A Christmas Letter From the Heart

DSCF5448055Life isn’t so bad πŸ™‚

I read a quote the other day…something to the effect of, “life is messy, love it.” I think that’s a motto I’m embracing at the moment. This year life did get a bit messy. I didn’t love all of it. Ricardo didn’t love all of it. Honestly, it was a damn hard year for both of us, (hard enough I picked up a swearing habbit, ahem), especially him. But…But, we enjoyed a lot of really great things. Andrew grew from a 1-year-old to a 2-year-old, which was so fantastic. He now says things like “beetle,” and “l-d” (Ladie), and says lots of 2 word phrases like “‘mas lie please” (Christmas lights please–i.e. turn on the Christmas lights) DSCF5462and “moe raiz” (more raisins, which are his favorite food this month). All in all, I’d say we have a fantastic little toddler. He’s mild, gentle, sweet, and silly, which is everything I could ever ask for in a child. He also hits and throws fits and screams, and is a picky eater, and breaks Kindles–but he’s two, so that’s pretty standard. When he’s tired he usually wants to be tickled and sometimes he laughs so hard he can’t stand up. He dislikes bedtime, nap time, meal time, getting his nails cut, and Santa, and loves everything else in life πŸ™‚ He loves going outside, playing at the playground, going anywhere with mom and dad, playing with cars, doing puzzles, and laughing. Honestly, this little human is amazing…I know I’m biased, but he is quite impressive and has an incredible little personality already. I have been so blessed by having him in my life, and I hope I get to have him in it every day of my life because he is wonderful.

Besides the amazing-ness that is Andrew…life has been pretty crazy. Financially things have been hard. We’ve pinched pennies, gotten charity from the church, from the government (a little bit–that’s it’s whole own story), from friends, and from family to get us through. We have had a LOT of financial help, and we are still barely scraping by. If you are one of the people who helped us emotionally, financially, or in any other way (including most recently two very kind secret SantasΒ Β  ), just know that you made a huge positive difference in our lives this year! Financial strain is a stressful thing. I have gotten to experience bawling in my car after using WIC to get food and feeling humiliated the first time I had to use it (and yet I was so grateful to have it). I got over the guilt of that quickly, thankfully, but not being able to live independently isn’t a fun experience, and I’m sure many can relate since it’s an experience lots of people get to go through. The beauty of this year has been seeing the very best of humanity since so very many people have bent over backwards to help us get through this year. I have felt so loved by both people who hardly know us and by family and friends.

As hard as financial strain is, it has not been nearly as hard as the other struggles that have come from the stroke. Some of Ricardo’s most important goals in life are related to his career…which was put on hold in a major way due to mental and physical impairment. We’ve been going back and forth all year wondering whether Ricardo was actually going to be able to go back to his accounting career, but feeling it was important enough that we sacrificed everything, down to my mental sanity (sort of), to try to get him back to it. I can tentatively say that I think he’s going to get a shot at going back shortly, which is HUGE news!

On top of worry about Ricardo’s uber important career goals, there has been the fact that Ricardo’s brainy-ness is pretty much a core, central part of his self-worth and identity, and suffering brain damage has been really hard because I think it has caused him to wonder if he is no longer the genius he once was…it’s hard to lose a part of your identity to some extent and wonder who you are now. I imagine that deep down that it what Ricardo is going through. These changes have been hard on me as well.

And what sorts of changes has he undergone? That is a long story. A very, very long story, some of which I have already mentally blocked, so I couldn’t tell it to you if I wanted to, haha. It started with complete loss of nearly everything, and got better from there, to sum it up πŸ™‚ DSCF3265He has worked so, incredibly hard to regain things he already had. But at some point this year we have questioned things like, “Will Ricardo ever be able to move the right side of his body again?” and “Will Ricardo ever remember his family again?” I dare say those are some tough questions to ponder. Luckily, he has had a miraculous recovery.

Having said that, every day he faces the reality that he has brain damage.

It is quite possible that he’ll have to rely on external memory aids heavily for the rest of his life in order to function normally. He remembers a lot of important things–like doctors appointments–now, which is excellent! And he forgets a whole lot of everything else, which is tough. Luckily we live in a day of video and audio recording, electronic gadgets with cool calendars, note taking gadgets, and bells and whistles, and cool memory apps–so even living with major memory issues is more hopeful than it once was.

Learning to use all that consistently is a goal for 2015.

The hemorrhage also effected a lot of other brain functions, and that has been tough.

Amnesia, aphasia, executive functioning problems, these are the things that continue to haunt Ricardo post-stroke, though he has made tremendous strides. But having to relearn things that were second nature before, is a demeaning and frustrating task. And it is frustrating for the person trying to help someone relearn those tasks as well.

We have gotten to experience the true meaning of “for better or for worse” and “in sickness and in health.” You don’t really expect that at 26 and 30, but we signed up for marriage intending to be in it together for eternity, and I expect that we will get through these bumps together. I’m lucky enough to still have his love, and it is a truly incredible love to have, and that is the most important thing. We still have what we value most, and I don’t plan on giving up on our love anytime soon πŸ™‚

Having said that…life is messy sometimes, and I have been a mess. I haven’t been as great or as supportive as Ricardo could have used. I am strong, but I have felt pretty broken this year.

So what has this year been like for me? Well…

I got to walk around a lake with a person I thought might never walk again…and I had to remind Ricardo 100 times how to use a new device on the TV when I thought I would never have to remind him of anything, he had such a fantastic memory.

I got to experience the truest love from someone I thought would never remember me again…and I had to face the reality that he has probably forgotten a lot of what we experienced together.

I got to hear someone say, “hi love,” who I thought would never understand human speech again…and I had to spend months desperate to know what Ricardo was thinking since he couldn’t express his thoughts.

I got to hear the heartbeat of one of the very most important people to me who I thought I had lost…and I got to hear that same person get frustrated at me 20 times a day while I tried to help him relearn things he didn’t even understand he needed to relearn.

…And we saw cathedrals, monuments, and parks. We spent time with friends, family, and pets. We walked, and talked, and laughed a lot despite life’s challenges. We watched movies, went on a few awesome dates and trips, and got to try some new things–like paddle boarding, which was a lot of fun for Alicia. We picked up old hobbies–Alicia has been getting back into music, and Ricardo has been figuring out video games again–and we all learned new skills. And we did a whole bunch of other really great, normal things πŸ™‚ Alicia got a job. Ricardo got to experience being a stay-at-home dad. And we got to experience a million blessings that we don’t even know we have because we just take so many of the good things for granted. Life has overall still been pretty good.

This has been a hard year. This has been a year of miracles. It’s been a good year and a terrible year all in one. I could tell a thousand frustrating stories about what this year has been like, in fact, if you ever have an hour, I’d love to tell you some of those stories πŸ™‚ And I could spend an hour crying about how lucky I am πŸ™‚ I guess that’s life.

I’m glad we’re all still alive, and I mean that wholeheartedly πŸ™‚

I hope 2015 is everything you hope it will be! And I hope that when it isn’t, you’ll give me a call and I’ll hopefully lend a compassionate ear and then maybe we can laugh about our problems at the end πŸ™‚ Life is so hard sometimes, and yet it is so very beautiful. Thanks for being a part of that beauty!

Love,

Alicia (and Ricardo, Andrew, Ladie, and Allie)

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