Today is the third anniversary of Doug’s stroke on Oahu and the beginning of a very different phase of our lives. There’s nothing special about the date, I could very easily forget it. Plus I’m not very good at remembering dates, unlike my mother, who still remembers all the Beatles’ birthdays. This particular date in our lives doesn’t feel the same as say, 9/11. Sure, it impacted OUR lives greatly and of course, those of our family and friends. But it doesn’t have that same shock and grief of a national or international tragedy, seared into our collective minds. Personal tragedy is just that, personal.
Still, around this time of year, I feel something’s amiss. Or maybe that’s not the right word. It’s a kind of body knowledge, an inner discord that I don’t immediately recognize. Feeling spaced out like there’s something I’m forgetting, or that I’ve lost but I don’t know what it is. A real or phantom pain of unknown origin.
And then I’ll realize – oh, it’s almost that day. And then what to do with that information? Do something life-affirming or stay in bed reading? (Well, to me that IS life-affirming but I mean actually leaving the house, maybe visiting a museum.) Or pretend it is just another day, in which I do chores and run errrands? One could easily spend the day raging, maybe writing “Fuck you, universe” over and over. Or try to do something positive in the world, some tangible reminder that whatever has befallen us we are still more fortunate than many others.
The first anniversary we had a celebration, of sorts. Stayed in a nice hotel downtown, went out to a fancy dinner, did the underground tour the next day. It felt right to mark our achievement of making it through that first year. Then Doug had his first seizure a couple weeks later and because I’m superstitious sometimes, I decided we had given the date too much weight. So last year, we pretty much ignored it.
This year, Doug is up skiing, which is both challenging and rewarding for him. I hope he has the kind of day up there that gives him back a sense of his old self. The change in our identities has been one of the biggest challenges in this whole life-altering event. Obviously, it’s a way bigger change for Doug, both physically and emotionally, but I’ve changed as well – not always willingly. Do I like mowing the lawn? Hell no. Did I mention that Doug also used to cook most of our meals? He covered a lot of ground, that I now valiantly attempt to live up to. I am still and will always be completely hopeless at some things though, like organizing the pantry. Also, our car may or may not have moss growing on it.
So would I like to be my “old self” again? The one who spent hours reading food blogs so I could give Doug a grocery list and his meal plan for the week? That kind of time and freedom feels like such a luxury to me now, one that I didn’t appreciate at the time. I really could have been doing a lot more with it. I use my time much more wisely now, and cherish the spare moments I have for reading, writing, seeing friends, going for a walk…
I know I’m also a stronger person now, I’ve had to be, and I’m learning to be kinder to myself. I have days where I feel like I’ve failed miserably, but I realize I could have given up long ago and haven’t. And, even though I’m not all the way to accepting our new identities and the resulting changes to what we mapped out for our future, I’m making progress. I read that age 3-4 is when children start to develop a sense of humor and empathy. We’re far from being kids at this point, but I feel like maybe this is still a relevant concept, because we have had to start completely over in so many ways, figuring out who we are now and what we want for ourselves. I hope we do continue to grow stronger, laugh more and act more compassionately.
Today though, in honor of turning 3, I had a bowl of cocoa bunnies cereal for breakfast and then we’ll see where the day takes me.