On Thursday after discharging from the hospital, we immediately jumped in the car with a couple we had never met and headed for Virginia. Months ago during one of Cale’s explosions on 7E, a woman walked over to me and said, “let’s go get coffee.” I had never seen her before, but through my tears and weary heart, I walked off the unit with her. My husband was still yelling at the staff, but with the lack of sleep the night before and the already strained emotions of the day, I had to walk away. I had to take time to breathe. This woman so kindly gave the invitation that left me needing only to accept.
I came to learn that this woman whose husband also suffered a brain injury was Shannon Maxwell. Her husband was injured while in combat and since his days in the hospital, she has written two children’s books explaining daddy’s brain injury as well as both of them starting a non-profit, SemperMax which is focused on helping families with brain injury.
Shannon willingly joined me for a few runs and encouraged me with advice about racing. We had good conversation and she encouraged my week trip away from Walter Reed. I’m so thankful for her!
She also sent us an invitation to a couple’s retreat for brain injury. At the time we expected to be home before the retreat, but plans changed!
I was so excited about this weekend! Cale had been doing so great with his behavior and home was within reach. I dreamed up and painted this pretty picture of what the weekend would hold-that’s always a bad idea! Let’s just say it wasn’t the perfect weekend I had dreamed up, but was still wonderful! It really was a blessing!
The first night we had dinner with everyone and began introducing ourselves. The men were the main ones sharing. The group was a mix from severe TBI to mild. Cale being one of the severe I didn’t expect him to share, but after the second or third guy shared, he leaned over to me, “What do I say? I don’t know what to say.” I let him know that I would help if he wanted to talk. He then let me know after him I could talk. He was able to recognize the pattern that was already taking place. I was more than willing to step aside and let him speak.
He started to share, making sure to say his name and my name. As well as how old we were when we were married. I was 18 but every time we discuss how young we were he always says that I was 17! Haha! He cracks me up. I know that they weren’t able to understand him completely, but I was so proud of him for sharing on his own! I knew it was a big step and only the first night.
The day after we were in and out of sessions all day. Cale was not impressed in the slightest. He wasn’t able to process what was being said and so boredom was setting in. The couple that we rode down with had a service dog so after awhile Cale got up in search to find his buddy Wilson. I looked back at one point just to make sure things were going ok and this is what I found…
Even though there was boredom the first day was going so well! I was super impressed with Cale and how well he was doing. I felt like he was a whole new guy! Explosions? Yeah…they’re behind us.
Little did I know that the very next day would prove me wrong. In the afternoon he had his first episode, but every one understood why. Again, I know those moments will come; we’re just working on how he handles his anger. He was mad and did need to walk away but another one of the guys stepped in and we both used redirection to help Cale. Later that night is when things became even more ugly. I know a lot of it was banked on my emotions and the pretty picture I had painted. Cale was upset and once again we were back in the middle of where I had dreaded ever returning to. He started yelling that the checklist was for the hospital and his anger continued to grow. I tried to use everything that I already knew along with a few small things we learned in one of the sessions but nothing would work. When he was ready to leave the hotel room and end our marriage, thankfully I was able to stop him and start helping him deescalate.
My heart was broken. I was hurting and when the moment with Cale faded, the tears came so hard and fast. Why? What was the purpose of the last 5 months inpatient if we were going to leave and everything was going to be back to what it was? Will I always have to use all of my energy to keep this man I love from exploding?
By the end of the night, Cale had moved on but knew that I was sad. There was a long time where he wasn’t able to notice and understand how I was feeling, or anyone else, but now when I’m sad he knows it. He came over to me and gently put his arm on my shoulder, “I’m sorry you’re sad my Girl.” I was trying to pretend I wasn’t sad and cover up the ache, but it was too late. He didn’t remember anything about earlier but his comfort in the moment finally was able to warm my heart.
He is so sweet and tender. I think it’s easier for me to forget how hard the hard moments are because of how often the beautiful moments come. I quickly sort the times that feel so devastating into a file of little importance and continue on because they are filled with such intense emotions and that’s not where our reality to live everyday is.
Even now as we’re on our way home from such a great weekend, Cale has had little moments that leave me with questions wondering if I’m doing things the way they should be done. Why is it that he was doing so great in the hospital but as soon as we’re out and about to live our lives together again do things go haywire?
I also remind myself that we’re not even home yet. This weekend was in different ways hard for all the guys. Crazy flight schedules are never easy. Change brings setbacks but it's not forever. And, no matter how hard I try; I’ll never be able to create the perfect little world for Cale. He has a brain injury and that in itself is enough to throw a wrench in any occasion.
We’re excited for home…a flight in a half left…and we’ll walk through our front door.
This was Cale's favorite session...haha! Which is most likely where the exercise comment I had posted had come from!
Each morning we had a huge buffet for breakfast. I was waiting for our drinks and thought I would let Cale go ahead and get his breakfast. I felt confident that he would be able to get his own food and make it back to the table with little issues. I was right, he was able to get his food and make it back...with a plate full of bacon! Ha! That was the only thing he walked back with!! I did walk back up with him to find a little more to fill his belly...
This was Saturday afternoon...the day was perfect. After dinner Cale and I even went on a walk around that little area in the picture. The sun felt so good even though it was a bit chilly.
And this was Sunday afternoon...where did that come from?! When it first started coming down the flakes were so huge! Cale saw them and started laughing because he said they looked like snowballs.
Last night at dinner Cale had the most fun of the weekend! He laughed and made everyone else laugh. It was the Cale I know all too well and love. His honestly kept everyone laughing like always. :) We enjoyed the weekend at such a nice resort and lots of time of feeling spoiled. I think it was the perfect transition for me even if not so much for Cale. Although, I do think it was really good for him too!
Like I said, we’re actually on our way home. Cale hasn’t seen the house since September before sheetrock was up! I can’t wait for him to see it and his surprise!
Did I tell you we created a man cave for him as a surprise?! Well…that was another one of my ideas and Mama did most of the work…but I did help a tiny bit… :)
We haven't said a thing about it and I KNOW he's going to love it!
The next couples days are going to be nuts. We're home today and back out for a week on Friday. That's not really anything new with us though...! I'll at least get a quick post up before we head back out and let you know how much this man of mine is loving home.
Thanks for letting me spill my thoughts...once again!