When Patrick suffered his TBI, it was as if a great chasm opened up between us, that was filled with a dense, thick, fog that seemed all at once unnavigable. We were stranded on either sides of it, unable to see each other. This is TBI in its most acute phase, and how it feels sometimes even now, 20 months later.
For almost two years we have worked together to forge a bridge back to the each other. Every day we’ve laid down wooden planks, and taken a step, into the fog, not knowing how high up we were, or how far we had to go to touch each other. As the days passed, the fog has lifted, and slowly cleared, and every day it seems it clears a little more, and we can build the bridge faster. TBI is an incredibly difficult, tedious, arduous amount of hands-on labor, and doing this work has made us into different people than we were before. But we’ve done it, and though there is still some fog around us, we’ve built that bridge back to each other, and step-by-step we walk together now, on our way back to solid ground.
Today, we took a step that we have been working towards for a very long time. It’s taken months of cutting through red-tape, assessments, evaluations, appointments and proceedings. But today, we went to court. Today, I became Patrick’s legal guardian.
I cannot express to any of you the fierceness with which I love Patrick. I loved him at 15 as a young girl loves a young boy in high school for the first time; hopelessly, fully, openly, and foolishly. I loved him as grown woman at 30 loves a grown man; deeply, passionately, richly and with immense gratitude. And then, when he suffered his TBI, I loved him as a mother loves a child; fiercely protective, patiently, and full of pride, and amazement. I feel that my love for him is extremely unique, as I have loved him in so many different stages of his life, growth and development. Not many women will ever feel a fierce maternal love mixed with romantic love, that is simultaneously rooted in friendship. There are so many petals in this love; our beautiful blue light for which our blog is named.
So, it was a very emotional day for me. The magnitude of not only what I was “officially” taking on, but how long I had fought for Patrick, and how far we had come, overwhelmed me. I’ve always been envious of my fellow girlfriends, who are mothers and spouses to their TBI survivors. Being next of kin grants them a peace of mind that I never knew before today. When Patrick was first hurt, as non-blood/non-wife, I had zero say or rights to make any decisions on behalf of his care. Processing his injury and the gravity of my loss was so soul-crushing, that I almost couldn’t breathe at any given moment. But watching decisions made on his behalf, and having to remain silent or mouse-like at best, in fear I would be shut-out, was far worse.
Standing in the court room, I listened to the lawyer representing Patrick speak with great candor about him, her observations of us together, and then about me. She talked about how unusual our case was, representing only 3% of all guardianship cases. She spoke of how much our love had moved her, and how she wanted to waive her fee as a result of the way it had impacted her. I felt time and space suspend as she spoke, flashing back to before Patrick’s TBI; a quirky memory of us cooking brussel sprouts together in the kitchen. And then the judge began to speak about incapacitation, and read the reports from the doctors. Patrick reached for my hand, squeezed it, and then it brought to his mouth for a kiss. And in that moment, everything felt surreal, and I couldn’t believe, (all over again), that he had become injured, that he was missing half of his skull, that this had happened to us, and that the man who had spun circles around me most of my life with a wild, unstoppable, creative (yet destructive), fiercely sharp energy, now needed a guardian.
But then I thought, it seemed not so odd after all. Patrick had always needed a guardian even before his TBI. And I’d always been trying to protect him, mostly from himself, but also from the cruelty of the world. Now he needed a guardian to protect himself mostly from the world, and only slightly from himself. Though everything had changed, in some ways, nothing had at all.
Then suddenly, I was abruptly brought back to reality, as I heard my name called. “Ms. Granieri,” he asked, “have you anything you would like to say?”
The room was quiet. The lawyers, plaintiffs and defendants in the back of the room rustled in their seats. It was painfully quiet.
I stood up.
“Yes, your honor..” I swallowed. “All I want to say is that I love Patrick. I have loved him all of my life. I only want what is best for him, and to protect him. I fiercely want to be able to do that, and to be his guardian.”
The judge paused.
“I see. Well, I must say, that is… very admirable, Ms. Granieri. But do you understand the fullness of your responsibilities as guardian? Do you understand what you are taking on?”
“Yes, your honor. I do. And with all due respect, I am only today seeking that the law recognize my position and title as guardian, which is something I have been doing for almost two years. I understand the responsibilities, because I’ve been bearing them for some time.”
He began to talk in legal speak, about how he had determined that Patrick was incapacitated, and I would be guardian. I took a moment to glance back at the room, and saw several of the lawyers dabbing their eyes. I looked over at Patrick’s lawyer and she too was misty-eyed. Their reactions to the energy that Patrick and I were putting out there, caused me to well up too.
On our way out of the courthouse, we got caught in a summer rainstorm. And as we got in the car and turned on the radio, Patrick turned to me and said, “What’s next, my guardian?” We both laughed. It seemed silly to think of Patrick as my “ward”, and me as his “guardian.” And yet, it was one more important step we needed to take; to have legal protection over our relationship.
One step closer on the bridge. On step closer to solid ground as hopefully the fog continues to lift.
One step further.