Tomorrow is our community day at Kennywood, and of course there is rain in the forecast. It has rained on our community day every year since the beginning of time. I’m hoping it stays away completely or at least is quick. It’s too hard to reschedule when I have 5 kids to worry about (not all mine, of course), and I’ve called off work and the tickets are purchased. I’ll take ponchos and as long as we can get a chance to ride everything (my SIL is coming, so I will get a chance to ride the Pitfall once or twice (or 600 times), and we get our fries with cheese or gravy and I get my corn dog and a square ice cream (suck it Florine), and I play the one game that I am good at (that roll the bowling ball one) and win everyone a prize, I’ll be happy.
Community day is held around the same time every year and in the past few years, I find myself getting a little anxious around this time. I usually just brush it off as anticipation and nostalgia, but I realized today that while Kennywood holds so many happy memories for me, it also represents one not so happy one.
Four years ago, I was at Kennywood he I got the call that mr b had had his accident. I will never forget the feeling of being so happy, riding and playing and eating (in the rain, of course) and then going immediately into a nightmare. When I got the call, I wasn’t even sure if he was going to survive – they don’t give you too much over the phone. What I would find out later was that he had fallen 25 feet and shattered his feet – every single bone. His heel bones were in so many – and so small – pieces that there was nothing to repair. His feet were swollen to the size of watermelons. I called my mom to meet me and get the kids and I rushed off to the hospital. It was a day that started off great and then turned in to months of worry and fear and grief.
Mr b recovered, of course, but not completely and not without a lot of pain. He spent time in a nursing home, while I tried to hold things down at home with a 7 year old and an infant, all the while trying to hold it together. I rushed from home to daycare to work to the nursing home (often stopping for decent food so mr b wound’s have to eat the home food), then to pick up the kids, then home, then had to deal with homework and diapers and dinner and baths. I took the kids to see me b as often as I could. I barely stayed afloat emotionally. I remember breaking down one day while I took the garbage out in the pouring rain. It had to be done right then and I had no choice. I was already on the verge and then I looked up to see my fuckhead neighbors watching me, and it was too much. I sat down in the rain in my good work clothes and cried, while the kids were inside, clueless.
I thought it would be easier when mr b finally came home, but I was wrong. Because now, in addition to doing everything, I had to learn how to give him shots. And how to fight with doctors offices and insurance companies. And how to work a borrowed wheelchair van and lift and restraints. And once his feet didn’t need to be constantly elevated, how to maneuver a wheelchair in and out of the trunk of our car without hurting myself. And how to clean wounds and hospital beds and portable toilets.
I learned how very few places are truly wheelchair accessible. I learned how humiliating it is for a grown man to be turned away, or to be carried or to patronized. I learned that there are a lot of assholes who borrow grandma’s wheelchair tag to get a close spot at Macy’s.
I tried to hide my worries about money, since mr b was already feeling so bad, but man, did I worry. He got workers comp, but it was only a fraction of his salary. And the biggest problem was that he had taken a job at a lower wage than he wanted because he really needed it and because there was a ton of overtime. So we were getting not only a fraction of his salary, but a fraction of about 65% of his salary. And we were just in the process of getting out of the hole that having a business created when he took the job. It was rough. And we didn’t know what was to become of his career. It was clear that he would never be a carpenter again. He had a degree and a good bit of experience to fall back on, but he had always defined himself by his job (something I was always telling him he shouldn’t do), so it was a hard thing for him to deal with.
We struggled financially. We struggled physically – him because of his injuries (which were massive – the worst that the surgeons had ever seen and largely inoperable) and the eventual learning to walk again and me just simply from doing all the heavy lifting (both literally and figuratively). We struggled emotionally. He was already depressed and now he was depressed and angry. I was suffering from PPD and now I was depressed and angry. But somehow, we made it – we didn’t really have a choice. We had two kids to take care of and during that time, we learned to lean on each other more than ever.
In some sick way, I miss that time a little – not the pain and misery, but the way we appreciated each other and grew together. So I don’t mind the little reminder once a year – it would serve me well to remember that I could have lost him and would serve him well to remember how I supported him. He will always walk with a pronounced limp, and sometimes I drop behind him a little so I can take it in and realize what we have overcome and remind myself that we can get through anything that comes our way.
So if you’re in an amusement park tomorrow and see a limping man with his wife walking a few feet behind you’ll know who they are.