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!
Linda Yostpille says
Hi Ken, I’ve been following Ryan’s story for years now. Just want you to know that he’s never forgotten, and never will be.Your strength is unbelievable. If the world had half of your strength, and love it would be a beautiful world to live in.
Anna Welsh says
Hey! You did not tell us how the wine tasted… or shouldn’t we ask? I have had some WV “homemade wine” before. You are both amazing Ken and Sue, you are making some lemonade out of pretty rotten lemons thrown your way! We should have known! I am always thinking of your family.
I’m glad to see you are posting updates again. I don’t know you or your family but your story broke my heart. I look forward to your podcast!
What helped me take time “for myself” was thinking about what would happen if I wasn’t in the picture. I realized our life was like a house of cards, and it was all balanced on my back. Without me, everything would fall apart. I learned that taking occasional breaks (~3 days a year) wasn’t really taking time for myself; the breaks allowed me to recharge so I could keep everything going.
You’re the fulcrum upon which Ryan’s well-being is balanced. Taking care of yourself is taking care of him.
Cubs Fan says
For some projects there are some nice stones at Black Bear and Six Mile Run
Nicole S. says
Happy holidays, Diviney family! Wishing you all the best in 2018.
I really hope you get to fish, hunt and ATV this coming year. Sue is right, you have to get out and do these things. It’s not just for yourself but for Ryan too because you’ll return with a renewed energy for both of you. Good luck with the podcast effort, I’ll very much look forward to it. Merry Christmas to you all!
Jenny Duffy says
If you are feeling that something might happen to Ryan if you are not always by his side; and if those feelings are leaving you stressed/depressed/anxious and/or out of control, maybe a conversation with someone who can offer you ways to cope, would be a good idea. Maybe your physician or a counselor, who specializes in what your dear family have been experiencing since Ryan was injured, can provide some coping skills. Or maybe seeking some literature online about these worries would also help. It seems you are “intellectually” aware that you need to take care of yourself, but “emotionally” you are tethered to your guilt/stress/anxiety. There are ways, Ken, to gain some relief for yourself that do not take away from your care of and devotion to your son. Canning, gardening, stonework and making wine sound very beneficial. But also, having a good objective resource, who is not a participant in the dynamics of your situation (ex: family/friends), to openly discuss your feelings with, without judgment or fear, can, with gentle direction/guidance be one of the best things you can do for yourself this coming year.
My prayers and best wishes for you and your family this holiday season. Take care.
Gail Doyle says
Ken ,You’re sounding better and hope it’s true ! And how I pray you get to do your List (Definitely not selfish!!!!) You and Sue both deserve time to yourselves. Ryan knows the wonderful care he gets❤️Cheering you on to do your list and all have a wonderful Christmas .So good hearing from you. SHSP. NGA. Hi to my buddy Ryan ,always in my thoughts and prayers love Gail
Stacy Davis says
The second sentence should read: If you continue to have issues with leaving Ryan, talk to your doctor
Stacy Davis says
I’m so happy that life is returning to your new normal. If you continue to have
with leaving talk to your doctor. What you describe is PTSD with its best friend depression. There is no shame or weakness in taking a prscibed drug meant to treat a serious physical/mental condition. Love and best wishes for Very Merry Christmas.
Vanessa L. Richardson says
Thank you for posting this. I have not read or responded some time as I was fighting breast cancer for the past two years, and did not get a chance to keep up as I wanted to. But, Ryan was always in my prayers and thoughts as well as your family and caregivers.
Also, I was delighted to get your holiday card for 2017 and am happy that Ryan is holding on nicely with your care, dedication, and love.
I hope that you get a chance for a brief getaway. Your resilience is amazing, but I believe that you must do a little something to refresh yourself with emotional and mental strength to do what you do for your dear son.
My prayers are always with you and your amazing family, and please give Ryan my love and tell him that Vanessa Joyner Richardson from Gainesville said HELLO! I can’t wait to meet him one of these days! He is going to have a long line of people waiting to shake his hand, give him a hug, and high fives as he recovers and I, for one, will stand in that LONG line. 🙂
Rally On Ryan!
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a beautiful New Year – 2018.
What a storyteller you are! We truly appreciate that you are, and patiently await–good Lord knows what! But we are with you; whatever that means.
Looking forward to the next chapter while missing you all (Get that? Missing you ALL!)
Thinking we should plan something soon. Soon!
Always here. Love ❤
Forgot to say, I love rocks, too!
Ann H Tearle says
Fantastic, Ken, you are a pretty magnificent writer! I realized that from the get go, but just wanted to let you know. Ryan’s with you all the way and he’s been watching you guys learn the canning and the wine making together and being very successful. He will love the (flower) garden – with rocks, other, veggie garden, may have rocks too. SHSP NGA – I hope you will be able to have a selfish wish come true during 2018 – if the time would present itself, even just a few hours……could be so very refreshing for you. Lots of love always, Annie
Rita Hoop says
You never cease to amaze us, Ken. What a wonderful world this would be if everyone were as resourceful, responsible, teachable and selfless as you. But everyone deserves some “me” time too, and I sincerely hope you get some in the new year. In the meantime, we wish your family a blessed Christmas and eagerly await your podcast debut!