It was 5:30 a.m on July 16th, and I had rearranged my body in every position available, but couldn’t rest. A blue light was starting to peak in through the cracks behind the edges of my blinds. My boyfriend was breathing in and out gracefully beside me, and our cat was nestled in the crook of his curved body. I got up, tip-toeing as quietly as I could, feeling the air-conditioned floorboards tingly against my bare feet. I walked into the living room, opened the slider to our balcony and walked out. The sun was cresting against the ocean. Tere were gulls cawing.
It was July 16th, and I was grateful.
I stared out at the ocean, thinking about the significance of this date. Two very monumental things occurred on July 16th in both 2013 and 2015, which peaked my curiosity about the date in general. So, I delved further into this date to reveal where I was at in my life going back year-by-year. I was amazed at what I found. It was like walking into my own forgotten story.
On July 16th, 2012, I was playing my last west-coast gig, on my first bi-coastal house tour, and about to head home. I remember oddly, that I woke up that morning early. I was in Seattle and couldn’t sleep. I was feeling anxious about coming home. I was afraid that the motion would stop, that my music career would fail. I was also in a relationship that did not feed my soul. Yet, little did I know that a few weeks later, on the last gig of the entire tour, Patrick would walk back into my life.
July 16, 2013, was the day that I dropped Patrick off at the Atlantic City airport with a big, black duffle bag (read post about that here), and a tear-stained face. I remember that he was wearing a blue, v-neck t-shirt that made his eyes look like the a Caribbean sea, almost turquoise. His hair hung in his face coyly.
While hugging him desperately, I kissed him and said goodbye, and then left him in the security line. I began to walk out the front door when suddenly, I felt panic grip my chest. I ran back down the corridor, to find Patrick about to walk through security.
“PATRICK!” I called out. He turned surprised to see me but said nothing. “I love you,” I said. And I kissed him again. As I ran out of the airport, my eyes burning with exhaustion and tears, I looked up at the sky. It was morning, and the clouds were tipped with pink and orange. I sat in my car for a while, trying to make sense of everything. Then, just before his plane took off.. he texted me.
“I found a few of your hairs wrapped up in my earbuds,” he said. Thank you for everything. I love you.”
Something deep in my gut, told me that I might never see him again. I was right. That was the last time that I ever saw “Patrick 1.0.” in the flesh.
On July 16th, 2014, just one a year later… Patrick 2.0 was living with his parents at their home with his TBI. I was not his legal guardian, and had no say over his care. But I was at their house almost every day, trying to do therapy as best I could with Patrick. I was tremendously sad, desperate and grieving, and felt powerless to get him any real help. Yet, when I looked back through my emails, I was shocked to find out that on July 16th, 2014… I put my RV up for sale. I think back on that date, and the boldness of that action. I am proud the commitment I made to Patrick, at a time when everything felt so bleak. It was another major turning point, that sent my life in a new direction.
AND THEN came the morning of July 16th, 2015… with me in a dark hotel room. I was up this time, before the dawn. Patrick was sleeping. It was 4 a.m as I laid in bed at the Holiday Inn, thinking about the night prior. I had given Patrick a bath, and washed his head for hundredth time.
I wrote about it in my journal, saying….
“Tonight, I washed my boyfriend’s head with antibacterial pre-surgery wash in our hotel bathroom. I ran my fingers over a veritable minefield of bumps and scars, ridges of bone, two very large square expanders filled with fluids, and a large concave area where his hair falls in. And it occurred to me, that I had been washing his concave head for almost two years. This had been our ritual, and what had once seemed ghastly and odd had become our new normal.
As I rinsed the soap from his hair, I realized that I would never again touch the ridges and bone where the skull was missing. He will have surgery tomorrow, and look perfect. His hair will grow, covering the roadmap of the last two years of our lives. But I’ll remember. I’ll never forget. And when I look at him, I’ll know what lies beneath…”
That morning, Patrick had reconstructive surgery on his head with a final Cranioplasty. After wearing a helmet for 18 months, (and suffering through 4 previous surgeries to his skull/brain), Patrick and I FINALLY conquered this battle.
Yet, he still suffered another infection, 10 days in the hospital, another DVT, IV-Antibiotics, contracting c-diff, a seizure, a trip to the ICU, and another 3 weeks of inpatient rehab, (where they messed up his medication not once but TWICE)… all before he could come home to his girlfriend and his cat.
Make no mistake, last summer was one hell of a mountain to climb, but we achieved a new freedom. No more helmet. Medical stability. The beginning of physical mobility.
Back on our balcony, I “awoke” from what had been a long period of reflection. The sun was now up, and hotter on my face. Had I been dreaming, remembering, meditating, or disassociating? I wasn’t sure, but I had been somewhere else. I had been on a trip through the memories of all those years. And now here I was on July 16th, 2016… five years from where I had started the journey with Patrick, who had come without warning back into my life. I searched my body for feelings and for reassurance, and felt an enormous peace flood over me.
Patrick and I are having a wonderful summer. We are taking extremely good care of our health. We have both lost quite a bit of weight, and are eating clean and healthy foods. We are fighting less. We are swimming and laying in the sunshine. Patrick is going to yoga and working out on his Inspire Cardio Strider. I am writing more. I am exhaling. I can feel myself coming back to life.
We’ve been through such hell, and will always have our struggles, but we are managing them much better. I am hopeful that we are on the upswing of this journey. I can tell that the stirrings of hope within me are beginning to flourish, because I am starting to dream again. By that I mean, I am starting to dream big, the way I was once known to do, and I am not as quick to dash them as I have been for the past almost three years.
It’s too early to reveal just yet, but I do have some adventurous and brave plans stirring for Patrick and I. When the time comes, I will share it with all of you! All I can say for now, is that I am excited again. I am recognizing that after overcoming extraordinary hardships, why should we not embrace extraordinary dreams?
I am excited for the future, and I am excited to see where we will be on July 16th, 2017.
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Thank you. All our love, Anj & Patrick)