This is about our family's journey to a new norm after our son Chris was seriously injured in an IED explosion while deployed to Afghanistan. I chose the title "A Misfit's Mother's Journey" to honor some small way all the amazing young men in his squad, "Martin's Misfits". I owe a debt to these amazing men who worked together to save my son's and his buddy's lives and to the young man who sadly lost his life. This is a debt I can never repay. I hope you will find inspiration in our story and admiration of the young men who understand the consequences and are still willing to risk life and limb in the hope of protecting others.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
As I sit here watching Chris do his PT, I wish I could figure out how I really feel. There are so many emotions. Watching all these young men in here brings me to tears. There are so many that had, have and will go thru so much at such young ages. Amazement that they knew the consequences and still volunteered to put themselves in harms way for others. Pride in the ones determined to overcome. Sadness for the ones that haven't been able find their way thru the darkness yet. As I watch Chris throughout the day I guess the main emotion I feel is thankful. Sometimes I feel guilty cause some people I've talked to don't understand why I'm not more angry. Why should I be, it won't change anything. I love my new reality cause while it may not be what I imagined his future to be like, at least he still has one and he can be hugged by all his family and friends! ♥
Tears of joy flow down my face. I am blubbering like an idiot and not for the last time today I surmise. Today the town of O'Fallon, our family of the heart, military and Road Warrior family members, friends of friends and complete strangers came out in droves to show their support and love for Chris. To say thank you for his willingness to fight for our country and the sacrifice he made. Prior to joining the Marines Chris worked at a take n bake pizza joint, Papa Murphy's, and eventually I took up where he left off. The owners Steve and Aaron have always been so good to Chris and I and have cared a lot about our family. So it didn't really surprise me when Aaron called early on saying he wanted to do something for Chris. Both Papa Murphy's and Orange Leaf support fundraisers often but this time Aaron wanted to take it a step further and have a fundraiser for Chris. He wanted to donate 20% of Papa Murphy's sales for one day. I knew how much our family and friends loved us, but this showed just how much our community as a whole support him. Our day started off just like the rest of our days were going to start; full of doctor appointments, physical and occupational therapy. The sky was bright blue, free of clouds and the sun was shinning bright providing the perfect amount of warmth as it always does in San Diego. The texts and tears began early. I knew word had spread around our circle of friends and through out the military community on Scott so I was prepared for a good turn out, but not for what ensued. A line began forming before Papa Murphy's even opened up at 1100. From then on it was non-stop, the phones rang off the hook and at around 2:30 they had to stop taking call-ins because of all the orders. The line ran down the sidewalk of the strip mall and even wrapped about the building at times. People waited up to 90 minutes in line to get their order. My friends talked to those around them while waited and many reported some of the people they met didn't even know Chris or us but wanted to show their support for this brave young man. Hearing and seeing all out pouring of love and support from our community touched my soul and heart so deep I couldn't stop crying all day. It was so busy that they ran out of dough at 6:30, yet people still wanted to come in so they could drop of a donation. Since the beginning of his career it has always made Chris uncomfortable when people would buy his meal or do something nice for him because of his service. He sees what he does as a job, no different from what anyone else does. He joined because he loves it and to serve, defend and protect his country and his family. The reasons behind why he joined makes it hard for him to understand the reason why others make those kind gestures towards him. We spent a couple hours that night discussing the day's events and he slowly began to understand. Many of those people are military, prior military, military family members and people who just appreciate what these brave young men have chosen to do for our country. Many see what he, and men like him, has sacrificed and want to say thank you in some way for being so brave and making that sacrifice, so they or their loved ones didn't have to. To him it is a HUGE gesture, but to them it is a small one and often they wish they could do more. We are so thankful for their support. Knowing it is there makes what we are going thru easier in so many ways. It provides the foundation we need to know that he can walk this path, but when he stumbles there will be many hands to help him up. That support drives him to be able to pass it forward and help those coming along behind him. He wants to do what he can to make their path is an easier one to walk. Just as those that came before him helped clear the path he now walks. Thank you Aaron and Steve for your support of our family. Words cannot express just how all your kindness, understanding and patience means to us.
