It was only a dream. Just something my mind conjured up. The thing is, it hurt just the same. Last night it took me away to a place and time where Ryan was whole again. His compassion and intelligence were restored and shined around him like an aura. It lit up the room (which was a hospital room). He asked me to put my arms around him and hold him tight, like he did just months before his voice was beaten out of him.
His big, brown eyes looked into mine. I could see the wisdom in them. I wondered if, perhaps, the past two-and-a-half years were just a nightmare and I mercifully awoke. I purposely dismissed that we were in the hospital until he asked me for the keys to the Jeep. I had to tell him the state revoked his license due to unrecoverable brain injury (which they did). I told him he is uninsurable as a driver (which he is). I told him he must wait at least two years and then be cleared by a neurologist before he could retake his driver’s test (which is true). He cried. I cried with him and watch the brightness fade from his aura until it went dark gray.
When I look back into his eyes, the wisdom was no longer there. It returned to the blank stare that I know entirely too well. The eyes unfocused, looking through everything. He asked, “Who could do this to me?” and his aura went black. Gone. It went up in a puff of smoke that dissipated on the room’s drop-ceiling. I watched it leave and thought I could see Ryan looking down on me and himself.
I pleaded with him to come back. I promised him that he could drive the Jeep and to hell with the DMV and their laws.
Looking up, I saw Austin Vantrease and Jonathan May (the two men criminally convicted in the beating), both in orange jumpsuits and some hieroglyphic-looking symbol burned into their foreheads, looking in the window. They were grinning. I jumped to my feet and…
Like in my dream, I was on my feet and ready to defend Ryan.
I was confused. The room was no longer in a hospital, but hospital-like nonetheless. I knew I had been dreaming, but had to concentrate to make sure I still wasn’t. It’s that brief period where we reconcile our realm of existence. I sat back down and wiped the tears from my eyes. Yes, I was crying in both Dreamland and Real Land.
Not knowing what else to do, I put a pair of car keys in Ryan’s hand.
As an aside, when Ryan asked me (in my dream) who could do this to him I remember wondering how to answer him. Yes, I thought of these people as a gang of thugs, animals, and monsters (and even more harsh opinions). But, I wondered if I would somehow be accountable for expressing my opinions and characterizations.
I questioned if a grieving father is denied this personal expression, or anyone… for that matter. Is there some established time limit on disdain? Must I always place an asterisk on all I say and write denoting “this is my opinion” or would others simply know this, given the context?
My dreams are always filled with sub-plots, it seems. I guess it just shows that it’s crazy what issues people can dream up!
I keep Ryan and all of your family in my prayers as many others do……
I just have one question( and I am being 100% serious)……has anyone asked these “men” why they beat your son so savagely? or How they can live with themselves everyday knowing how they have hurt him and your entire family? Or how they would feel if some punks did this to someone they love? (Ok more than ! question). I really am curious….
I remember the Prosecuting Attorney asking them why they did it. The response I remember is “I don’t know why”.
I read your post with tears in my ears. It is largely those of us who belong to the elite club of individuals affected by a brain injury that can truly understand what it can not only do to the brain-injured individual, but to your own brain.
I believe that your dream was extremely insightful as to the meaning behing his eyes. I have had similar dreams where my loved one was back as he was before, but I was always saddened to wake to reality.
I don’t know if you do this, but I find myself looking back at old photos of my loved one, and I always look into his eyes. Somehow, I keep thinking that he knew something would happen, and his life would end as he knew it. In the pictures, he looks wise, but also “on guard”. It is almost as if he lived his life to the fullest because he knew that was the time he had to make his mark on the world. Oh, he is alive now, but he cannot do as he did before. I know somehow his knowledge was greater than my own. It feels like I should not look back at the pictures, but I do. Do you do the same?
I know just what you mean. For me, I avoid looking at old photos. It just hurts too much.
Jane Martellino says
Thinking, praying, and sending support in any way we can.
Jill in Morgantown says
Reading this through tears…Thinking of Ryan and your family always. You’re an incredible family. SHSP in Morgantown
Karen S. says
Dear Ken, please stay strong; all will be alright in the end.
The Colangelis says
We all pray for Ryan to continue healing and wake from the coma. Everyone is so sorry for what happened to him, but we are not giving up on our prayers to keep you stong in supporting him, and for signs of Ryan’s continued improvement. God Bless you.
As I read this entry all I could think of was Rabbi Harold Kushner in one his books talking about the aftermath of unimaginable pain, loss and suffering people experience as “shards of your broken dreams”. I am always here to read whatever you write without judgment.
Karen T. says
Just wanted to let you know that I did, as promised, say a prayer for Ryan at our daughter’s graduation. As I watched the graduates file onto the football field in Lane Stadium I was painfully aware that Ryan would not be taking the same walk the following day on what should have been his own graduation day.
As I have said before, we are very aware of how blessed we are to have enjoyed the graduation, and, yes, even the move back home. The moving part is the pits, but it is still a blessing in the grand scheme of things. I know that the Divineys would love to have had the opportunity to move 4 years worth of Ryan’s stuff back home.
