January 20, 2012 was the day that everything changed. My boyfriend was going to a job interview for a line cook position at an Italian restaurant, and we were supposed to hang out afterwards. But we didn’t get the chance because his car swerved off of the road and hit a tree. He was rushed into the ICU with a traumatic brain injury and spent a month in a coma.
The memory of seeing him after he woke up, his big smile when I entered the room, the way he impatiently patted the spot next to him on the bed as if to say, “Well come on,” the way he kissed and held me…it was like he was trying to make up for the month when he couldn’t. As time went on, C grew stronger. He could walk on his own, could tie his own shoes (it had been an area of frustration for awhile), could recount the past (all but his accident). Soon enough he was at home learning to readjust. But anyone who has had a loved one survive traumatic brain injury knows that leaving the hospital is just the beginning, because an injury to the brain changes you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
As he’s recovered, C and I have had to communicate more than before, we’ve had to relearn all our previous relationship boundaries (adjusting them as such), and we both have had to learn to love the new him. (It’s a little harder sometimes for C.) Sometimes the world seems too small and sometimes it seems too big, but C and I have more confidence in ourselves and our relationship than ever.
Some members of my family have said that they worry that this has all been so stressful on me. I can almost hear the “Things would be easier if you were single” tone in their voice. In a way they are right. It would be easier, but I wouldn’t be nearly as happy. A lot of the time you have to pick the harder road to get the better pay off. The funny thing is that leaving never popped into my head. It was never an option, not because I felt I had no choice, but because I had already chosen. I am already committed, and no matter where this relationship goes, I love C irrevocably.
He is now driving (so exciting!) and playing music. We play video games, eat cheeseburgers, cry, laugh, hug, and kiss. (I think the fact we laugh is most important.) I have noticed that he has learned to enjoy life more. Recently he’s started stretching and letting out a loud scream. The other day, finally, after making me jump for the thousandth time, I told him, “I don’t think I remember you doing that before the accident.” He did a short quick nod and said, “I actually can tell you the reason for that. After the accident I realized how great it felt to stretch. To right everything that’s wrong in your body.” He started to fumble a bit when trying to explain how that related to screaming, but I understood the gist of it. C was learning how to enjoy the small things. So even if that means screaming really close to me, and at random intervals I can’t help but smile and kiss his cheek.
So my advice? To appreciate the small things, like C is learning to do, and to always, always appreciate the silver lining, to hold onto the good things while having to go through the tough things, and to know that the best love stories don’t end with happily ever after but something more like work in progress.