Monday, November 26, 2012
The soft light coming through the blinds gently wake me up. As my eyelids flutter open all I see is dreary and drab surroundings. I slept but not well. Not because I shared the bed with Wayne but because the bed was so hard. I understand the need for hospital type beds in the rooms but you would think considering everything these boys have been through and with their injuries the unit would have chosen softer beds. The thought of spending the next 6 months in this room is depressing and I can't imagine what Chris must be thinking. Part of me is sort of glad he is still on his pain killers, maybe it won't sink in as quickly. Wayne finishes packing and the Gunny comes to take him to the airport. Now that Chris is out patient, only one of us can stay. It's been three weeks anyways and one of us needs to get back to the young guns. I wish we could take him but we have no transportation. Not having a car really puts a damper on things. One thing I will have to work on is making sure we can get out and about, but I'm sure that will all come in time. This day and the days to come are filled with doctor appointment after doctor appointment. Our whole day is spent at the hospital so it is good the dorm is on the hospital grounds. While all the walking is good exercise for me and did wonders to build up Chris' arms, it is still so tiring. We met with his primary care doctor, his new physical therapist, his recovery care coordinator, his case manager, took care of things for the Marine Corp, had lab work done, x-rays taken, filled out paperwork, did occupational and physical therapy, had his ears checked, his hearing tested, checked his vision, but more importantly met new friends. It was such a whirlwind and so overwhelming at times, a dream I just couldn't believe I am really living. There is so much to do and think about and so many people to meet who will play a part in his recovery. Throughout it all Chris remained strong and determined. I love his primary care doc cause he is so down to earth and cares so much about these young men. His face lit up with delight when Chris' told him he wanted off the pain meds as quickly as possible and worked to make it happen quickly but without adverse side affects to Chris. At least one hour a day was filled with ab and leg exercises because of PT, but that wasn't enough for him. He has a goal; to be up walking on his legs when his boys returned. To do that he needs to spend extra time at the gym and he does so without hesitation. He knows it will keep him sane, stable and focused and helps shake off the fogginess of the drugs. Oh how he hates the drugs, how they make him feel and how all they make him want to do is sleep, but the phantom pains are so much worse to deal with; definitely a lesser of two evils situation. Though no matter the strong face he puts on, I can see in his eyes the pain, disbelief and frustration he is feeling and is trying to maneuver his way around and through. Every now and then he will open up a little about his feelings, pains and fears. I'm lost as to what to say and what to do. I've never been deployed to the desert, lived in the conditions he has, been in fire fights, seen the things he has and I still have most of my body parts. So the best I can do is let him talk, listen quietly, hug him and let him know he is not alone. As a mother the pain deep within my heart and soul is unbearable and sometimes I wondered if I will be able to navigate my way through this. How do you come to terms with the fact that the son you gave to the Marine Corp as a whole person is given back to you broken and missing pieces and parts. I know there is anger somewhere in my heart, but I don't know if I've buried it or if the fact I am so very thankful that he is alive has over powered it. I choose to think my thankfulness has overpowered it. However, it doesn't take away the feeling I have when I look at his legs. I don't know how to explain it; there is sadness for the hurt he had to and will endure, aching knowing there is nothing I can do to change it or fix it, happiness he is alive and I am here to experience this with him and pride for how strong he is and his positive attitude. I don't know what to feel and which feeling is stronger, it is such a weird, unique mix; one I'm not used to. Every night we carefully unwrap his bright white dressings, removed the yellow, greasy, medicated gauze and closely inspect his legs. His wounds still look angry and red yet are healing nicely, which is good because it is important to catch any problems early on before it becomes something that might hinder his progress. I try to keep my mind focused on something, anything, cause when it's quiet my mind wanders to places where I do not want it to go. The future I had imagined for me, my children and family did not include my son and I sitting in a drab dorm room, a couple thousand miles away from our home, the rest of our family and friends, thoroughly examining the scars of where his legs were remove. One thing of all the many things this experience has taught me so far is; life isn't always what we imagined it to be as we maneuver our way through it. It is messy and is what it is. Our choices and free-will shape its outcome and put consequences in our paths we never thought would be there, but no matter what it will always be what it will be. It's our perception and what we do with what life gives us that makes our life into what we want. I often think of my favorite movie "Under the Tuscan Sun", she was afraid her home would never be full of laughter or children, she wouldn't have people to cook for or have a wedding there. At the end her friend and realtor reminded her of her fears then showed her that everything she wanted to have and have happen there, did; just not exactly as she had envisioned. Bad things happen, we encounter set backs and things may not be exactly what we had hoped for. All those things gives us opportunities to excel, we just have to take them.
