My husband and I are fighting in the kitchen. The kids are in the next room, playing Monster High. We’re trying to keep it quiet.
“What I need is your support,” my husband says, his voice shaking.
“I do support you. I am. But I am so damn sick of it!” I never was good at keeping my voice down. “You have make an effort, too!”
Our therapist, the one who specializes in couples dealing with “the fallout from neurological trauma” says that I’ve reached my “compassion capacity”.
I say I’ve reached the end of my rope.
Earlier this year, I thought I’d figured it out. I thought I’d understood that life is unpredictable and so, what one needs to do is to Take Control. That’s when I went forward with the agented self-publishing. That’s when I decided get Untethered out there and damn the traditional publishing world. That’s also when I concluded that if I could take control, so could my husband. So he’d had a ruptured brain aneurysm. Time to get over it. Move on. Take control.
But he didn’t receive thirty-five publisher rejections. He received major surgery and some significant personality changes.
I keep forgetting that. Well, no. Not forgetting. Denying. Defying. Refuting. Resisting. I keep waiting for him to wake up one day and say, “Well, that was a tough ride. But I fought it. And now I’m back.”
Instead he looks at me with bloodshot eyes. “I’ve changed,” he says.
“I know,” I respond. “But –“
“No. I’ve changed.”
And that’s when it hits me: The occupational therapist telling me that it’s unlikely he’ll ever go back to working full-time; the psychiatrist telling me that there are certain concepts he now has a hard time grasping, and that instead of getting frustrated to think of him like a ten-year-old who needs help with homework — explain, repeat, remind. And my husband himself telling me, “I’m scared.”
He’s changed. And he’s never coming back.
I pull a chair out from the table, the legs screeching on the tile floor. My lips taste salty; I didn’t even realize I was crying. We sit there, silent, for a long time, listening to the girls create some scenario that involves Frankie Stein and Draculaura going to the hair stylist’s. We sit there, the time for me to realize that all of this is about so much more than control.
It’s about acceptance and understanding and fear. It’s about watching things dissolve right before your eyes and slip through your fingers like grains of sand. It’s about starting over.
No. That’s not it.
What it’s about, I tell myself, is starting anew.
It’s time to take a clean, white piece of paper and start a new story. Same characters — my husband, my children and me — but a brand new story. Not a sequel to the old story. But a companion. We need to stop looking at the past to figure out what’s going on here. Instead, we just need to move forward.
I look at my husband again. “Did you hear me?” he asks. “I said that I’ve changed.”
“Yes.” I put my hand on his. “I know.”