People have recently been asking me to continue to publish updates, and I realize that it has been a while since I’ve written. In some ways, I think that’s a good thing; the busyness of life has kept us occupied. In other ways, I see the need for it; the writing was not just a method of keeping friends, family, and well-wishers informed, it was also a way of processing and documenting what I wasn’t always able to say to Kristian -- or what she would not always have understood or remembered.The brief details of our current life might read as a return to normalcy: Kristian is back home, our boxes are nearly all unpacked from our move, our son is an energetic bundle of babbling, seven-month-old precocious curiosity, I’ve even returned to work. We’re shopping for a replacement car. It almost seems mundane. But it’s still hard for me to feel like life is ‘normal.’ I’m reminded sometimes when I look at Kristian, or when we’re managing medications, doctor visits, home healthcare, and therapy appointments, that there is a tinge of strange surreality to it all; it in some ways feels like living in a version of life that isn’t real, or is at least hopefully temporary. I’ve learned that living in this holding pattern breeds uniquely contradictory demands: it forces you to somehow adjust to a new reality, but rarely affords any opportunity to remain comfortable in it.This bizarre surrealism is somewhat akin to living inside a cocktail party hypothetical question: If given the chance, would you take some magic pill or potion that would suddenly erase every disagreement, argument, fight, and hardship in your relationship from your spouse’s memory? From one perspective, your record is spotless: a blemishless haven without any memory of the unintentional barbs that pierce every romantic relationship. My wife and I don’t hold latent grudges over past hurts. We can’t. She doesn’t remember them, and I don’t care about them. Whatever trivial arguments we had before seem petty and wholly unimportant now. Even mild daily frustrations are melted away and forgotten by the next morning.The catch to that hypothetical question, however, is that by taking that miracle potion, your partner would also forget all of those magical moments and milestones: your first date, your marriage proposal, your wedding, the birth of your first child. This is the difficult pill that we’ve swallowed, whether we like it or not. That is part of this “new normal.” It’s particularly hard because we tend to associate shared fond memories as a proxy for love, affection, or closeness, and a failure to remember them as aloofness or spite. Forgotten birthdays and anniversaries can feel like a slight, but memory lapses are the real, unfortunate consequences of a traumatic brain injury.I am constantly reminded, however, to consider myself fortunate. For one, our son is healed, which is an outcome that I am grateful for each moment that I hear both his gleeful giggles and his plaintive cries. And Kristian’s condition does get better with each day. For many couples with an ailing partner, the opposite is true. I also get to support her as she daily improves her gait, her strength, her speech, and her memory. We have the opportunity to make new memories, to create new traditions, to reestablish the habits and behaviors that represent the best of our love. It makes our relationship somehow more real; it doesn’t let us lean on “time served” or simply fond memories as a substitute for affection. I get to daily remind her why we married each other.Our one-year wedding anniversary is this weekend. I can definitely say that, in many ways and for many reasons, this was not the first year of marriage that we predicted we would share together. It is easy, but ultimately unproductive, for me to wish for the life that we used to have. More and more, that past life feels foreign, hazy -- like a distant memory. Our new life -- this life -- has put the vows that we promised each other one year ago to the test, refining them with a fire far hotter, far nearer, and far sooner than expected.
I feel the pressure to be a good father and a good husband much more than I ever have before. But as the adage says, pressure and heat turn coal into diamonds. Each and every challenge we’ve seen, we’ve met. These challenges may make me more tired than I’d like to be, but they’ve also made me more patient. I have borne the weight of much more stress than usual, but I’ve also become far more intentional, generous, careful, attentive, and generally loving to Kristian, August, and others, in the process. It’s been hard, but most meaningful things are.
Every now and then, Kristian hugs me and jokingly asks if we can get married all over again. So I feel like that’s a sign that I must be doing something right.
- Jason Edwards