Baby Steps

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I was never that girl who spent much time dreaming about being a mom. I am not overtly “girly,” nor do I consider myself overly maternal (though I would bet our plethora of animals might say otherwise).

Rather, my desire to have a baby just sort of developed naturally over the course of time. During that timeframe, several of my friends and acquaintances became pregnant and had children. Yes, it is entirely possible to be thrilled for someone while feeling a tinge of sadness and regret that you are not the one sharing such news. I had to realize that feeling that way didn’t make me a horrible, selfish friend. It just made me human.

Time went by and I became pregnant at the end of last August. I shared our news very early on. I didn’t have misgivings about doing so because I figured that if things went wrong, I would want the support. It didn’t make sense to me to hide something I had wanted and waited for – if I had had a miscarriage, I would have been devastated. But what if no one knew? Paul and I would have been alone, and I didn’t see the point in that. It’s such an individual preference, I know.

I have shared so much in this blog about my recovery from grief and my injury. Yet, I could never had quite prepared myself for the entirely different door that being pregnant opens. And I have to say, it’s been at times very uncomfortable for me.

Don’t misunderstand – I am thrilled to have this baby. It’s just everything else that has thrown me for a loop. For someone who has shared so much, I am a very private person, and so many things have been a rude awakening for me.

I expected the advice – some welcome, some not so much. Paul and I have an idea of how we would like to raise our child, and I don’t think that always jives with how other people might want to do things – that’s okay, too, as long our wants as parents are respected.

As I pointed out, for example, I am not overtly girly, and I don’t plan to raise my child that way. If she grows up and wants to play with dolls and play dress up and watch 500 movies about princesses, then so be it. But I also don’t intend to push her toward being any one way. I just want her to have the opportunity to be herself.

As soon as people found out that I was having a girl, I found myself struggling with their reaction. Here is a news flash. I have one pink shirt in my own wardrobe. What makes people think that I need 500 pink shirts for my baby? Why do we just automatically assume that girl=pink? I don’t begrudge the color – it’s just not my preference. That hasn’t changed because I’m pregnant.

Which points toward the bigger issue and what I have been struggling with the most – yes, being pregnant and having a baby changes your life. But being pregnant in and of itself doesn’t mean that I am a different person or that my personality just changed randomly.

I am still me – I am still Jenni.

I didn’t like being touched randomly before – what makes people think I want to have my swollen, tender belly touched or rubbed? Especially out of the blue?

It’s like people consider my belly to be entirely separate from my body. Just to reiterate – it’s not. And as a public service to all other pregnant women, please stop reaching out and touching us without asking. Maybe there are some women who don’t mind, but I would bet the majority of us would at least like to be asked first. People didn’t reach out and randomly rub my stomach before I was pregnant. How weird would that be? Food for thought.

Paul and I also have struggled mightily to keep the baby “stuff” under control, which is difficult when people are excited and want to give you ALL THE THINGS. And again, I am so, so grateful that people are excited for us and want to help. I really, really am – but similar to the whole belly touching thing, be mindful of who you’re dealing with. Some people might welcome a plethora of random baby gifts, and that is totally fine. But some people might be more minimalist and just want specific items. Nothing wrong with either way of being – it just seems to be difficult for people to get sometimes.

I have struggled to maintain my sense of self over the last eight months. I have not ridden a horse or run a few miles in months, and it’s hard to lose that sense of self, even if only temporarily – but I don’t think people realize that sometimes. And so, it’s more important to me than ever to still be regarded as who I am and who I was before – even as I prepare to welcome this new life. Physically preparing for this change is challenging enough!

While grieving my father and then during my initial recovery from the TBI, all I wanted was to find some sort of sense of normalcy again. Emotionally, being pregnant has been a crazy balance between being so excited and so terrified. The only “normal” thing about this is knowing that in some way, everyone who has been there has dealt with these emotions in some way or another – it’s just always eye opening once it finally happens to you.

 

 

Two Years from 23,000 Feet

Tomorrow marks two years since my accident.

In my mind, it’s last Saturday afternoon, and I’m on the first of three flights, flying from Monterey, California, to Los Angeles. Miraculously, I have the row to myself (I use the term “row” loosely, since the plane was so small – a trip to the bathroom resulted in contortions). I also have a window seat, which I treasure. Some people are terrified of heights and so they keep the window shades pulled down tight. While I try not to think about the fact that we are hurtling through the air in what is essentially a tin can, I get a sense of comfort from looking at the earth below. It makes me feel very present.

