We started out best friends.
Dancing that way for a year, we laughed at life, fought about the small things and learned to push buttons. We drew lines early, exposing our hearts and our quirks. We perfected our own little dance and while it wasn’t perfect, it was ours.
We married ten years ago.
The dance changed with a new house, new baby, new jobs. He’d step one way, I’d step another. Our dance became a give and take of stress and happiness, learning new ways to manage each other in our new roles.
He died five years ago.
While his body remained, all those steps we learned together, all those years dancing, gone. When he returned home, it was clear his brain injury had not only changed the steps, but the music too. Years of perfecting a dance together erased in a blink.
Living with him now is like dancing through a minefield. Every step can blast off another piece of my heart, of my soul until eventually there will be nothing left of me. I already fear that day has come as I often stare distantly at my own reflection, wondering where my dreams went.
I worry most for my boys; living in this war zone of recovery. Each day is different, each day the steps change.
This impossible dance of brain injury requires us to stay on our toes, to know when to move and when to be still. We know only to talk to him one at a time as a multiple conversation can send his brain into overload. We never interrupt him for fear his train of thought will be lost. We know to give him space when the door is closed, for his brain is tired and he needs to sleep. We tip toe alongside him now. We know how to survive.
Never drop a fork on the floor.
Don’t have the music up too loud.
Don’t watch movies with multiple/confusing plot lines.
Keep the stimulation down.
I have danced with this new man for five years now. Through ever changing moods and needs, I have perfected the art of caregiving and patience.
Sometimes when I’m alone though, I can still hear the music of our past. I feel the beat swaying in my heart and…
I miss it.
I miss him.
I miss us.