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.
photo credit goes to Lucie of LZH Photography
50 minutes ago