The scenery from Monterey to LA was dotted with mountains and cloaked in fog. We flew down the coast, but it was impossible at times to discern the fog from the ocean. It was as though the fog just rolled right into the beach and beyond. The man behind me has been talking non-stop since we boarded. He seems to be unaware that speech is something to be preserved and conserved like water in the drought-stricken state we are passing over.

When I look at the earth below, I note its cracks and deep veins, as if the earth was literally being sucked dry despite being so close to the coast. Visualization has been a powerful tool in recovering my speech over the past two years, more from the perspective of “seeing” a new way of thinking about how to say a unique or complex word. Glancing at the rolling earth below, I think this must be the literal visualization of “arid.” I could almost see the word floating up through the air currents. I wondered if I could reach down and touch the earth below, would it blow away?

I think about the last five days, which I spent at my first Clinical Aphasiology Conference in Monterey.

I am avoiding finishing the last few pages of my book–like the last bite of a tasty dessert, I’m just not ready for the end–and so I take some time to let the past few days settle and absorb. I had been mentally preparing for this conference (and this trip) for months, and it was hard to admit that it was over, and I was coming home.

It was even harder to absorb where I am now compared to where I was two years ago.

I learned so much at the conference, which is a fairly intimate gathering of some of the top researchers in aphasia. I also had the pleasure of meeting some really lovely people. I am not certain I could adequately convey the impact that attending this conference had on me, both professionally and personally. Seeing data from my recovery presented to a group of clinical researchers and standing up to share a bit of my experience was invaluable to me. More than that, I hope that it is a inkling of work to be done and can help to further the field in some way. Because more than anything, what good does all the research in the world do if we can’t apply it and see it make a difference in someone’s life? What are we doing, then? I hope that my own recovery–understanding that we are all unique–gives even one person hope that there is something beyond those fragile first few months.

Ironically, my favorite memory from the conference was the evening that a group of us drove over to Carmel-By-The-Sea. It was chilly for late May, but there was something undeniably magic about the town. We walked on the beach and back up through town, stopping at the Cypress for dinner and drinks. Just having an intimate conversation with a group of lovely ladies, most of whom I had just met at the conference, was fantastic. To be able to sit and converse and relate on a personal level, isn’t that really what it’s all about? Two years ago, I had no promises that I would ever be able to do so again.

Some people who sustain a TBI suffer immeasurable changes in personality. While I am beyond grateful to say that that has not been the case with me, I would be untruthful if I said I hadn’t changed at all. But, for me, it’s been more of a slow evolution in the things that sustain me – the things that I value and treasure. Gradually, I have come to the realization, as I wrote in my last post, that I need to be more present. More appreciative of the mundane moments that make up life, because really – the moments that sweep you away  (whether in tragedy or joy) are few and far between compared to the everyday. Maybe it’s not that I have changed all that dramatically. I am still the same person, but to put it succinctly, maybe it’s just that I let myself feel more.

So I come full circle, back to the guy in the seat behind me, talking incessantly.

Maybe any other time I would be annoyed. However, reflecting on the then and now – I let myself be.

Some people are uncomfortable with silence. They will do anything to fill it. After having to think so hard about speaking after my accident, I became a lot more comfortable with silence. I accepted that sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Whether you say it in words or not.

Here’s to two years.

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Fledgling

Since my last update, life has been flowing along like a swiftly moving river. It may not always be the smoothest journey, but it’s always moving forward.

A few weeks ago, Paul and I witnessed a very cool thing.

Our house is nearly 100 years old and boasts a creaky front porch and lots of eaves and overhangs under the roof for a variety of wildlife, most of which is welcome (let’s not talk about our first year in the house and the squirrels who managed to find their way into our attic). Each spring, we watch the birds build new nests and monitor us carefully as we come and go.

This year, an American Robin made her nest under the overhang of our roof and settled in to commence brooding her eggs. As is typical for us, we had to come up with a nickname, and so we promptly named this bird Kevin, after the chocolate-loving bird in Up.

Kevin peered out at us skeptically each time we pulled into the driveway, but she hovered around the yard and enjoyed the free bird seed buffet we provided. Not long after, I noticed a few tiny beaks pop up – three tiny Kevin babies had hatched. I knew it wouldn’t be long until they climbed awkwardly from the nest and started testing out their wings, but I had never actually witnessed a bird learning to fly.

