A Day of Mourning, A Day of Thanks

It’s been five years since my husband was run over by a truck and nearly died. Five long years. That day is seared into my memory, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t forget.

It was, by far, the worst day of my life. For several hours, I had no idea if he was alive or dead. All I knew was that he had been hit by a truck and transported to a hospital. I didn’t know which hospital or the extent of his injuries. I didn’t know what I’d find when I finally got to him.

I remember stumbling down the stairs and banging on my mother-in-law’s door. I remember screaming and collapsing. I remember not knowing how to breathe.
I remember hoping with everything I had that he was not dead. That he’d be returned to me whole and perfect and just as he was.

He wasn’t.

The five years since that day have not been easy. Bug’s brain injury and PTSD consumed our family to the point of nearly ripping us apart. He became an alcoholic. He had an affair. He disappeared from us.

Still, my husband is alive.

I say this so often, I suppose it’s become my mantra: My husband is alive. He’s alive, and I should be thankful.

He’s alive even though a truck struck him, dragged his body twenty feet, and pinned him beneath a back wheel. He stayed under the truck, growing colder in the pouring rain, until paramedics removed him.

The doctors told me it was a miracle his injuries weren’t more extensive or life-threatening. Many people aren’t as lucky.

His very existence should be enough.

Perhaps I’m selfish, wanting more than I’ve been given. But five years ago – two days before Thanksgiving – this accident robbed me of the gentle, laid-back man I married and replaced him with someone fragile and erratic. In addition to two dislocated shoulders, a broken wrist, street burns down to the skin on his knee and ankle, and a deep, long gash requiring numerous stitches, Bug suffered a mild front brain injury – similar to football players who have had multiple concussions – and post-traumatic stress disorder. In a few awful seconds his personality shifted.

We’ve fought hard the past few years to get his old personality back and our life in order, only to have road block after road block thrown at us.

Still, life gets better daily.

Immediately after the accident, Bug couldn’t tie his shoes or get dressed or shower without help. He could barely walk, let alone carry his work gear. Yet he insisted on going on a two-week business trip to Europe just days after the accident. He convinced me he needed to get away and working took his mind off the accident. So I left our boys at home with family and tagged along on Bug’s business trips for two months.

“Bug needs me,” I’d explain to anyone who asked. “He can’t be alone. He has nightmares & freaks out when he sees motorcycles. He’s not functioning normally.” When we were home, I’d turn down social invitations. “I can’t leave him with the boys. He’s too angry. I don’t know what he’ll say to them.”

And while there was truth in that, it wasn’t  the real reason.

His accident scarred me too. To this day, I’m left me with panic attacks, the inability to sleep and so, so much fear. Even five years later, the thought of being away from Bug sends my heart racing and leaves me gasping for breath. Sometimes, I just sit on my bed and cry when he’s gone. And he’s gone a lot.

The truth is, I barely function now. It’s like I gave him all my strength, and there is none left for me. I have social anxiety. I cry easily. I have a hard time being left alone. I work too much to keep myself from ruminating over the coulda, woulda, shouldas of the past five years.

We have, in so many ways, changed positions. Like I once hovered over him, he’s now my caretaker, always checking to make sure I’m okay. That I haven’t hurt myself. That I don’t let bipolar depression get the best of me.

We – he and I – we put on smiles in public and pretended the past five years haven’t happened. We’re good like that. A team. That’s the one thing that hasn’t changed.

Yes, I still mourn the loss of the husband I had. But I’m also thankful, because slowly, a new, better version has taken his place.  The sweet, loving husband and caring, doting father has come back.

That man is here, holding my hand. Telling me we’ll get through this. Somehow. The two of us.

Yes, my husband is alive. And for that, I am thankful.

xoxo ~dawn

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