It seems to happen to me each year around this time. Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it begins to settle upon me that I wasn’t able to do most of the things that I wanted for the year. Instead of feeling as though I let myself down, I make big plans for the upcoming year and simply add these to my list. Besides, I accomplished a hell of a lot for others and that means so much more!
Well, it’s kind of a list. I’ve never actually written it down. Mostly, I suppose, I just think about it from time-to-time. By not formalizing it, I rationalize, it helps me not feeling like things passed me by.
To explain, in 2017 I wanted to do a few activities but never had the gonads to make them happen. I told you the reason in a recent post on November 28, Caregiver’s Anguish, if you want the in-depth version, but it’s simple really… I get extremely anxious and guilt-ridden when I’m away from Ryan after just a few hours. To be gone for a night or two would really need to be important to me.
Sure, it’s happened, but for 2017 I can count the days on exactly three fingers.
Each year I tell myself that it’ll be different and I’ll allow some time for myself. It’s nothing extreme or outlandish I want, mind you, but it would be nice… if I could just get over my internal struggles and actually do it.
Like this past year, I didn’t go hunting or fishing. I had some opportunities and even went so far as to set out my gear the night before. When the next morning came I didn’t feel right about it. Hell, a few months ago I even kicked around the idea of going on a two-day semi-guided hunt. Ideally, this is where someone would cook me breakfast, get me all set-up at a site, then leave until they come to get me at dark… to drop me off at a dinner buffet preferably.
I also passed on fishing despite the many times I enjoyed going to the river with Ryan. It’s just too stressful keeping an eye on him (and usually a dog or two) while trying to bait my hook or free a snagged line. Even with my wife (Sue) there, my mind is always on duty… I can’t turn it off. Besides, she scares all the fish away with her swimming… and infernal sloshing and splashing!
I guess I’m not unlike many sportsmen, in that I prefer left alone when I’m out with a purpose.
One last thing I wanted to do for a couple of years now was to take my ATVs (a.k.a. Quads) — with a buddy or two — to an off-road festival where we ride the muddy trails all day… and drink beer around a campfire outside the lodge at night. Yes, I looked into this too… then decided against it when the time was running out to make it happen.
Sue begs me to make time for myself. Dare I say that it angers her that I don’t? Yes. Yes, I do. She understands why though. This I am certain.
Now I’ll do my damned best to explain it to you.
My biggest problem is that I can’t plan on doing excursions like this. Even a day or two before I would go it’s a 50/50 shot, at best. In fact, the last time I tried being by myself was a weekend in January 2016 when I went to our cabin in West Virginia to go hunting. I no sooner got there when Ryan was diagnosed with MRSA. Although I had no doubt he was in great care with Sue, the entire house needed disinfecting and sanitizing. So I drove home shortly after midnight and we got to work on it without delay.
I was always reluctant to step away from Ryan, even for a few minutes, ever since the very first time I did. It happened about a month after he was brutally attacked. At that time he was in the ICU at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA. I went back to an apartment (that we were renting) that was physically attached to the hospital via a parking garage. My plan was to get a hot shower, eat leftovers for dinner, then watch some television with my daughter.
I kid you not, my cell phone rang at the precise second I unlocked the apartment’s deadbolt.
It was Sue.
She was panicked. Damned near hysterical.
Ryan’s heart rate suddenly dropped to such a dangerous level that he was being jolted by an external defibrillator to try to bring it back. It took me less than two minutes to get my ass back there. I
walked plowed into mass chaos, doing my best to make sense of what was happening. It’s never a good sign when the hospital’s intercom system is practically screaming out that ICU room #7 (Ryan’s room) is “coding”, doctors and nurses are spilling into the hallway, and a “crash cart” has all the drawer’s seals broken.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the first time I saw this. For that matter, it wasn’t the last either.
So, can you see why I’m the way I am… why I have such difficulty leaving him… why I’m always running scared? The experience of seeing your child die (and be revived), right before your eyes, does that to a person. It causes countless sleepless nights. When sleep overtakes then it causes lucid nightmares. Daytime has random flashes of sudden anxiety and fear. Be it day or night, it completely changes a fellow.
At my core, I’m not the same man I once was.
I wish I didn’t know better, but I know this is something I’ll always live with. That’s why I feel a bit ridiculous making the following list of activities I want for myself next year.
For Myself, 2018
- Go hunting.
- Go fishing.
- Go ATVing.
That’s what I think of as my “selfish list”, but I’m intent on a few other things that I can do while being with Ryan. The first is learning a new skill. Well, actually, I already taught myself how to do it, but have yet to do it in practice… stonework. With an endless supply of beautiful (and free for the taking) river rocks and a newly acquired, albeit used, pickup truck (see What’s Important… Huge Drink Holder), I’ll start with some basic projects… like flower beds, then see how far my skills can take me.
The second idea is something I hope people who follow Ryan and my family, like you, find enjoyable. I’m going to put together a podcast (or video cast) and then see how it goes. In fact, I’ll be working on the inaugural episode next week with my daughter! I know Kari will have some great memories to share of growing up with her and Ryan. Once I get the content (and work through the editing software) then it’ll be ready to be put online in early January. Technically, it’s all lined up to distribute and when I add content these “episodes” will be freely available for download on many services, to include iTunes, Google Play, and this website.
So, maybe you’re wondering what my “non-selfish” goal was for 2017, and if I were successful? It was to can our own food; to include our garden vegetables. Sue spent endless weekend hours in the kitchen teaching me. So well in fact, that I can preserve two ways; by simple boiling and the pressure cooker. We filled our pantry with dozens of mason jars full of tomatoes, hot peppers, green beans, peach jam, blackberry jam, salsa, and chili.
In return, I handpicked gallons of berries… actually called “wineberries”. They grow wild on the mountain and are found only in a small swath of the Appalachians (and somewhere in Asia). Then I taught her how to make wine… as I was teaching myself. We corked seven bottles worth when all was said-and-done. The photograph, to the right, is our handiwork.
Granted, I’m disappointed with, let’s say, “putting off” some of what I wanted this year, but I’m starting to look forward to 2018!