One Saturday, Paul and I were sitting on the couch watching a movie when Buster, our tuxedo cat (really, the Barney Stinson of cats), suddenly became quite interested in trying to poke his head through the window blinds. I opened the blinds and was surprised to see a mini Kevin perched atop one of our porch chairs. He was preening himself, tufts of tiny gray feathers sitting atop his head, as if he were a little old man. At times, he would raise one of his wings, as if he was unsure of how he got there and had no clue how to extricate himself from the situation.

A few minutes later, Kevin flew down and alighted on the chair. She had a worm in her beak and seemed to be encouraging her offspring to make a move. Baby Kevin hobbled around awkwardly and eventually Kevin came over and gave him the worm, then took off for what I assumed to be more worm hunting.

In the meantime, Baby Kevin stayed put, looking quite confused. Kevin returned and looked at her baby, then proceeded to flap her wings. Baby Kevin began to imitate her. This went on for a while, with the baby attempting to copy Kevin, and with her returning every few minutes to encourage him with more flapping.

At this point, Paul and I weren’t certain how long this was going to continue, but we were way too invested in watching this baby fly to care. After a few more minutes, Baby Kevin suddenly took off.

Okay, so he flew a bit like a drunk toddler, but we didn’t care. Baby Kevin made it from the porch chair to my dad’s Japanese Maple tree in the front yard, and it was one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed. I kid you not.

I spend a lot of time at the computer for work, and I’m frequently on the phone both during and after work, either leading meetings or just zoning out on Facebook or looking at various random websites. Sometimes, I think about unplugging and trying to do a better job of just being present and enjoying life as it’s happening, not as I’m reading it happening.

For the few minutes that I watched this baby bird test out his wings, I was truly present and tuned into life as it happened. It may sound silly, but for me, it was a really eye opening experience and one that I will treasure thinking about. I am guilty of spending a lot of time thinking about the future and planning, which can be a good thing but can also cause me to feel like I’m not totally appreciating the moment as I’m in it.

As I approach the two year anniversary of my accident, I want to do a better job of appreciating the moment. The one benefit right after my accident was that I didn’t have anything else to focus on at the hospital other than putting one foot in front of the other. As I recovered and life returned to (mostly) normal, the daily distractions of our fast paced, plugged-in lives slowly crept back in. In a sense, it’s good to be back to my life as I knew it, but I also never meant to start taking it for granted again.

I am grateful for these little moments to bring me back again and remind me to stay present.

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What I’ve Learned in 530 Days

Last Sunday, Paul and I took a lovely walk to Durham’s Central Park to gorge ourselves on the city’s finest food trucks. After chowing down on Humble Pig, Sweet Traditions, and Only Burger, we took a stroll up the street and purchased what we realized were the first picture frames for our new house.

We signed the closing statements on September 28th.

2012.

On the walk home, we talked about how much we love our house – adore it, really. And, how everything we knew before we bought our house was irrevocably changed the day we closed. The day my dad suffered the massive stroke that would lead to his death.

You see, I didn’t start this blog to chronicle my grief. I thought I had done a pretty good job of that on the Caring Bridge site I kept up for my dad. I shared my experiences long after his death, as writing has always been a good way for me to cope with things.

No, of course I started this blog to share my experience recovering from a traumatic brain injury and the myriad results – namely, of course aphasia and verbal apraxia. And yet, as evidenced by my last post, the further away I moved from the acute recovery process, the more I was forced to deal with the evolution of my grief.

For the past year and a half, Paul and I have spent more hours than I can count driving back and forth to Cherry Grove. This past November, we helped my mom to purchase a house much closer to us, which was a much-needed change. However, moving her meant it was time to face what I long been dreading – cleaning out and listing her house. Their house.

And so for the past couple of months, Paul and I have been continuing our life interrupted. Lately, we’ve been pulling all day trips, driving down and coming back the same night just to have  a full weekend day in our own house. Thus, the lovely Sunday we enjoyed last weekend.

As mentally (and physically) taxing as these trips to work on the house are, we have carved out our own routine. Leave early Saturday, get breakfast from Chick-Fil-A and coffee from Starbucks. Work, re-up on the coffee from the North Myrtle Beach Starbucks, turn around, and head back home. I can think of a hundred over things I would rather be doing with my Saturday after working all week, but it is our routine, and we try to glean some hope out of each trip, because each trip is one step closer to getting the house listed. And, maybe then, the beach will be “fun” again.

