The third Monday in July, Taylor and I were riding home from an area we typically go, and, as he often does, Taylor fell asleep. I decided to take the longer route home, giving my mind a few moments to reflect. Earlier in the day we passed a pickup truck that looked a lot like the one Taylor recently sold, and I found myself confronting a wall of grief.
Taylor’s pickup truck represented much more than a Dodge Ram 1500. It represented Taylor’s work ethic, his expression of masculinity, his love for country music, and a space of fun memories and experiences. Perhaps most glaringly, it represented something Taylor feels he has lost — his freedom. Taylor LOVED his truck. A few months ago, he made one of the bravest decisions to date. He decided to sell it.
The decision came after another night of seizures — the total event spanning hours, which left us all exhausted and feeling a little more broken than before. Another take would be that it left us more aware.
Within a few days of the seizures, Taylor ripped off the Band-Aid, and we helped him list his truck for sale. It felt important that Taylor do most of the work for the listing. As much as I felt the need to sell the vehicle he hasn’t been able to drive for eight years, we needed to respect his timeline. I am grateful we did.
The day of the sale arrived, and it truly could not have gone any better. A woman who lives about an hour away fell in love with the truck. I spoke to her briefly, but Taylor did 99% of the work. The evening of the sale, Taylor went to bed early, and his dad completed the transaction. I hid in the bedroom. Taylor never met the buyer. But I knew he would approve.
Never in my life did I think I would cry over a truck. But I did. My mind flashed back to helping Taylor purchase his first royal blue Dodge Dakota. I remembered how proud he was. The next memory was when a friend loaned him a much larger truck for prom. I then reflected on ordinary days of Taylor waxing, washing, and tending to his newest vehicle. His trucks were something he felt proud of.
I also thought about how this object was one of the first things he was concerned about as he began to communicate, after being in a coma. The truck was such a concern that it had to be parked somewhere else when we brought him home following months of hospitals and rehabilitation.
I laughed recalling the time he took the keys, while a friend who was with him was in the bathroom. She heard the roar of the very loud engine. Taylor backed it up the driveway and then rolled back down. My friend has never completed her bathroom business so quickly! We learned that the keys were a great temptation, and we were grateful that Taylor didn’t go further.
I also remembered his giving me the keys to drive. We would laugh at my needing a stepstool to climb to the cab. A dear friend of Taylor’s gave us his running boards, allowing me an easier route to the driver’s seat. As I drove, Taylor would cue me on how to handle the grey beast. At first it hurt my heart to drive his truck, but in time it healed it. We had fun together.
I wonder why I hold such a deep association to Taylor and his truck. But things we love become part of us, and there are memories entwined in objects.
As Taylor continued to sleep, my thoughts became heavier, and so did my grief. I am able to let go of the idea that Taylor may never drive again. Yet I cannot believe it has been eight years! What I struggle with letting go of the most are the things that feel so much bigger to me.
Taylor may never experience finding and knowing the love of his life. That thought guts me, and yet I feel as if I should not share it. This is one of my greatest pains for him.
Taylor will probably not have children. And he wanted them. This is at least a truth for now. And it is difficult to accept.
Taylor may be dependent on his father and I until we die. I think about how unprepared I feel for that, and it frightens me. Deeply. As my fingers touch the keyboard, and I read these words … my breath leaves my body and my heart speeds up.
One of the greatest tragedies of Taylor’s accident is the fact that I do not see enough tools in place, particularly in rural areas, to help families deal with all of their emotions. There is an expectation to keep going, despite the demands and challenges. But to what end?
Over the last eight years I have learned the challenges that we face as a family living with brain injury are hard for others to comprehend. We wake up with Taylor in our home. There are days (which have lessened over the years), where Taylor expresses wanting his “old life back.” And I feel selfish as I long for the same thing. So much is happening behind the scenes. Lots of victories and endless defeats.
The night I heard Taylor’s truck pull out of the driveway for the last time, I felt a hole in my heart open up. Oddly, I found myself wanting to chase it … as if Taylor were being taken away, too. It was as if the final thing we were holding onto was gone.
I’m very sad about my son’s TBI. He is, too. Today I’d like to simply give space for the sadness we feel, and if you relate, I’d like to give space for your sadness, too. I’m so sorry for the losses that come up again and again. Your pain is valid.