Friday, November 23, 2012
Miles of red, brown and tan rocks extend behind us and before us. The black pavement stretches out under us leading us to our end goal, Vegas Baby! The engine purrs as I fly by cars full of people who can't drive nor understand the left lane is for passing (if you ain't passing, get out of my way). I'm not a big fan of weaving in and out of cars, but they leave me no option. Though secretly the naughty side of me loves the feel of speed and leaving others in my dust. The rocks in front of us begin to give way to buildings rising slowly out of the horizon. I feel like Dorothy arriving at the gates of the Emerald City and with it being Vegas, I have no doubt I could even find a horse of a different color. This is a treat for me since at first I wasn't going to come. Chris didn't want his Mom hanging out at the Ball with him and while I really wanted to see him all dressed up, I also understood. However several weeks ago Josh and Devon contacted me saying they really wanted me to go for all I have done over the last few months and wanted to get me a ticket. When I first received Josh's text, the kindness being offered and the reason why made me cry and I was so torn. I didn't want to be rude to them but I also wanted to respect Chris' desires. Timidly I began to text Chris, not sure what to write cause I didn't want him to feel like I was guilting him into anything. Halfway through typing I received a text from Chris letting me know I had a ticket to the ball. I called to make sure it was really okay and he laughed saying he never really minded me going, he just liked teasing me. Now weeks of preparation and shopping was finally coming together and I was so ready for it to end in an explosion of color, glitter, alcohol and fun! Colleen, Chris, Danielle and I pull up to the Luxor, while grabbing Chris' legs from the trunk I notice that Colleen is quiet. Earlier this year she came here with the man of her dreams to be married; this was the first time being back since he passed. I have no doubt that as awesome as we are, this is not how she imagined spending this year's Marine Corp Ball. As I round the back of the car I pause to hug her. I can't imagine all the hurt, pain and fear of how this all will play out, she must have. I know I can't take it away, but I hope to convey through the hug that she is not alone and if needed I will be more than happy to provide any distraction or goofy entertainment she wants. As we enter the lobby I see people scurrying about like ants; some with luggage and/or drinks in hand, others heading towards the casino floor and the remainder look like bobble heads, flipping their heads side to side and up and down with the look of total confusion on their faces. Walking to the elevator and eventually our room I couldn't help but feel as if I was really in a pyramid; from the egyptian carvings and decorations tastefully done to the winding, twisting, constantly turning hallways. This is an older hotel however room was nice, really nice for the price. I have certainly been in others that I've paid thru the nose for and had them turn out to be sparsely decorated and run down. There is no rest for the wicked when in Vegas, we changed our clothes and headed out. After several wrong turns we finally find our way to Dick's Last Resort so we can be verbally abused and verbally abuse those around us. The words mandatory to live by this weekend are "Go BIG or go home!", so we ordered big Dick Stick's full of daiquiris. The girls out drink me this round, but I vow not to let that happen again. The balloon guy stops by our table an creates a kiss ass balloon hat of a stripper on a pole for Chris. We decided to head over to NY NY and on the way we come across the Naughty Elves, with their tight gluts and rock hard abs peeking out of their shirts to say "Hello". Chris calmly rolled his eyes and walked off as not to be seen with us while we talked to the elves. Chris is saved from total boredom and embarrassment when a group of our friends appear out of nowhere. We go from being a small herd of cats to a large herd and slowly and loudly make our way to Coyote Ugly. The staff at the entry is so nice and accommodating, but the bartenders are slow and rude and the drinks are EXPENSIVE and nasty! The room is dark, there aren't many stools and what there is are all taken, the floor is uneven which makes me wonder how Chris will do on it cause I know his legs are beginning to hurt, I can see it in his face. I asked a gentleman if Chris could have his stool and he gave it up quickly and happily showing me once again how caring people can really be. We all agree to team up to complete in a drinking game called Flip and to no one's surprise we win all rounds causing me to get even tipsier, not that I mind. It's almost time for Colleen to head over to see cirque de sole' and Chris is tired so we head back to the hotel. After waiting a bit for Sarah to call I decide to just walk the 2.5 miles to Treasure Island to meet them, just gotta see the lights and the people. The neon lights twinkle like glitter against the dark sky, the air vibrates from all the bass thumping from the clubs and all the cars zooming by plus all the conversations create a hum that is almost hypnotizing which is periodically punctuated by honking horns. Men and women stand on the corners giving out strip club cards,; the sound of them flicking their cards is irritating. Girls walk by in their high heels and short skirts, make-up and hair shining in the neon. I walk by all the flashy shoes, clothes, bags and bobbles glimmering under their store's fluorescent lights. However all that flashiness and glimmer cannot completely hide the homeless, beggars and street performers on most of the overpasses. It's 1 AM and time to head back to the Luxor, the street is much quieter now. The vibrations and thumping are gone, hum from the cars and conversations barely noticeable, no more flicking sounds at the corner, girls are now hobbling back to their hotels with shoes in hand and make-up and hair not as shiny, store windows don't glimmer as bright, street performers are no where to be seen or heard and even most of the beggars have left. Nothing is left to disguise the dirtiness of the strip even though the neon is still shining bright. Somehow how all this is now strangely peaceful and soothing. Not a hugely exciting night but it is a good start. Definitely looking forward to the days and nights to come.