Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In Which Our Lives Change

The events in this post happened yesterday, but I wanted to wait for word to get out to extended family before I put it up here. I'll be updating you as we get more information.

I am sitting in a dentist chair today, having my teeth cleaned. I don't care for the dentist-- the drills, the gritty paste-- never have, and my experience today probably isn't going to make me like them any more, but that's beside the point. I am sitting there having my teeth cleaned and chatting with the dental tech (28 years old, two kids, one of five siblings, grew up in Olympia) when my phone buzzes in my back pocket. It's a 718 area code: one I haven't seen before, but I answer it because of Connor. Not even thinking of Jeremy-- thinking it might be one of Connor's doctors, because they have cell phone numbers from odd places sometimes.

"This is the Department of the Army," the nasal-voiced woman says. "We are calling to inform you that your soldier has been seriously injured in Afghanistan. They will be airlifting him to Germany."

Numb. Numb and a little sick and the lights overhead are making me dizzy.

"They were able to save his legs. Both his ankles are fractured and there are other injuries to his feet. We'll be calling you when we have more information. You'll be receiving phone calls three times a day to update you on your soldier's condition. He is conscious and stable at this time."

The dental assistant is listening to my end of the conversation. I'm repeating things like a robot. Germany. Saved his legs. Fractured ankles. Updates. She takes off her mask and leaves the room.

It was an IED. An IED hit his Stryker and blew up and tried to take his legs with it. And the first thought in my head, the first crazy thought that hits, is "How the fuck am I going to fit two wheelchairs into the trunk of our car?" And then I think "Well, thank God I didn't marry him for his feet," and then I have to choke back hysterical laughter and blink very quickly for a moment behind the sunglasses they have for me to wear because this is one of those upscale dentist offices with granite counter tops in the bathroom where they give you not just a toothbrush as you leave, but a little plastic travel pouch with toothpaste and floss and mouthwash and a business card that says "Have a Nice Day."

The woman from the Department of the Army with a nasal voice gives me a 1-800 number to call and hangs up and I'm left with a phone still pressed to my ear, my other hand in a fist pressed to my forehead, trying to figure out how to breathe again. The dental assistant comes back and tells me that I can come in some other time, no problem, that she'll make me another appointment but I tell her no, let's just clean my teeth, let's just do it because I don't know when I'll get another chance to come in. My voice sounds okay. A little tight, but okay, and they can't see my eyes behind the sunglasses.

So they do. The dentist comes in and says he's heard and he's so sorry and did I know that I have beautiful incisors? And he scraps away at my teeth and chatters on about nothing while I do my best to think about nothing too. Because nothing would be better than what I have to think about.

I drive back to Anna's house and pick up Connor. The Rear Detachment Commander is waiting there for me with red-rimmed eyes. He takes me into the back room and tells me what he knows, which is pretty much what the Department of the Army woman knew but he at least says it like it means something. I wonder how many people you have to call with that sort of information before it doesn't mean anything any more. Checking names and body parts off a list.

And somewhere between picking up Connor and driving home something shifts inside my head and I'm locked into my crisis mode, the place I go whenever something horrible is happening, the place where nothing short of death is going to make me lose it. I've got too many balls to juggle to be able to fall apart. I've done this so many times before with Connor that I'm able to function and put everything else aside in a little box to open later. I can talk without my voice shaking and even make jokes and schedule appointments and wash dishes and do what needs to be done for as long as I need to do it.

And later that afternoon our phone rings, our house phone and not the cell phone, and I think for a moment that no one is there on the other end. Then Jer's voice comes on the line, scratchy and muzzy with pain medication, and I know that no matter what the next few months bring everything will be okay. Jeremy is alive. He'll be undergoing surgery in Germany to reconstruct his shattered heels, and he has two broken ankles, multiple fractures to his feet and lacerations on his legs, but he's alive and he knows who we are and he's still all there, my husband, no matter what his legs look like. We'll cram two wheelchairs into our car somehow, and we'll go through surgery and physical therapy and occupational therapy and doctor's appointments. We'll do what needs to be done.

I know we have a long road ahead of us, but it's a road we'll travel together.

Thank God for that.


~Jess

photo credit goes to Lucie of LZH Photography

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

Be strong (which I know you already are, more than I can imagine). And you are absolutely right. He's alive and of sound mind and that's what matters. Life goes on. You wrote in a previous entry that you look back a couple of years and wish you can go back in time and tell youself everything's OK. In a few more years you'll look back on this moment the same.

Love and BEST wishes

-Jing

Audrey said...

tons of prayers coming from our place also!

Terri H-E said...

Thinking of you and your family.

Kelsey said...

