This blog is a continuation in a series I am writing about my husband’s brain injury. If you wish to read the story in order, go back in my archives and find Begin at the Beginning…all the ones in the category brain injury tell my story. Some are longer than others…they come in chunks of time…sometimes quickly and others much slower. Thanks for taking the time to read and being patient as I walk through the one of the toughest parts of my life again with new eyes to see how God used the broken pieces to create something beautiful.
Our first day at rehab was a blessing, sort of. It was different than the hospital. I was happy to finally be in a place we could make some progress back to normal. It felt more real at this place, like Bill would magically realize how to function again. Of course, that is not exactly what happened…but in the idealistic mind of a 24 year old, that is what I thought. The schedule was a set routine, and I am such a routine person that this was very welcome to me. On this first day, I had to stay rather than drop him off. There were assessments to be made by everyone. The PT, OT, and the counselor all wanted time with him, and then with me. I think keeping us separated was a part of the plan, so that they could evaluate my state of mind as much as his. Occupational and physical were first. They worked with him…then set some goals and shared them with me. When we got to the counselor, we were both invited to stay. He chatted with us for a bit. I felt we were being analyzed…and I am sure we were. After asking Bill questions and checking his responses with mine, the counselor sent Bill to the PT room to begin his first physical therapy session. He asked me to remain in his office.
He wanted to know my expectations. I told him that I knew God was going to heal my husband. Completely. I knew it would take time, but I had no doubt. I can tell you that in actuality much of my “faith” was, in truth, denial. I had seen the hard parts of head injury. I was scared of them, but now that we were home I just knew that things would work out. I did not want to give room for the negative. I tried to ignore, or compensate when Bill had a meltdown, or couldn’t make a decision. I made excuses for why…none of which were because of the accident. I cannot tell you how badly I wanted to believe him normal. I guess this counselor saw that stubbornness in me. He felt it his duty to break through my hard-headed determination, and so he told me he had never seen a marriage survive head injury. Never. He made it a point to show me his filing cabinet full of files of broken marriages. He said, “In all of these files, there is not one marriage that is still together. You can have “faith” all you want. You can pray to whatever God you believe in, but that does not change the statistics.”
You can imagine how hurtful those comments were to me. I looked at him and said, “I can tell you something, WE are going to make it! And since you have no track record of success, please take our file OUT of your filing cabinet!” He attempted to fix it, but I was fiery mad and it was too late for his little reality check. I was out the door. On the way home, after the heat of my anger had settled a bit, I looked at my husband. He was not the man I knew before. I was aware we had a long road ahead of us, but as he looked at me his eyes showed concern. He asked, in his childlike way, what was wrong. I told him that the counselor had said some things to me that weren’t true. He said, “When you go back you can tell him what is true.” He never even asked me what had been said. He just gave me his matter of fact answer and went on to the next subject. He didn’t see the tears in my eyes as I whispered, “I am never going back.”
Now 26 years later, I sit here on Valentine’s Day. I think my definition of love has changed significantly since those first days home. I would have said that love was all about being together, and making each other happy, and being romantic with one another. My view was still of newlywed love, and it came crashing down around us. Cut short by trauma and heartache. The frivolous, fickle love that ebbs and flows with feelings and circumstances does not hold up under pressure. Not that early love is bad…not at all. I wish I had had more of it. It is beautiful and freeing. It is simple and fun. But there is a depth, a bonding, that can only take place when hardship is walked through together. Love becomes intimate through seeing what no one else sees. Teaching someone to eat, or walk…holding hands while doctors have to cause pain for healing, looking your children in the eyes while telling them bad news…all of it builds. It is not easy. Pressure brings out the worst, tempers flare, expectations are dashed, but holding on to one another anyway is the decision of love. It is not a feeling. It is a secret love in which one look across a room is understood. No words are needed. The pain is shared, as well as the joy. Because of the understanding that develops, belonging to one another makes the good times sweeter. They are hard fought for and so they are celebrated. We come to the realization that we are two broken people, and learning to be okay with that, is a lifetime journey. It is a love that cannot be given up, even if we want to throw in the towel from time to time. It is more than feelings, it is sacrifice. It is blood, sweat, and tears which soften the heart into something pliable, something lovable.
We never went back to that counselor. I took it upon myself to fix my husband. As you can imagine, that did not work too well. Eventually, we found some counselors whom God has used to save our marriage again and again. It is necessary for us to have someone in our lives who believes God can work in broken people. I am grateful for compassionate healers who give hope instead of dashing it.