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. 🌊🌊
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.
For what has felt like most of my parenting life I have been involved in Colrain Cal Ripken Baseball. Kyle started playing when he was in 3rd grade, he honestly played because all of his friends played, not because he loved the game. Connor tagged along to practice with him and instantly fell in love with the game. He practiced with Kyle’s team even though he was way to little to play.
The first year Kyle played, Mark was a “helping coach”. From then on he was an actual rostered coach. It soon became known that I knew how to keep score, a highly prized ability. After that the book was mine, along with everything that came along with it. Keeping the crew of kids under control, let me tell you, its like herding cats. 14 little boys and girls under 10, all excited to play a position, or swing the bat. But someone needs to make sure they wear helmets and don’t swing the bat near each other. Someone needs to make sure they get to their field position and that they don’t bat out of order.
Very shortly I learned to carry a bag of tricks with me. It was soon nicknamed my “Mary Poppins Bag”, it had my score book, pencils, a pencil sharpener, erasers, snacks, drinks, an umbrella, a piece of plastic to keep my score book dry. It truly was a never ending bag of stuff.
As both boys progressed through the age ranks, I continued to keep score. Connor played Summer Competitive Tournament Ball for 3 years. That bag went with me. Kyle graduated from elementary school and chose to play Golf in Middle School. Mark and I took over the league. I still kept score and carted the “Mary Poppins Bag” around.
Finally in 2012 Connor graduated from Elementary School, he continued playing baseball in Middle School. We have spent 2 years trying to find someone to take over the league…with no luck.
Finally this year we have found wonderful people to take our place. Tasha and Ray. They love the game as much as we do, and have young kids, and I can pass my “Mary Poppins Bag” to someone who will need it, and put it to good use. It is the end of an era, I am both sad and happy to see it go.