I'm so sorry Jesse. I'm so sorry. You guys are in our prayers and our thoughts are with you. I'm so glad that he's alive, and you guys WILL be okay. But, I'm so sorry. I can't imagine what that must've felt like to get that call.
Praise God he's okay.

Kelsey said...

keep us updated if you have the time... and if you need anything, let me know. Granted I can't send a hug or help you watch Connor or anything through the mail... but... I wish I could.

Michelle said...

Gasp! Oh Jess, I am so sorry that this is happening to you and Jeremy, but relieved that he is alive! Sounds like he will be in good hands, both with the hospital in Germany and with you by his side. Your first thoughts in this crisis are so amazing to me; what a perspective you have! (My box has a secret trap door, so that I can always keep the lid closed.) I'll be thinking of you today and every day as usual, and very much looking forward to updates.

Erin Mattei said...

Many prayers are coming your way from Texas and your fellow Aggies!!!! We love you, Jeremy, and Connor!!! Thank you for keeping us updated!!!!

Niksmom said...

I just came here from the Hopeful Parents site. I am so sorry for your husband's injuries but so thankful he is alive. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers from Delaware.

pixiemama said...

Came by via Niksmom.
I'm so sorry to hear this.
Prayers, love and light from PA.

kristenspina said...

Niksmom pointed me over...
Just want to say sorry and that I'll be praying for you and your family.

jesswilson said...

prayers.

love.

gratitude.

you sound strong as hell, lady, but can we help in any way? if there's anything you need, please e-mail. please.

Anonymous said...

I, too, found my way here from Hopeful Parents. Sending positive prayers to you all.

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

I am so so sorry to hear about your husband's wounds, and can only imagine how you must feel right now. I'm glad to hear that he's alive and being taken care of and most of all safe. My very best wishes for a quick reunion and a smooth path to recovery. You and your family are in our thoughts.

Dan and Holly said...

Jessie! I hope you know that both Jermey and you are in my prayers. He's a good man, and it seems like God has given you an amazing outlook on this whole situation. I admire your strength. I look forward to better updates.

BTW. You have a gift for writing. :) No one else could blog so beautifully about an event so horrible.

-Holly

Julia said...

Oh my God, Jess -- I'm so sorry. You're amazing, but I'm sooo sorry. You'll get through this, like you've gotten through everything else. I wish I could do something to help. Stay strong when you need to, but let yourself be human when you need to. Love and hope to you and Connor and Jeremy from someone you hardly know way out in western New York....

Anonymous said...

You're very brave. You know I'm here for you. Let me know if you need anything. Our prayers are with you...

Elizabeth said...

So sorry to hear of this. I will be praying for and thinking of you and your family, wishing you much strength and courage.

Elizabeth said...

So sorry to hear of this. I will be praying for and thinking of you and your family, wishing you much strength and courage.

Greymare said...

Ya'll are in our thoughts and prayers.

Ben and Bennie said...

I'm one of your co-writers at Hopeful Parents. Please accept our thoughts and prayers for you. All of us there know the hardships you go through as an exceptional parent. Having your husband serve our country, you must have incredible strength. Let us know anytime what we can do for you.

Bennie

Barbara said...

I'm a lurker who hasn't commented before - I enjoy your blog and reading about Connor so much. I don't know what to say so I'll just say that I'm so sorry for what has happened. I'll be following along and thinking of your family...

Mia said...

I almost don't know what to say. Chills, tears, a sinking heart being held up with hope of strength for your family. I'm glad he's all there, he's alive, he knows who you all are. I'm glad it's not worse.

My mind is reeling with all that you have to do, all you will have to do, and knowing that you can do it all. I also, truly, honestly and deeply want to know what I can do to help you. Anything. If you live in my state, I'll be there.... if you don't, I can still help from afar.

Lin said...

I'm speechless. Jess, what do you need?? Can we help you in any way?? Please email me if you need ANYTHING! (farkel4@yahoo.com) Even if it is just support, I'll send you my phone number for you to call at anytime.

I'm so sorry that you have to deal with all of this. He is ALIVE! And because of that, you can do anything. You can. I'll be sending prayers in both directions in the meantime. And hugs for all of you.

Jen said...

My prayers and healing thoughts for you all. My brother is about to deploy for Afghanistan in the next few weeks. I'm praying for all of our brave soldiers and all of the family members "soldiering" on without their loved ones.

HUGS!

Alisa George said...

Words truly escape me. You are so unbelievably strong. An amazing mom and wife. Please know your entire family is in my prayers. Let me know if there is ANYTHING I can do to help.

Alisa

Anonymous said...

Thank God he's alive and able to talk. Oh, Jess. I'm just so sorry.