But it’s hard. Hard to face the reality of cleaning out a house filled with memories. And I always leave feeling emotionally drained, like my soul has been poured out.

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Evaporated.

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The upstairs office in our home has held a rotating plethora of papers, records, notebooks, pictures, and other items from the station and house. It is surreal walking in and seeing several copies of my dad’s death certificate on the bookshelf. Dying is a complicated process, both mentally – and legally, apparently.

I know that I am digressing here, but you see, I don’t know how many times I have told Paul that I would take my injury all over again if I could have my dad back. And I’ve thought to myself, wow. That is really saying something.

But then again, I was lucky, and we know how this has ended up. I didn’t die. I survived, and I am still making progress.

And so I thought again, maybe the purpose of this blog was never about chronicling my grief, but in a way, this recovery process has been much like my experience grieving for my father.

Recovery is not neat. It’s neither simple nor linear. And I say that being someone who has been incredibly lucky, because although I may always have some speech impairment, I am healthy. To look at me, you would never know I spent hours in surgery have pieces of my skull removed from my brain. You would never know I still can’t feel my right arm 100 percent, because it moves just fine.

I’ve always been someone who enjoys order and having a clear process for everything. And recovery is not that easy, even when you’re lucky. Frequently, you take two steps forward and a giant step back. Additionally, there comes a point in which you have to face the fact that you may never be the same person you were before. Even if it’s just in small ways. You will always know it – and that’s just part of the process.

Grief, I’ve found, is much the same. Time does, in fact, cause the acute shock and despair of loss to become somewhat easier to bear. It does not, however, prevent you from breaking down in tears when you find an old Father’s Day card he kept or notes he wrote and left around the house to remind your mom to take her medicine. In the end, even with the kind of healing only time can promise, you are still left to face a life without that person.

In a way, then, recovery and grief both boil down to the choice we have to make – to accept this new reality and proceed with doing the best we can making do. No, not just making do. Making a life – one that is bittersweet but still filled with promise.

Because you are alive.

On Loss and A Volleyball

A couple of weeks ago, we saw the new Tom Hanks movie, Captain Phillips. And I thought to myself, “Man, I really love Tom Hanks.”

Now, I have no idea what he’s actually LIKE. For all I know, he could be the worst human being on the planet in person…but I like to think not. And, he’s in one of my all-time favorites, Forrest Gump (which STILL makes me bawl).

Though, you have no idea what it was like being a “Jenni” in the ’90s when that movie came out. If I hear, “Run, Forrest, run!” one more time…But, I digress.

The other day, I was thinking about loss. October is such a mixed bag of emotions for me now. I have always loved the month and all its accoutrements. Fall. The leaves, a fiery hue, streaming to the ground like little meteorites. The scary movies (!). And clearly, the excuse to eat way too much candy.

But, October has also become a season of loss to me. I suppose technically it has always been that way – the excitement for fall layered with the sadness of watching summer slip by. And yet, now it
is literally a time of loss, as we mark the one year anniversary of losing my dad and the way of life I knew before losing him and before my injury.

You may thinking, “Okay, Jenni, I’m with you here, but what does Tom Hanks really have to do with anything?”

Does anyone remember Castaway? Maybe it wasn’t your favorite Tom Hanks movie, but I bet you remember that volleyball (why, by the way, you can apparently purchase, fake bloody handprint and all). There was nothing quite so sad as watching poor Wilson float away from the raft,
and nothing likely mocked so much after as Tom’s character screaming after it.

You know, people made fun of that scene. Why be so upset? It’s JUST a volleyball.

And that’s the issue here, really. When we start prefacing our speech with “JUST,” we sort of miss the point, don’t we? It doesn’t matter if it was just a volleyball to you. To his character, at the time and given the circumstances, it was the biggest loss he could face.

Conversely, making these type of justifications or comparisons lessens our ability to emphasize with other people who we feel have it “easier” than we do. Saying, “It’s JUST a ____ (fill in the blank – horse/house/cat/car/whatever)” just isn’t fair.

On the hand, constantly comparing your own loss to someone else who you feel may have it a lot worse can sometimes make your own feelings seem invalid. But they’re not.

