away. In one swipe, by a careless driver, who wasn’t paying attention.
The questions keep running through my head, questions that I don’t have any answers to, but they are on a repeat loop, nonetheless.
1. Why did I walk away from my accident and Connor didn’t walk away from his
2. Why didn’t we buy him a safer/newer car? One that had all the newest airbags and safety technology.
3. Was he riding with me (I always think he is) and did he save me and decide that it wasn’t time for me to come visit him yet?
4. I wish I had answers to these questions, but I also know that some questions just don’t get answers. Asking them is fruitless and painful.
What I do know is that physically my 2018 Nissan Rogue saved my life. My poor baby took the impact of the accident and crumpled like she was supposed to. Unfortunately there is no way for my brain to easily un-crumple after thatt accident. It will take time, hard work and therapy to put Humpty Dumpty’s pieces emotional pieces back together again.
31 months and 1 day, and it doesn’t get any easier. There are days that hurt like hell. Days where it feels like my heart is breaking into a thousand tiny shards. Like someone broke a Pyrex dish and there is no way to put me back together again. There are other days that the hurt is just a dull ache, but it is always there in one way shape or form.
The day that Jordan graduated was terribly hard, it was a day that I had dreaded since Connor “graduated” in 2018. I knew what his plan was for her graduation. To meet her at the bottom of the stage, in that silly yellow rain suit, ring in hand and ask her the most important question of a lifetime.
That would never happen, no rain suit, no ring, no question of a lifetime. For the members of FCTS Class of 2020 they were frustrated that they couldn’t have a “normal” non Covid Graduation. I on the other hand, was relieved, there was no place for my mind to hide him. Although I knew he would of found a way, because it was Jordan, and he would do anything for her. His love was strong, deep and everlasting.
Unfortunately his life was not, here I sit just over 31 months later trying to figure out how to put all the pieces back together. In some semblance of order. But no matter how hard I try they just won’t line up, and no amount of super glue will keep them together. So I just do the best that I can to go one day at a time, and know that tears are good, love is eternal and grief is the price that you pay for love.
2020 has been a nightmare to say the least. On January 15th we lost Steve in what can only be termed as the most freak accident that has ever been relayed. Then by early March COVID-19 had made its presence known on US shores. It was ravaging us, like nothing we had ever seen before. One camp proclaiming it was deadly and dangerous, the other saying it was no worse than the flu.
By late March I was laying my guys off, the Stay at Home orders were being issued in one state after another. I had one guy “sick”, but we still don’t know with what. Most of my customers were very understanding, but there are always those few…
Then came the final blow, that made me hate everything. Our Spring Caribbean Vacation was put on hold. The resort was closed due to it, as well as their was no airline travel between here and Jamaica.
With my vacation on indefinite suspension we focused on what we could, getting our camper set up. We moved it to its permanent home in the campground. Put up a shed, that Mother Nature took down. We built a deck, and some snazzy steps. Hopefully the part to repair the shed will be here this week. So we can put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
What I have learned so far this year
1. Take absolutely nothing for granted.
2. COVID-19 is not just the flu.
3. Most jobs can be done from home, in our PJ’s.
4. I am truly hi-maintenance. I need my hair, nails, toes and waxing done on schedule!!
5. I do not social distance well.
6. Change can be good, no one flourishes in stagnant water.
I want my old life back, the one that I had planned. The one full of happy moments. The one full of celebrated birthdays without tears, and holidays without the missing chairs. The one without the “STUGS” that catch me at the worst moments. Like sitting in the doctors waiting room this morning, and the CNA calls out the name “Connor”, my heart drops and my eyes get watery all of a sudden.
I want the life with Connor working hard and buying that damn noisy truck. With him and Jordan going on long drives to nowhere that I could track with his Ez-Pass. With him getting lost (because he had a terrible sense of direction) and having to wake her up to figure out where they were.
I want the life with him clunking in the house with his noisy half tied chips, and big voice. Always giving me shit about something, but always being my baby no matter how old he was.
Not the life where to see Connor means I have to go visit a big slab of black granite at Calvary Cemetery. That slab of granite can’t talk to me, can’t interact with me. It doesn’t make the half tied chips noise. And it sure doesn’t scold me when I cry, and I certainly do cry when I’m there.
This unplanned life really sucks, it is not what I had in mind. The grief that overwhelms me just when I think I have it under control. The intense pain in my chest, for no apparent reason other than my heart is broken. Broken in a way that people who haven’t lost a child don’t understand. I miss you, there is no way to explain it, your laugh, your smart ass comments, your alarm clock that you could sleep through, and that went off even when you slept at Jordan’s. I miss every part of you, until the day that I die. #3Connorstrongforever⚾️❤️💙🦅⚾️💙
It has never been a secret that my boss is a super important person in my life. I have worked for S Keyes Electric, Inc. for 9 years. I have been with Steve through good, bad and ugly. Through his disappearance in the Florida Keys, through he and Tracy’s multiple separations and finally their divorce. Through his head injury caused when the guy from G&S sucker punched him in front of Holiday Pizza, stole his food, and rendered him unconscious. Through a couple of brushes with the law, and one pretty serious car accident. Where he thought the Silverado has wings, or at the very least was the winter version of The Dukes of Hazard.
Through the coolest and craziest concert I have attended. When 15 of us went to see Tom Petty at Xfinity Theatre in Hartford, CT. In a rented 15 person van, with 5 coolers and 3 blankets. 10 minutes into the Xfinity parking lot. Steve tried to jump a Jersey barrier. He missed, ripped his knees all up, by the time he found us he looked like the walking wounded!!
In 9 years my office has been in 5 different locations. That isn’t counting the little tiny temporary space between his garage and kitchen. It has no heat, and was the size of a Shaquille shoe box.
In every location but 5 State Road a Baby Grand Piano has been part of my office furniture. Now at 13 State Road it is at least in the upper space.
In Miller’s I used it as huge file space, or often a spot to organize piles of paperwork. Steve would routinely lecture me about not damaging his piano. In the Old Gay’s Package Store location the piano became a place for him to layout Rockridge Plans, and scatter all his random file folders all over it.
In all the times that piano has been moved, it has been tuned with each move. By one of our Solar Customers. Don’t ask me who, because I can’t remember. I only ever remember it being played twice, but it is beautifully tuned.
This infamous piano was bought by Pat Lynch when he and Steve went to an auction. Pat soon realized that he had no space for it. So Steve bought it off of him, then Tracy told him that there was no way it was coming home, because it would take up the entire living room. So it took up residence in Miller’s, and followed me from then on.
When I go to work tomorrow it will be 21 days, I still expect Steve to come blowing in the driveway in that white Pro Master Van, and charging in the door with his mouth going a mile a minute. But that won’t happen, what will happen is that James and I will do our best to carry on the best we know how. S Keyes Electric, Inc. will move forward in Steve’s memory. But it will never be the same, it just can’t be.
About 6 months after Connor died, Steve sent me this song, it made me bawl then, and it still makes me bawl now. Seven Spanish Angels took another Angel Home… Rest In Peace Steve.. Rest In Peace..💔❤️💙