As I've said before, I don't know anyone who handles life's challenges with more grace and humor than you - and this won't be any different. As for the 2 wheelchairs, my dad likes to say, "It's amazing what you can deal with when you have no choice!" You and Jeremy will get through this because you have to get through this.

I wish there was something more that I could do than leave a message on your blog. We're thinking about your family here in Pittsburgh.

-Julia O'C

Erika said...

My thoughts and good wishes are with you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Jesse,
I hope you know that I'm here for you, call me if you need anything, doesn't matter what time it may be. Jeremy will be in prayers,so will you, and Connor. I hope everything goes well, and thanks for keeping us updated.
-Jessica Abel, and Francheska Brinkley (they remember you from Amador's bday party), send you lots of love, too. They wanted you to know that they're thinking about you.
-Best Wishes,
Alicia

karengberger said...

Giving thanks for his ability to call you so you could hear his voice, hear how he is, hear him. Praying that you and your sweet family will have what you need, each and every step of the way...together. Your friends at Hopeful Parents are sending loving thoughts and best wishes for recovery and strength.

J. said...

hang in there, lots of prayers from the north.

Kristin said...

I'm so glad Jeremy is alive and relatively ok. We're sending positive energy and love your way. If there's anything we can do (from Texas) to help, please let me know.

Love from Kristin, B.J. and Josh

Katy said...

Wow. This blew me away completely. I'm so glad that he appears to still be of sound mind. Sending prayers your way!

Tiruba said...

May peace be with you.

Rhonda said...

Jessica, I am a friend of Ann McGuffey. I just want you to know that everyone at the center where Ann works is following every piece of news. Thank you so much for writing your wonderful blog. I went here immediately when Ann told us what happended because I knew that you would write as soon as you could. You will get through this for your family. Thank you for giving all of us the opportunity to tell you how amazing you are....because you are amazing.
Rhonda Nelson
Ann's friend

leah said...

I'm in absolute shock. And quite relieved that Jeremy is alive and with both legs. Our thoughts, prayers, and hope are with you guys.

Lucas'Mommy said...

Thinking of you and praying for your family. You surely deserve that lemonade award again.

therextras said...

I am adding your family to my prayer list.

Barbara

Ellen said...

Hi. I just read about you on Mia's blog, and zoomed over here. My heart was beating so fast as I read your post. I send prayers, and hugs. This is horrible. And then, as horrible as it is, it is miraculous that Jeremy did not lose his legs, and that reconstructive surgery is possible. This will take time, but at least, there is a future of healing.

You are an incredibly strong, smart woman, and I know you will handle this in the same way you have managed all that you have dealt with so far. I know. And, obviously, you have many people who are here to support you. I am here for you, too.

xo
Ellen

rouchi said...

I am so sorry to hear about it. You are such a strong woman to even relive your pain by putting it into words.I pray for his good health and for you to have strength to go through this very tough time.You are an army man's wife and and I sure he would come out of this hale and hearty with your support. My bestest of wishes to your entire family.

Junior said...

Keeping you in our prayers

Full Soul Ahead! said...

Love.

Sending you love.

Lisa63 said...

came via diary of a mom

just wanted to convey my p&pt for a speedy recovery and return home of your husband and hero.

our town just buried a 22yr old marine this weekend, KIA in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb. many turned out and lined the streets honoring our fallen hero.

i am happy that you have a different ending, tho i am saddened that he was injured.

many thanks to your husband and all our service people

god bless

Robin said...

I lurk here occasionally and really have no words that seem appropriate, but I wanted you to know there are people out there that are praying and thinking of you and your family.

Lisa said...

Jess~

You don't know me. I just came across your blog during a Google search for something meaningless and unrelated.

Bless your heart!

I will be following up on your blog and praying for your family. You are on quite a journey.

Lisa @
All That and a Box of Rocks
(Mom to 2 boys with complex congenital heart disease and Autism-awaiting genetics)

Anonymous said...

I met Jeremy (CPT McGuffey) when 8-1 started back in 06. We were part of the original 10. I am sorry to heart that he was injured in Afghanistan. He was one of the few dudes that wished me well when I came back to the unit after my recovery from a removal of a brain tumor and his comments were sincere.
Now in your time, I am returning the prayers for your family as I wish him the best for a speedy recovery and all the strength and patience that you guys are going to need in the coming weeks. Good Luck and Fight On!

kyra said...

i came over from hopeful parents to send my blessings and my support for you, for your family.

Sarah said...

We don't know eachother, but I have heard of your story and most importantly your strength. Thank you for sharing.

Not So Average Mama said...

I am so glad that I found your blog. You sound like such an amazingly strong woman!

BCC said...

God bless you and your amazing family. Thank you for sharing your story, it helps so much.

 
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