It was a rare evening. Every single member of the family was there. Me, my husband, and all three children. We were all sitting at the table at a reasonable time for dinner, eating, sharing, talking and I looked up. I looked across from the table at my husband of six years. And for a flash, a brief moment, I caught a glimpse of something I had not seen in a while. I saw, as if for the first time, just how fine my husband is. Yes, he is an incredible father, he is a loving and very patient (I am not easy to get along with, believe me) with me, he is on the grind to provide the time, effort, security for our family that I always dreamed a partner would provide. Don’t get it twisted, all is not constantly happy and/or perfect, take my word for it, we are normal. However, this moment, this very stunning, yet brief moment, I wanted to tell him how thankful I was to have him in my life. Then, I decided to write about the reason why I am so grateful. I wanted to use my blog to get my little story out.
You see, these past six years have been quite eventful. We have had three children, two postdocs, one tenure-track job, one book published, bought a house in the hills and settled into a cozy New England life. And there is one other thing, the one thing I have never written about.
We lost a leg.
When we were six months pregnant, my husband went out on his Honda VFR motorcycle for a quick little ride and said he’d be back in an hour or so. My son, who was about 15 months, was resisting the idea of taking a nap of any sort, so I decided to lay down with him while my husband went off for a quick adventure before dinner. My son and I fell into a wonderful sleep, it was a lazy August afternoon and all seemed right with the world. As I woke up I began to hear sirens everywhere and I got a really bad, bad feeling in my chest. I am not sure if I knew something, but I felt as if something wasn’t right. My cell rang, I reached to find it and it was his number, but it was a bad connection, I couldn’t hear anything. It rang again, but I still heard nothing. I tried to call back – nothing. My son was still asleep, so I just sat there and wondered where he was. It was getting dark, I had no idea what I was going to cook for dinner and I was starting to get pissed off at that damn motorcycle again. Sometimes I felt like he was cheating on me with that machine, when he went out for rides to feel the wind, to have complete solace, to see the New England countryside, he was having an emotional affair with a big yellow motorcycle. He said he would be one hour, he knew I worried and wanted him home more than on that motorcycle. I heard a few more sirens and then…the phone rang. The phone was upstairs, ughh, “I know that better not be him,” I thought out loud. My son was stirring, but still sleeping, I thought, “damn, he’s going to be up all night, bad move, Whitney.”
I made my way upstairs and looked at the caller ID, my heart sank and my breathing got shallow. It was from Franklin Medical Center and I felt like I was getting tunnel vision, I knew it was him. I knew it was that motorcycle, I knew those sirens were for him.
I was still.
I swallowed and called the number back, it was from an extension in the hospital, but it could not be traced. So, I realized there was a voice message…and I listened. I listened as a doctor told me that Trevor had been in an accident. His knee was badly hurt and that they were transferring him to Springfield Trauma Center, because he needed a trauma center, more than they could provide. When I called back, I talked to the doctor, who first wanted to give me a direct message from my husband, he made the doctor to promise to say “I’m alright, beautiful,” before he said anything. I smiled briefly as the tears rolled down my cheeks, it was what I needed to hear, it is exactly what my husband would have said if he could, it was like a private code. He was straight with me, but told me that he was already on his way down on the ambulance. I didn’t know what to think or what that meant, I just knew that I had to get 30 miles down the road to see him. I wasn’t thinking of myself, I wasn’t thinking about my little son, I wasn’t thinking about the motorcycle, I just wanted to see him and know he was really alright.
I cried hard.
I cried a lot, then my son began to wake up. I hugged him tight and made arrangements to drop him at a friend’s house and I continued my crying all the way down the road in the dark of night, trying to understand what was really happening. I got there, they escorted me to an empty trauma room. They gave me a chair and insisted that I sit down and told me to be calm and to wait, he was on his way back after some x-rays and tests. I looked up and saw a computer screen with patient’s names and status. His name was in red and it was blinking. Then a doctor came in and told me that it was bad, really bad. If there was a pain scale from 1 to 10 he was at about a 13 or more. He would probably be in and out of reality, he was in shock, it might be difficult, but he was going to be okay.
I heard him before I saw him.
He was screaming in pain as they rolled his gurney down the hallway. He saw me and said, “I am sorry, beautiful, I am so sorry, I really messed up.” Then he said, “I am glad you are here,” he said some stuff that made no sense, but he always came back and continued to apologize or ask about our son or how I was. Then, my instinct for survival kicked in, I had cried enough to be that rock that he needed. I held his hand. I touched his face, I tried to absorb some of his pain, but I was pregnant and I had to make sure I didn’t forget that I had to also be strong for a couple of other people I couldn’t forget about. But, I wanted him to see I was okay, not crying, not sobbing, taking it in stride and walking in strength.
Long story short, I learned about the accident and it was bad, his motorcycle’s frame was broken, his body was thrown 10 feet and hit a tree that stopped him from falling down a deep ravine. We will probably never know exactly what happened, we believe he blacked out at impact, so there is no sense exactly what happened to his knee, we just know that his knee was so damaged that blood was never able to flow correctly to the rest of his leg and foot and as a result of that and infection, the only choice was an above the knee amputation. Although my husband, the love of my life, lost half of his leg from the experience, he remains one of the strongest people I have ever known. After the last of eight surgeries and on his way to rehab, he told me that he would be standing on two feet when it was time for our daughter to be born.
Our daughter was born in the middle of December and we named her Ololara. Her name in Yoruba translates to, “owner of the body,” but for us and our story, it means “born at the right time.” For us, her birth brought everything together, made us whole as a family that appreciated life, took away the osogbo or sickness. It was her that “owns our collective strength.” She is amazing and so is my husband.
So, as I sat at the table at that rare moment, I thought about how incredibly handsome my husband is. The incredible father is has always been. And the incredible patience he has for my challenging personality. His ways are like honey,for it flows easily, but is thick, it coats, it sweetens, it sticks, it heals. Me, I am like cotton, absorbent, easily soiled, in its raw form – abrasive, and at times resistant to changing shape. Yet, the two of us are in this race together, even on the cloudy days there is always some light. So, at that moment is when it hit me, after all these years I am now beginning to understand that at those times when I feel like I am being smothered by honey, I am instead being surrounded by the richest form of love that I have ever known.
Here’s to always keeping that fact in mind.