There is a very entertaining gentleman in my local “Back to Work” support group. He has a lot going for him. He seems to be very bright and his speech is quite clear. People might wonder what he’s doing there. But when asked how his disorder has impacted his employment, he was very specific. For the first time, he can no longer walk into a group of colleagues and feel proud, self-assured.

In this case, his loss was one of confidence.

It’s okay to be grateful for what you’ve been given–life–but still want more. The loss is very real even if other people think it’s JUST a “something.”

I feel like I am constantly chasing my own Wilson – the version of myself that stopped existing on June 4th this year. I feel that it always within reach, but depending on the day, the tides change. And that’s okay.

The important thing to remember is, just about everyone is riding the same ocean – the circumstances might be different for each one of us, but we’re all chasing after something.

#TBIProblems

I was never a huge boy band fan. I mean, I’d be lying if I tried to deny ever dancing to “Bye, bye, bye” but don’t please don’t judge. I was 17 when it was released, okay?

Anyway.

I never got that whole obsession. It’s not like these guys were like the Beatles.

Similarly, I never got the whole obsession with hashtags on social media. It’s my limited understanding that they imply some sort of desire to have something “trend.” Is that correct? And what exactly does this accomplish? Is the fact that you just ate 20 hot dogs or slipped on the “uneven bricks” on campus at UNC (points to whoever remembers where that’s from) really THAT important? If I navigate to Yahoo after your Tweet or whatever it’s called, will I see #thosecageybricks trending on Yahoo?

Imagine my surprise when two things I don’t understand – boy bands and the free-for-all use of hashtags – came together in a perfect two minute blend:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57dzaMaouXA

First, two questions – when did Justin Timberlake become so cool? And really, when did hashtags become #thesymbolformerlyknownaspound?

At any rate, since this blog is centered primarily around my recovery from the verbal apraxia and aphasia that resulted from my TBI, it occurred to me that my TBI may be feeling envious. Perhaps it’s time to pay a little attention to all the other #TBIProblems, if you will.

Now, the thing about TBIs is they can be so very individual. No two people may have the exact same recovery, and it seems that while there are several commonalities among people with a TBI, the duration and degree to which someone experiences these varies widely.

First, ostensibly, I was unable to speak.

#Everyhusbandsdream

But, did you know I also lost around 16 pounds? Don’t be jealous. I lost a great portion of my appetite after both surgeries due to the anesthesia. After the first surgery, I worked HARD to eat because I frequently got “head rushes” and passed out a few times. The extreme head rushes just recently faded in the last few weeks, after my cranioplasty.

Falling with a TBI, which I managed to accomplish a handful of times thanks to my lack of appetite, is bad. So ladies and gentlemen, please eat. I don’t foresee the TBI becoming a popular diet fad.

In addition, while I couldn’t talk initially, my hearing was incredibly amplified and my sense of taste was skewed. I drank everything out of a straw and cut my food (what I ate) into such incredibly small pieces you would swear that I was 80 years old.

Why?

#Ichokedoneverything

Fortunately,  after a few weeks, I regained my ability to swallow relatively normally.

Also, people with a TBI, depending on where the damage is, may experience loss of mobility in their extremities. I located a very odd picture of myself in the ICU doing what appears to be the Vulcan salute from Star Trek (yes, I had to look up that terminology). But I was apparently trying to get the fingers of my right hand to move.

Luckily, I was able to walk okay and quickly took to shuffling about the hospital like my 80 year old self (that’s not fair, really, I’m generalizing and probably walked a lot more slowly than your average 80 year old). Out of the hospital, I became very adept at taking walks around the neighborhood, since I couldn’t ride.

I quickly regained mobility in my right arm and hand, going from a limp fisted high five to fairly passable. However, I am recalling one day while still an inpatient, I was in physical therapy and had to do the peg board.

The peg board is an evil, sadistic “game” in which you use one hand to pick up a bunch of metal pegs individually and place them in the peg board. There are several rows of this to be done. The first time, I could barely get through 10.

Not rows. 10 pegs.

After that, I continuously dropped the remaining pegs, got a horrible headache and had to take a break.

Perhaps the most humorous (but not really?) thing is that the right corner of my mouth is still numb. While I’ve gotten pretty good at avoiding the huge blobs of food that would attach themselves when I ate after leaving the hospital (#Ilookedlikeahamster), I still have a propensity for drooling.

