It’s the end of January—the month so many people feel is never-ending. While I’m fairly certain it’s rare for anyone to be living their best life in any given January or February, these two months carry weight for me. This is the time of year I reflect on what were my final weeks before my accident. They weren’t extraordinary by any means, but they were real, simple and honest moments of our everyday lives.
Thankfully, the memories felt further away this year—they weren’t as invasive or severe. Thinking of our trip to the zoo, painting the boys’ bedroom and taking walks in the winter sunshine didn’t hurt quite as much as they did the last two years—and that was satisfying. But the other night, while snuggling with my daughter in her bed, my thoughts turned in a different direction and a new kind of ache took up residence.
Before my accident, I would lay in bed with my boys every night. After my injury, that stopped. I couldn’t do the transfer into the boys’ beds. When I did finally master the transfer, I didn’t know my body well enough to be able to get situated and comfortable on their small, single beds. Of course, we did similar things on the couch or in my bed, but it was never quite the same. Recently, with more confidence in my body, I started this nightly tradition with daughter—it has been wonderful to get this piece of my mom life back. But on this one night, it became a trigger.
My younger son and my daughter have birthdays just a few days apart and it has not been lost on me that this year she would be the exact age he was at the time of my injury. But when I was lying in bed with her—reading, singing, snuggling and chatting—it really hit me. I looked at her and I thought of him, and I said to myself This is where I left him.
He was just four years old.
He was just four years old when that ambulance drove me away from our house and disappeared. For the 71 nights that followed I missed singing to him and kissing him goodnight. In the mornings, I missed hearing the sound of his little feet coming down the hall and watching his sleepy eyes adjust to the dawn of another day.
I never took him to preschool again.
I never buckled him in his car seat again.
This was how old he was when I got my last jump-up-into-my-arms-and-wrap-himself-all-around-me hug. It was when I stopped holding his little hand every time we walked together. And, it was when I stopped laying with him in his bed at night to read books, snuggle and sing.
This was how old he was when everything in our world changed. He was still so little. I don’t think I realized it at the time because I had my younger daughter. But a part of him grew up the day I fell and a piece of our relationship was left behind—a piece that had been 4.5 years in the making.
We have created new routines and I feel just as connected to him now as I did then. But this new ache hasn’t eased. I keep thinking about who he was during those last two months and all of the things we did together. I think about all of the time I lost with him to my own recovery. I see my daughter now, at the exact age he was then, and I miss him.
It will be good to get past March 10 again. Get through these months where, 3 years ago, our world was simple and predictable and we were unaware of the upheaval just ahead of us. Until then, I’m going to try and shift my focus to how far we’ve come and the life we have together now. Wish me luck.