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Finally there will be no more wires, tubes, beeping and people coming in and out at all times. It'll be our own control over where we go and what we do. It is also a sign that Chris is really on the road to recovery and rehab. My worries lessen since it is such a positive step forward even though a whole new set of worries arise. The Marines aren't really well known for taking great care of their members and we have heard the horror stories from other wounded warriors. It is nerve racking not knowing what to expect next. How are they going to treat him and us? So far they have been great I really hope it stays that way. After what seems like the whole day a nurse walks in with a grocery bag of medications, to include the seven shots of Lovenox I will have to inject in his arm. Really?! I am so not the nurse type! I love taking care of people, but I never want to be in a position to hurt them. I had practiced a couple times while he was inpatient and, well, I didn't do so well at least according to Chris. Having to administer those shots definitely gave me a new appreciation for what nurses have to do. It was chaotic and crazy getting all the stuff loaded into the golf cart to take over to building 26. I looked around the small room as I was packing and wondered where did all this stuff come from. Hell, it's only been 3 weeks and one person! Reminds me of all the moves we made from state to state, country to country. When you live in a house day after day you never realize just how much you acquire until the day comes for you to move it. While Wayne works with the Duty NCO to get his stuff in the room Chris and I headed over separately. Walking in the sunlight and down the concrete sidewalk towards Bldg 26 another weight was taken off my shoulders. What a sight we were, him in his wheelchair rolling down the sidewalk while carefully balancing items on his lap and me walking behind carrying a couple bags and his huge shower chair through the throngs of people in the courtyard. Thankfully we run into Laura who came to visit us, but I don't think she planned to be a pack mule for us; being the sweet woman she is she had no problem helping us out. After filling out a bunch of paperwork I made it to the room. The door opened automatically and I am treated to the sight of a huge expanse of an entry way. However it was very plain and oddly shaped. To the left was a sink, some cabinets, a college size refrigerator, a microwave, a couple chairs and two card tables. Just wish there was a place to put a TV and a chair so Chris an I could watch TV together, but we will adapt and overcome. In front of me were two doors, one to Chris' room and one to mine. The rooms were decent sized with hospital beds that were hard as rocks and small TVs in each. The bathroom was to the left and was expansive as well with a roll-in shower for Chris. I was glad to see how well the room was set up. Then it hit me...we needed food, towels, plates, silverware, etc. and we had no car to get that stuff. Laura was so sweet and offered up her, her van and her time to drive us where we needed to go. Colleen ended up surprising us with a dorm warming visit and we surprised her by pulling her into our shopping trip. The big NEX is amazing, split into two buildings with a food court to die for with a Panda Express, Five Guys and an IHOP, just to name a few. It was getting late and I felt so overwhelmed. I felt guilty for taking up Laura and Colleen's time, rushed to get all we need in a short time because of the boys lack of shopping patience and feeling like so many people seem to want something from me. Right in the middle of it all I was asked to handle a situation. Boy did I handle it badly and I ended up hurting someone who meant a lot to me, Chris and our family. I hope one day that person will understand despite how badly I messed things up, my heart really was in the right place and I never meant to hurt them. By the end of the day I was so drained. A day that started out with such promise and joy ended with joy tainted by stress, regret and sadness. I was happy to see the day come to an end and my bed (even as hard as it was) welcomed me with open arms and new sheets. Thankfully tomorrow is a new day with new promises and opportunities.
My boy made my day! As a parent you hope you live your life in a way that inspires your children to be strong as they grow and come across their own obstacles in their lives. It's not that you expect acknowledgement or a thank you, because that is what a parent is supposed to do. But when you hear it or see it, it makes your heart burst with pride and relief to know that you did have some part in making sure the children you love so much have the right tools in their toolbox at the time it is needed the most. ♥
As I sit here looking at my son, I don't know how to express just what I feel. Wow just how far he has come. I watch him move around with ease despite the pain. No wires, no casts, just a completely different person than when we first saw him 15 days ago. I love to watch him chase the pigeons around (he may not be able to kick them but he will sure as hell try to run them over LOL) as if nothing had change, cause it hasn't. Seeing the joy from having a friend from home visit in his eyes. He is so incredible and tough. I have no doubt that he will meet his goal of being on his legs by Oct. I'll say it again....I love that boy so! ♥