I don’t really want to talk about this day. But I suppose that’s what I signed up for when I started this project, huh? It’s 3:09 am and I am wide awake in bed because it’s been a tough night. We got Popper home from the hospital yesterday… he was just two days short of a whole month-long stay.
When he first got home yesterday morning, it was awesome. Truly awesome. He hadn’t been outside for a whole month so we sat him at the card table we’ve kept outside this summer for visitors (thanks, Corona) and let him breathe fresh air and look out at his farm. When he first saw his horses, I wish you could have seen it. The sky was clear of smoke for the first time in weeks and the air was crisp with the beginnings of fall.
As we sat there, he motioned to his fingers several times. He can’t speak, but it was clear he wanted his nails clipped, desperately. I would too, if no one had given mine any attention for a month! So, I ran inside and grabbed a pair of clippers, a file, and a tube of hand cream and got to work there at the card table outside. I wanted to do it so bad… before, I had just been sitting there alone with him at the card table in silence.
It was okay, we were enjoying the coming and going of sun beams behind clouds, I tipped my head back and closed my eyes. We listened to the wind, and I thought how much he must be appreciating the absence of beeping and bustle that becomes the constant background noise in a hospital. But of course, I couldn’t say all this.
You may not know because I practically can’t shut up in my writing, but speaking is something entirely different for me. I’m not good at it, or at least I have never felt fully comfortable with forming my thoughts on the spot amd trying to be engaging. It’s hard for me. I felt okay letting it just be like that, because it’s something I get directly from him, my grandpa.
When I saw the chance to do something active to show my love, though, I leapt up out of my seat.
As I knelt next to him, cutting down his nails, I had a flashback. In the same way I tried to pour my care into this little act, I remembered massaging mom’s feet when she was in the hospital. I flashed back to finally leaning over in my chair at the foot of her bed and resting my head down because I felt so overwhelmed. The family and visitors in the room thought I was fast asleep, and spoke about me with pity. I didn’t lift my head to correct them because it all felt like too much.
When I took in the surprising softness of his hands, it brought back the day that I painted mom’s nails in her bed at home, right before she died. She always had pretty nails.
This is what PTSD looks like for me. Though mostly it was not just vivid memories throughout the day, but a pervasive undercurrent of “I have been here before, this hurts double right now.”
For months after mom died, I could barely remember anything that happened. It took a therapist to help me find my memories again. Then, I remembered everything, at the most surprising times. I used to flash back a lot, when her death was more fresh. While I was cleaning at work at Orangetheory. When I sat alone on a lunch break. Always while I was driving.
So when I got into the car and headed down the dirt road towards town to do a grocery store run yesterday, it all hit. I hadn’t felt this same weight in years. I realized that while Mom and Grandpa’s experiences are incredibly different, they were both brain injured, and with that comes some striking similarities. My memories felt more alive and potent than they had been since the day they were first formed. In some ways, I was right back.
I fought tears all the way… and then I walked into the grocery store, did our shopping, and kept going. And it was okay. I would rather remember than forget. Because that was the last time that I had with her, and that makes it precious. And that’s why I am telling you.
This day wasn’t easy, and I don’t have a positive spin on it quite yet. Sometimes you won’t for awhile. Or ever. We’ll see.
Now it’s 3:25. I’m not sure that I can sleep, though I know I ought to try because tomorrow will come with new challenges, and perhaps new memories.
*Please, if you think you may be experiencing PTSD or CTSD, I encourage you to see a therapist or counselor of some sort. These professionals have given me the tools I needed in the past 6 years. I want that for you.