Usually NaBloPoMo snaps me out of my slump, but I just couldn't quite get there this year. There's so much on my mind that it feels overwhelming to try and get it all down here, though I know that that's exactly what will help me put it into perspective. Pretty much all we're thinking about is Alex's condition, and what to do about it. We're getting zero help from the medical community--not, I think, because they don't care (although, at the end of the day, they go home, away from us and our problems, so really, what incentive do they have to care overmuch?), but because they're quite sincerely stumped. It's the constant theme what we eat, breathe, go to sleep, and wake to every day.
The total pervasiveness of the situation was driven home to me one day last week when Bella came running up to me, breathless, to report, "NPR is doing a story on a man with a brain injury--you should come listen, maybe they'll have an idea to help!" Broke my heart, that did. And if that wasn't enough, there was the day I took Bella to the doctor when she had a touch of bronchitis. There was a man with a child across the waiting room from us. I didn't pay a lot of attention; the kid was sitting in the man's lap, and they were quietly playing, talking, and looking at books. Then Bella whispered wistfully, "I wish Dad was like that dad."
All I could say was, "Honey, he was. And hopefully he will be again." She, like me, craves the norm. Give us mundanity. God grant us an uneventful life. We'll take it, you know? The status quo sounds awfully sweet when you've been deprived of it for a while. It made me think that I'd kind of like to take a minute and remind myself, my daughter, our family, and even the man himself, who my husband was, is, and God willing, will be again.
He's smart. Wicked smart, in that quick and agile way, so that you have to be on your toes to keep up when he's really rolling. He loves books, loves reading. That's something that he misses so much right now, and it seems really cruel. I read aloud sometimes if he feels like he can concentrate to listen, and that's pretty good. He can do just about anything with electronics, just from looking at them for a few minutes, which always blew me away. "What do you mean you don't need the manual?" He can build anything, fix anything. He would love to be doing that right now. We used to have crossword races. Doesn't that sound delightfully dorky? It sounds wonderful to me. He's a video game impresario, with lightning reflexes and an innate ability to solve brainteasers and puzzles.
He's an animal lover, and gifted in the way he deals with them. Horses who hate the entire world will walk right up and nuzzle him, and every dog on the planet loves him on sight. Foster dogs we've kept have immediately ingratiated themselves to him. When Delta met him, she literally took one look at him, and was his from that moment on. I still remember it--it was in my kitchen, in my little house by the air base, in the winter. I remember the way she looked over her shoulder at me as he pet her, very plainly conveying, "Hey, thanks for the food and stuff up to now--I appreciate it, but, well, HERE'S THE LOVE OF MY LIFE. You understand." I don't even know how many hours he's logged walking colicky horses, and he's never even ridden them. He didn't have pets, really, growing up, so my world must have been a sort of a shock, but he just went with the flow, and never missed a beat. When he decided he wanted a dog of his own, I got ready to buy whatever he wanted...and was delightfully surprised when what he wanted was "a little poodle, not a big one like yours, but not one of those tiny ones." That "little poodle" was Reggie, who went on to become our first show champion, and Alex's prized possession. He has always been ridiculously proud of that dog, and as I told someone recently, you've never seen anything really funny until you've seen a big hairy man in Carhaart coveralls and a John Deere cap tucking a well-coiffed miniature poodle into his jacket and running out to the barn to let it pee, because "it's raining, and his show coat might get wet."
He would do anything to keep me from being unhappy--I can honestly say that I don't know of anything that upsets him more than seeing me being upset. He has dealt with some of the ugliest of realities, so that I wouldn't have to. When Montrachet died, it was me who saw him off, but it was Alex who dealt with every unpleasant detail that followed, so that I wouldn't know the prolonged pain of seeing my big boy's once-powerful body without him in it, and of having to dispose of the remains of the magnificent animal who was my pet and friend for so many years. Alex took care of all that, as he did when we lost Victor, and later Magic. I can't even express my gratitude for that, and he did it without even thinking about it.
He has a dramatic flair, and a romantic side, for sure. He once, when I'd told him how much I enjoyed a trip to Hawaaii, had tropical flowers shipped to me...from there. The very first gift he gave me was a small hardbound collection of the poetry of W.H. Auden, who I had mentioned briefly, ages before that, in one of many seemingly trivial conversations, as my favorite poet. Once I told him of some ancient Arabic lore on Arabian horses, and how I'd read of it in a long out-of-print book that was impossible to find...and then on my next birthday I received a copy of that very book, in amazing condition. I can't even imagine what it cost him. Discussions of literary themes and devices in classic literature brought gifts of annotated texts of those books on the Christmases that followed...always something thoughtful that I'd forgotten about, and he hadn't. When I was scheduled to have enormously invasive surgery, surgery that was sure to require a lengthy recovery period, the summer before we got married, he spent a month working at my house, in the brutal heat, every day, to build gorgeous flower beds, so I'd "have something pretty to look at out the windows." During that long hospitalization, he went and found anything and everything he could think of that he knew would mean something to me, from spearmint essential oil to Ray Charles CDs.
Have I ever told the story of the moment I knew I would marry him? It happened as he passed to me, through the passenger window of my truck, an angry wild goose in a Wal*Mart sack. You can't make up romance like that, folks.
We'd been on our way to my house, from visiting his parents, and the interstate happens to go by a Wal*Mart distribution center next to a large man-made lake. At this time of the year, there were wild geese stopping at the lake--tons of them. One had somehow gotten up next to the interstate, and had apparently been hit by a car. It was walking around near the shoulder, one wing sticking up at a crazy angle, obviously unable to fly. I was horrified at its plight, and as we passed by, I looked over at Alex, who was driving. I didn't say anything. He looked back at me, and said, "What? What do you want me to do? I saw it...you want me to go back and get it, don't you? You want to rescue that goose!"
I just looked at him, not speaking, because really, it was a ridiculous thing to ask.
"Oh, my gosh, I can't believe I'm doing this," he said.
He got off the interstate at the next exit, and drove back to the exit before the geese, got off and back on again in the direction we'd been traveling when we first saw the injured bird. Muttering all the while about how he could not believe what he was doing, he pulled well off the shoulder and stopped the car. I sat and watched as he ran, scrambled, hopped and slid through a huge (and thankfully dry) drainage ditch after the frightened and hurt goose, eventually coming up victorious from the fray, subdued (and frightfully angry) goose in hand, ignoring the stares of passing motorists. He found a Wal*Mart sack on the side of the road, made a hole in the bottom, and poked the goose's head and neck through the hole, so that its wings were held pretty much in place at its sides by the bag. There was really nothing that would do at that point but for me to hold it in my lap until we got home.
And so it was that I found myself looking over a furious, hissing honker, into the eyes of a man I already loved, and thinking, "I'm definitely going to marry him."
The goose, I am happy to report, while never regaining the power of flight, lived out the rest of her days on our pond, well-fed and content.
When he found out that he was to be the father of a little girl, he wept with joy. She was, and has remained, the culmination of everything he ever wanted in his life. His daughter is his life, his love, his reason for trying. He wants nothing more than to be everything he can possibly be to her. He has been hopelessly in love with his child from the moment they laid eyes on each other. She is so very like him, and he would move heaven and earth to please her.
That is not, of course, all of it, but it's a little, and just a sample of what we'd like to have back. Really, anything in the neighborhood, at this point, would be well and gratefully received. Is that so much to ask? It seems so simple, from where I stand.
ADDENDUM: Neither of us realized it until my mom called with her good wishes, but today is our anniversary! Nine years.