Our son lost a tooth recently and for a few days the Tooth Fairy was super busy, battling some wind and rainstorms, forgetting to stop at our house because of the Halloween candy wreaking cavity havoc from coast to coast. But then our son said, “Mom, do you think she has really forgotten me because I’m almost 10?” Not a huge enforcer of the tooth fairy, our kids still believe fiercely in her powers to take teeth from beneath human heads asleep on pillows all across the land, except, apparently, in the case of bad weather and Halloween.
That morning, I set an alarm reminder for post bedtime. Once the children were nestled in their beds, I looked in my wallet for a dollar. Seeing none, I thought briefly about whether the Tooth Fairy would leave quarters. She probably would not. I thought about leaving one of my own grandmother’s special two-dollar bills, but that would open another line of questioning. Geoff had just left for a work trip out west, so I could not even check with him. Exasperated by having lied already to them about the damn Tooth Fairy, I borrowed one dollar from my daughter’s wallet making a mental note to replace it the next day when I broke change for their school lunch bills.
The Tooth Fairy came. Hope was once again restored to the universe. Until. Until, that is to say, my daughter noticed her wallet had moved from its spot on my bookshelf to the kitchen in front of the coffee pot, with its velcro closure left undone. “Mom,” she startled me in the bathroom as I’m brushing my teeth, “Mom,” with more urgency this time, “I’m pretty sure the Tooth Fairy stole money from my wallet to put under Carver’s pillow last night.” It does not occur to her that her mother is the Tooth Fairy, but rather, the Tooth Fairy is, in fact, a straight up criminal.
I choke on my toothpaste spit. Seriously. She is eight years old. What the hell I want to scream. But I don’t. I look into her accusing, angry, betrayed blue eyes, and I tell her, “Honey, the Tooth Fairy didn’t steal your money, Daddy did. He needed a dollar for the tolls to get to the airport, remember? He didn’t want to take the time to take money from the ATM. So he just asked if he could borrow from you, and I said it was okay. I’m really sorry I forgot to tell you sooner.” She accepted my explanation, sort of, and gave her dad a serious tongue lashing later that night when the poor guy just called to say hi to his family.
See, this is what the dark days of November make us do. They make us lie about the Tooth Fairy to our small children. They make us take money from our eight-year-old and place blame on our husband. I know, I know, there are some of you out there judging how I could do such a terrible thing -- what am I modeling for my children -- what are they going to think one day when they realize there is no Tooth Fairy?
Well, when that day comes, I’m going to tell them that their parents, even without their superpowers, are a little bit like the Tooth Fairy, like Santa Claus, like their teachers -- none of us are perfect. So, I’ll tell them, your dad never could be the one to put the dollar under the pillow because he could never get to your bedrooms. Do you think he still forgot to remind me to do it as I lay half asleep on the couch surrounded by ninth graders’ essays? Of course he did. Did we ever use your money to buy drugs? No, never. To supply our non-existent vape habits? No never. To pay our electric bill? No, a thousand times no.
Your parents carved pumpkins with you and helped you to build snow forts. We also made you rake leaves in the fall and stack wood to help your parents with the tasks that require something called MANUAL LABOR. Those blisters which turned into callouses are going to make you stronger one day, just like your mom and dad. We are pretty awesome, even if we lied to you about the Tooth Fairy all those times when you were small. First the Tooth Fairy, followed by the Elf on the Shelf, followed closely by Santa and suddenly, the children are driving cars and dating and looking at colleges and it all happens so quickly. Blink. About as fast as fall turns into winter here in New Hampshire.
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The day that I first had symptoms, I was in Scranton Pennsylvania for the Minor League Baseball AAA National Championship which was won by our Durham Bulls. The party the night before was quite the celebration, but I went to bed expecting nothing worse than a mild hangover that would easily be cured by a hardy breakfast and lots of coffee. During the night , about 4:00 AM, I awoke with a terrible pain in my lower back. I thought that I could get some relief if I could find some Advil or other pain reliever, but I had none with me, and I wasn't getting any sympathy in the hotel lobby. I'm pretty sure they thought I was a drunken reveler and not just some poor devil experiencing the onset of a constricted spinal column.
I finally found a vending machine with Advil, dragged my left leg along with my right which was still functional, and held myself up by hanging on to anything that was handy on the way back to my room. No relief at all from the medication, so I packed my bags and headed for home. In retrospect, this was not a smart move. I was traveling by motorcycle and I had 500 miles to go to get me back to NC. By the time I arrived home, the paralysis in my left leg made it difficult to shift gears, or hold the bike up at a stop.
The next morning I went to the emergency room at our local hospital and they arrived at Sciatica for a diagnosis and recommended that I see an Orthopedic surgeon, and sent me home. Later that day I had chest pains along with the pain in my spine and my legs. I returned to the emergency room and they made sure I wasn't having a heart attack, prescribed some Valium, and sent me home. A couple of days later we rented a wheelchair on our own as the paralysis was worsening. I ended up back at the ER with abdominal pains to go with my chest pains to go with the pain in my spine and legs. They sent me home again.
Later that night I ended up on the floor with spasms almost unbearable and complete paralysis from my chest down. When the paramedics came to transport me, we asked to be taken to a different hospital since the local ER had already had 3 chances. In the hospital the next city to our east, they gave me an MRI and had me on my way to the nearest University Hospital for surgery to remove the cyst from my spinal cord. The surgeon told me and my wife that if I'd gotten to him sooner they might have been able to prevent most or all of the paralysis, but since I'd lost blood flow to my nerves for more than 48 hours, the damage was probably permanent.
So that's how I ended up here looking for peer support and people who understand what I'm going through.
My boyfriend, Dan, is coming up on 4 years since his accident. Dan was a stone mason by trade his entire life. He missed but two days of work since he was 16 years old, purchased his first home at 21 from holding down this career. When Dan become a C5-C6 quadriplegic, he lost both of those things, his job and his home...
As most of you can attest, the first couple years post SCI can be tough. Finding balance within a new life, re-introducing yourself to a new body and all its needs, limitations and functions, and of course adapting back into society. Dan decided to go back to university about a year ago to pursue an education and training to become a Recreational Therapist. For those of you who may or may not recall what that is, they are basically the fun guys in rehabilitation who try to encourage the patients to get up and out of their rooms. They plan activities such as going to sports games, having pool therapy days, or just getting out of rehab and enjoying some sunlight. Even though most days, Dan was the only one participating and leaving his room to try these activities, he grew fond of the work that the Rec. Therapist were doing.
So, he went back to university eager to learn and possibly make an impact on someone else life down the road. He actually truly enjoys learning and has a knack for being quite competitive in doing well in his classes. This makes my heart full, seeing him have a new passion for a new life.
I am wondering how many of you have either considered going back to school to gain a new skill set or more education after spinal cord injury?
If so, what made you take the brave steps to do this? I truly am inspired and honored being able to witness my partner create a new identity and skills for himself. He has even said that had he not had an injury, he would have never pushed himself to learn and grow the way he has now. And even though this adjustment has been tough, he believes that this is a second chance at life and possibly a chance to do something he loves vs. something that fell into his lap.
What are your thoughts? All are welcome so please do share and thank you for reading.
WAGs of SCI