We were also very fortunate to have gotten to hear Michelle Obama speak at the graduation. She spoke of her own family, her father, and how losing her Dad and a treasured friend within a short time period gave her perspective through the grieving process. In short, she said that she determined that the best way that she could honor her father was in how she lived her own life. This led her to a period of reflection, where she decided to leave the big buck law firm where she was working and to work for a non-profit, to make much less money but to make a much bigger difference in this world.
After’s Ryan’s attack, it led our daughter into her own period of self reflection, and through that she realized that making an impact on others is the dream that she wants to pursue. When she heads off to grad school next fall to pursue a degree in School Psychology, she will honor Ryan in doing so.
Maybe, just maybe, this put her on a path where she will have the opportunity to impact even one child, to help someone grow into adulthood with a strategy that they can employ to get along better with others, to deal with a situation, and to avoid violent behavior. Even in her undergraduate studies she has learned, by working with small children, that situations occur but that there are a host of ways that preschoolers react and deal with situations. Maybe she will honor Ryan in ways that no one will ever know; maybe she will save someone else from a fate similar to Ryan’s many years down the road. We may never know, but that is certainly a hope of ours.
My Mom used to tell me the story of a troubled boy from her neighborhood growing up – his parents fought a lot, his Mom was sickly, and his Dad was a mean-spirited alcoholic. The boy was always getting into trouble, and she and her sisters did not like the boy. These were the days of The Great Depression. One day they had some doughnuts – a very rare treat; my Grandfather shared by giving one to the boy. My Mom was mad, saying, why did you give him one? My Grandfather told her that the reason was simple, that one day when the boy looked back that he would be able to say that someone had been nice to him. His hope was to pay a kindness forward. My Mom still talks about it, and she is soon to be 86. My Mom followed that example and has done many kindnesses over the years; she was even an Olympic Torch Bearer back in 1996 because of her vast volunteer service.
I often wonder whether anyone could have intervened early in the lives of the people that are responsible for Ryan’s condition. Some small kindness, some strategy that might have made a difference. We can only hope that our daughter can be such a person in some child’s life, to make a difference, and to honor Ryan by how she lives her life.
We continue to pray for Ryan, you, Sue and Kari daily. Sending much love and many kind thoughts your way.
Ken, my heart is aching for you. I am glad though that in the dream that Austin and Jon are signaled out as convicts like in other countries with something on their foreheads for all to see. I can’t wait till the life hereafter when they are dealt their due by God with Ryan standing at His side.
Dreams are a good way of venting emotions.
As an aside, did the Delaware event actually happen on May 18th, or was it cancelled? I didn’t hear or see anything about it.
John Maletta says
That is powerful writing, Ken. I love you, buddy. Stay strong. Better days are coming for you and Ryan.
I’m kind of speechless — the way you wrote about this, the feelings, the images, the messages …. wow …. the way your soul was stirred to its very core. Ryan … I think his soul is beautiful and clean and perfect. And…somehow, I think he knows things we don’t know.
Ken, I am so sorry you must bear this sadness and pain. Lord, please bless, strengthen and help this incredible Dad.
Sending you love, and praying for renewed hope and strength. I continue to pray for healing of broken hearts, ours and yours, as well as Ryan’s restoration.
Carla Liberty says
The poignancy of that dream speaks volumes. When you stated, “His compassion and intelligence were restored and shined around him like an aura. It lit up the room” I immediately thought of the Holy Spirit shining down on Ryan. Though we have been praying for Ryan to be healed in body, mind, and spirit, perhaps the dream is telling that his healing is indeed a work-in-progress. He has accomplished a great deal in his path to being healed. He has defied the odds again and again. He has family and friends who love and support him and continue to lift him up to God. As painful as the words “Who could do this to me?” are to hear, I have to believe Ryan is trying desperately trying to get back to you, and will do so with God’s help and His perfect timing.
Stay strong, and as always, sending positive thoughts and prayers for you, Ryan, Sue, and Kari.
I continue to pray for Ryan’s healing and strenght for his family.
Good Morning Ken,
I pray for healing and peace in your heart and in your mind! You are a very strong man and an “off the hook” Dad, as Tyler would say. Thinking of you on this rainy day!
Gail Doyle says
Ken,No one can take away your dreams or nightmares,until the day Ryan is well and able to look through the jail window at those thugs and ask them ‘Why did you do that to me’ Than hopefully any tears will be tears of happiness and your dreams will come true. Always here,thinking and praying for all love gail
Rita Brogan Lundstrum via Facebook says
the best so far…..and you have so much more to offer us when you write. You can express your opinion and not be held accountable….and all of us will be right along with you you have earned that right.
Jane H says
Thinking of you, Ryan, Sue & Kari today, as always.
Rita Caporicci Hoop via Facebook says
My heart is breaking for you all over again! How bittersweet that Ryan reaches out to you in your dreams. Some day (soon, we pray!) Ryan really will wake up and those young men will have to answer to him. Praying for healing and justice every day <3