The Misfits

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.

Monday, November 26, 2012

FlashBack-Our first couple weeks as an out-paitent

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

Flash Forward-Day 1 of Marine Ball Weekend

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.