First visit

This weekend was your first visit home, unsteady steps behind a walker equipped with tennis balls getting you from your beloved Passat, to the front porch, to the foyer whose flooring we never much cared for but never replaced.

The cats smelled your shoes and found them fascinating; we learned quickly that Tenzing had no fear of the walker, and Edmund who can't remember where his tail is half the time remembered that some number of months ago, you gave good scritchies.

I played with my new phone, and Tenzing remembered that your feet were warm, cuddly places to sleep.

Amy, Tenzing, Jeff001

['001' by Crystal]

You asked for a normal weekend and we did our best to give it to you, letting your sleep schedule set the rhythm for the house. You sleep for about twelve hours at a stretch right now, give or take, and a mid-afternoon nap is a necessity. Even after all this, you still tend to sleep curled up in a ball, on your right side. Every time I peeked in the doorway I had a little frisson of shock when I saw your face.

I have become accustomed to a house alone. I talk more these days; I talk to the walls, carry on conversations with the cats, reply back to the NPR broadcasters I now all know by name. I ask the dishes if they're ready for the dishwasher, and tell the sewing machine to behave when the bobbin rattles.

I am not quite the crazy cat lady without you, but I am definitely different. So are you.

We learned the hard way this weekend that the doors to both bathrooms are the narrowest doors in the entire house, and you must pass your walker through the doors sideways and then follow behind it with your body to get to the toilet. The master bath is more private, but has more turns, so I think you will use the guest bathroom in the hallway because it's easier for you to reach.

I've taken up most of the rugs. The thought of you falling terrifies me. Crystal and I have the same motions now; we stifle our leaps forward every time we see you battle for balance, see you struggling to compensate for the double vision you've had since the accident. You wear an improvised eyepatch to help you cope with it.


['029' by Crystal]

Back while you were fighting for your life in the ICU, I rejoiced the day Rick and Jessica were able to retrieve your backpack from the wrecker's office. I tried not to think about the fact that the dark stain on the backpack's strap was your blood, and chose to rejoice when I found, carefully and intentionally buried in a bottom pouch of the bag, your wedding ring, class ring, and watch.

I've gotten all of Jeff's property back. In addition to my wedding band and my claddagh ring, I'm sporting Jeff's wedding band, class ring, and watch.Bling-a-ling

['Bling-a-ling' by domesticat]

This weekend, I gave you the watch and your class ring back. It took us a few moments together to figure out how your watch unclasped; file that as one of the small things that you lost in the accident.

His wedding ring is a bit too big to wear, but the class ring fits just fine. It's good to see the little Jeff-things come back.025

['025' by Crystal]

I did unclasp the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' necklace that Beth and Lexie gave me, the necklace that holds your wedding ring, to see if somehow you could still wear it. You can't. You've lost forty pounds since the accident -- I gather ICU tube feedings aren't very tasty -- and I could see daylight all the way around your ring. There was no way it would fit.

You were lying down in bed at the time. I stroked your cheek and said, "This one will have to wait." I think it will need to be recast, but for now, you look more like you with your Alabama ring and your big blue watch, and I will continue to wear the reminder of your promise on a little chain around my neck.

I promised you a normal weekend, and I did my best, even though 'normal' for us has never meant cooking breakfast on weekends. I'll get better at it with time. I teased you for being Southern to the core when I asked "What should I change next time?" and your response was, simply, "Bacon."

I tried to keep some normalcy for me, too, so when you went down for a long Saturday afternoon nap, I pulled out the quilt board and laid out another few rows of quilt pieces for sewing.

Eat This Quilt031211 024

['031211 024' by Crystal]

Of all the things that were normal, and were not, one stands out.

This is pretty much the happiest photo ever. Jeff, at home, with Amy and the Two Large Cats. 
He was a happy Jeff.008

['008' by Crystal]

I will tell you this, because it is becoming clear that someday you will read it: I have lived with deep, gnawing, ever-encompassing fear ever since early December. I have held your quiet, unmoving hand in an ICU room. I have been shaken to the point of tears by seeing you move two fingers. I have cried at the thought of never again seeing that quiet intelligence shine from your eyes. I put myself in counseling and on antidepressants because right now you do not need my fear or my uncertainty; you need me to be able to address your worries with a simple, calm response: "It's taken care of."

I need to hold on to the moment in that last photo. You are vulnerable and weak, so achingly fragile, but somehow ... you are still here. You aren't supposed to be here. You aren't supposed to be alive, much less awake, and I spent a lot of time in ICU rooms in Birmingham trying to prepare myself for the possibility that I would never have you again.

But I do. You aren't whole or healthy, but you are improving and you are working on getting better.

I didn't believe I would have another moment like that last photo again, and you'd better believe I cherished it.

See you Friday afternoon, love. We'll have bacon for breakfast on Saturday.


I didn't want to ask what the prognosis is, because I read your blog for the quilts, and I don't know you...

But I cried reading this.

You can probably guess from the last few paragraphs how grim the prognosis was. He barely survived the initial accident, and then had a life-threatening setback a couple of weeks later. Jeff faces a long rehab period, and we've been up-front with everyone from the start: we can't predict what his life will be two years from now. No one can. All we can do are cross off dire scenarios one at a time, and as he gets stronger, we can assess what skills and memories remain.

He survived. He regained consciousness. He has mostly overcome the right-side motor deficit from the brain bleed. He can speak and read and do math. He retains a great deal of his long-term memory. His short-term memory is starting to return. He struggles with balance, but that will probably clear up when the double vision goes away. He has carried on multiple, knowledgeable engineering conversations with co-workers.

He is relearning many things.

His personality is unchanged, much to our relief.

He has a long way to go, but his core personality is there, and as time goes on we'll eventually know how much of our brilliant engineer is still there. Will he go back to work? I hope he eventually will, and we cannot rule that possibility out. Right now, though, he needs help and care while things like short-term memory, balance, and decision-making return.

He understands he has been given a second chance at life.

Prior to this post, you made some mention of telling him things, and little enough mention of his reply, that I had assumed his speech was still very limited.  I had read increased optimism, but optimism is sometimes simply a coping strategy.

Oh goodness does he ever talk. Emails, too. Reminds me to do the taxes, see if our SSL certificates need renewed, etc. His consonants slur when he is tired, but he definitely talks. :)

I'm pretty firmly not in the optimist category. It's why I didn't write in December. I had nothing to share that would have helped anyone; I just needed to not talk, put my head down, and soldier on until we had some answers.

For cautious optimism, I highly recommend Jeff's friend Crystal -- the one who has been taking most of the photos. She balances my sometimes-searing Calvinist attitudes with a sunnier outlook. She's been good for Jeff, but in truth she's been good for me, too.

(On a completely unrelated side note, I have a cat standing on my butt. Everyone say hi to Tenzing!)

I had meant 'optimism' less in the sense of a fixed personality trait and more as a relative change in mood.

So good to see ya'll together on the couch, and with furry lap drapes :)  So happy you have these moments again.

THank you, now i will go find my box of kleenex dammit :)