Today marks a date in this journey – today, six months ago, on a very cold and icy January night, I was met at the door by a law enforcement officer bringing sad news to our family. Six months ago, life had a scary uncertainty to it, more than tolerable fear and dread, with large doses of overwhelming sprinkled in. That day, and those that closely followed, were like walking through a slow motion dream – you want to run, but everything moves like walking through molasses.
Since those days, life has sped up, not quite back to the unrelenting speed prior to the accident, but fast nonetheless. The goal has been to NOT to return to that lifestyle, that fast paced merry-go-round that crept into our lives and hooked us in at warp speed. Life continues on around us regardless if we are engaged in it or not, and we have slowly made our way back to some level of life, with added parts to it that were not present in the past.
Daily life continues with lots of therapy and homework. Each small task has a part in the recovery, from stacking coins, shuffling cards, computer games and football agility drills. To some, his level of activity seems complete – he must be healed, he is doing things that normal people can’t even do. Well, in many aspects, he has made an incredible recovery. I know I would not want to do some of the drills that the physical therapists put him through. He still works out 5-6 days a week at the gym, which is also quite amazing. But even Frank will tell you that he has not returned back to his former physical abilities. He is frustrated by the pain in his shoulder, numbness in his finger tips, and lingering weakness on that right side. He knows that it would be difficult to chase down a perpetrator, or jump out of a squad car and race to help his partner. He knows time is his friend, but he has never been a friend with patience, and he is resistant to building that friendship now. It feels like forever to him – he has no idea how long it has been for the rest of us.
Franks memory and cognitive skills continue to improve at a fairly predictable pace. My hope is that it just continues to move forward – this is the area that causes me the most worry, when I choose to indulge in that particular past time. Although great recovery has been made, having some skills that test in the 10% percentile is hard for both of us to accept. There are not large areas that fall this low, but they are there, and they will impact how he moves forward with his recovery.
Frank has fairly good insight into his deficits, which is both a blessing and a curse. Knowing your deficits allow you to compensate for them, using strategies to work around areas that are difficult. The curse comes when you dwell on those areas, and get frustrated with the inability to do simple daily activities, or make mistakes that seem trivial and silly. What seems like second nature to some of us can trip up someone with a TBI, and those little difficulties can add up to big feelings of anger.
Sitting on the porch, listening to the water garden babble, watching the kitten chase moths, it is hard to believe that we are where we are today. Each day has wonderful high moments, and devastating low moments. You would think that swinging so hard in each direction would get easier, but it doesn’t. It is why each day ends with significant fatigue, and a wonder as to where the strength will come to make it through tomorrow.
That morning does of strength comes from Frank. He gives us the strength to get up, face the day, and deal with what life brings. How can you not take faith from a man that wakes you up texting jokes from the bed next to you, allows the kitten to bite his toes, and pretends to “pinch” me from across the room using his fingers. The man who now sits across from me on the porch, looking like his normal self, eating jelly beans for breakfast. The man I married almost 12 years ago. The man that will always be Officer Frank Mackall.