Photography by Lydia Jane Photography
Excerpted from Eight Twenty Eight by Ian and Larissa Murphy. Copyright 2014 B&H Publishing Group
They met in college and fell in love. They talked about getting married, and he started looking for a ring. They dreamed about life together, a life of beauty and joy, raising babies and laughing with friends and growing old. They did not imagine a car accident. They did not imagine his brain injury. they did not dream about the need for constant care and a wheelchair and fear that food might choke him. And they could not have imagined how persistent love would be. Theirs and God's.
I sank down into my nap, covering my tired feet in the white down comforter, aching from another high-heeled day. The cloud settled over and in between my toes, legs, waist, and body, as its goose feathers warmed my skin. My husband wasn’t home yet, and I was intent on making full use of this half hour of quiet. I glanced toward the unopened mail, the dirty sheets on the chair, and the half-full cups on the table, but allowed my eyes to drift shut before dwelling on what else I should be doing. All I could think of was rest before I would be forced to swing my legs to the edge of the mattress and out from under my little cocoon of heat.
As tiredness overcame me, my mind slipped in and out of sleep, thoughts rattling around in my groggy head until I couldn’t distinguish between dreams and reality. I started feeling like I didn’t remember him anymore. I couldn’t remember his smile. I couldn’t hear what his laugh sounded like or picture the way he walked. I couldn’t find that place in me anymore that knew him, the part of my mind that stored the tone of his voice and the way he grabbed his stomach when he laughed hard. The thoughts I counted on to keep me going, to keep me in love, had left without asking my permission first. I couldn’t grasp them. They felt like they were stuck somewhere in the very back corners of my mind, too far tucked away. Perhaps they were fighting from deep underwater to reach the surface—those memories and sounds and smells that kept him close and warm in me—but something was keeping them submerged. A flashback of sitting together on his patio or a note from him singing on a voicemail would start to break through, but before I could feel and grab it, the memory would sink back in, away from me.
“Have I really forgotten him?” my semi-awake brain begged as I awaited his arrival. “Have we been this way for
so long that all of his old words and sounds are gone, that my memory can’t keep them locked inside anymore? Is this all
I’ll ever be able to remember of him? This? This Ian?”
Then . . . the familiar thud of the van door, scattering even these thoughts into thin air.
I hopped up, brushed sleep out of my eyes, and peered through the bathroom window. In a few minutes, he and his wheelchair would be clattering through the door.
“Hi, wifey!” he shouted from the mud room once he’d made his way inside, driven from behind by his youngest brother, Devon. Ian couldn’t control the volume of his voice anymore, and sometimes his speech was hard to understand. But “wifey” was usually LOUD and clear. Rolling into the bedroom, he saw me and hugged me. “How was your day?” I asked.
“I don’t remember. So it must’ve been good!”
A typical response—because his short-term memory left when his brain injury came in. As a result, I was the only one of the two of us who was able to carry the detailed memories of our marriage, or of our ten months of dating before his accident, or of anything that reminded us of what life had been like before September 30, 2006.
The day it all changed.
The date that continues to roll around every year, whether I want it to come or not.
In the quiet of night before the most recent September 30, I had snuggled up close to him, unloading my heavy heart.
“Ian, I’m so sad. I’m sad for your brain injury. I’m sad you’ve had to go through this.”
“That’s why I love you,” he said. “It makes you sad because you care about me so much.” There are very few anniversaries that I like anymore—most particularly this one—and I don’t want Ian to recognize that I’m keeping count. But for me, there’s no erasing the memories of that horrible September 30.
The most unwelcome anniversary of all.