Yes, just in case you doubted my comparison to being 80. Okay, let’s say 90.

To this day, if I’m not paying attention, and I’m looking down, I just might drool.

And you would have probably never known about this, because I’m extremely careful when I’m out and about. But Paul has been the lucky recipient of witnessing this more than a few times. And I have no shame.

Other little things that no one else would know: my sneezes have changed! I went from ALWAYS sneezing these teeny little multiple sneezes to occasional giant blow-outs. Snot and everything.

#TMI?

I am extremely lucky in the realm on TBIs that my personality is the same, and I am of course still making improvements in my speech. While the sensation in my right arm is still off, I’ve stopped throwing my Starbucks drinks on the ground (clearly not on purpose). I never take my improvements for granted. However, I hope that I’ve given you all a little taste of some of the other things I’ve dealt with over the past four months. Why should speech get ALL the fun?

Now, I’ll never use another hashtag again.

#Really

Live and Die

To my dad,

A year ago today, you had the stroke that would take you away from us in two short weeks.

Shortly before that happened, my favorite band–the Avett Brothers–released a new album. You were always fascinated by what I was listening to. You would always ask me what radio stations I listened to in Durham, what new artists I enjoyed, what my favorite bands were doing.

You and I had different tastes in terms of “new” music, but we shared a love for all things music. I credit you with my love for oldies that most kids now don’t get the same experience with. But, that’s what happens when you grow up with a dad who owns a radio station.

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But, back to the album. After your stroke, I found myself doing the same routine every day. I would wake up early, drive to the station to set that day’s logs, and then make the trek to the hospital. Everything I did up until the point I saw you each morning was filled with a sense of urgency – I HAD to get there and see you. And every day, I listened to Live and Die, because I didn’t know what else to do. Hearing that song reminded me of you, of home, and was something comforting in what was otherwise a time of uncertainty.

By default, that song became the theme to my days. The gel that held me together. It seems a little odd to say that, but to you, it won’t.

I made you a playlist of your own, and I would play it for you each day, along with the radio station. I put your favorites on it. Some Beatles, Roy Orbison, and others. I even put Somewhere in Time on it because that song was special to us. You walked me down the aisle to it.

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You couldn’t talk, and the only time I really saw you awake was the first day I was there. But I hope you could hear it.

I am not the most demonstrative person. I have always been better at expressing myself through writing, but I’m trying to be better about this. I never thought I would have to say goodbye to you so soon, and I don’t think anything I could have said at time–or now–would have been good enough. One thing I have learned is that there is never enough time. Not even if you know what’s coming.

You weren’t perfect. But who this? I’m not even sure what perfection should be. All I want to be is happy and be a good person. You were those things. I say that means you did what you were supposed to do here. You made me and my mom happy – you took care of us.

I am glad that you didn’t have to worry about me when I got hurt, because I know you would been devastated. But I am selfish and want you here anyway. I don’t like that you’re gone and my mom is far away without you (though you should know that Paul and I are trying to get her up here!).

You know that I have never been an overtly religious person. But the oddest thing happened the night I got hurt. My last memory that evening was talking to a rider in my class before I was injured. Then I saw you.

Now, I have gotten to meet with the first responders who helped save my life that night, and I found out I was having some breathing issues and was in and out of consciousness. They wanted to fly me to UNC, but no one could fly that evening, so the ambulance driver got me to UNC in record time. Bet you would have appreciated that…seems my ambulance would have put your Mustang to shame that night.

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Maybe it was my brain playing tricks on me, but I don’t think so. I saw you that night, and we talked without words. The next thing I remember is waking up and seeing Paul. I think you were looking after me. Maybe you’re not here in person with me anymore, but you were definitely there with me.

I am who I am because of you and Mom. As Paul and I say, we’re not perfect, but we were perfect for each other. I miss everything about you, even the things that drove me crazy.

Most of all, thank you. Because of you, I am stubborn enough to keep fighting for this recovery even when I just want to punch the wall or give up. And when I think I can’t do it, I hear your words very clearly in my head – “Yes, you can.”

We miss you here. It’s not fair. But that’s been made clear this year.

What matters is that we loved each other, and we knew it.

I still can’t sing every song right now – my voice is coming back, but it’s still a work in progress. But, you know the first song I could sing again in full? Our favorite.

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Jenni