Adam turned the car onto the street. That moment was the first time I’d left the hospital without medical staff in quite quite a while. I recognized various buildings and street names, but felt as though I couldn’t remember why I knew them. It was like I knew the places visually, but couldn’t connect those visual memories with full memories. What else could I have forgotten? Would memories come back?
I felt a little more distraught the further we traveled from the hospital. We were going home and I didn’t know how to do things by myself. Anna wouldn’t be there to explain why a hand movement didn’t go the way I’d intended. Danielle wouldn’t be there to joke with when my hips would give out. Jessica wouldn’t be there to play Taboo with; practicing my speech wouldn’t be fun anymore. At least I wouldn’t be worried about Victor putting pen locks on everything, but it hit me that I wouldn’t have him there to help make sure that I was safe.
We pulled into the apartment parking lot and Adam helped me into my wheelchair. He turned me so that I was facing our building while he gathered some things from the car. I didn’t notice until he returned that he had parked in my favorite spot. I couldn’t remember which floor we lived on but could remember my favorite parking spot. Absurd.
Adam pushed my chair across the parking lot and to the first floor hall. That was a good sign. Stairs would have been tough. Suddenly it occurred to me that I had forgotten to check the cats’ water fountain before leaving for the pool back in November. What an odd thing to remember. Adam unlocked the apartment door and wheeled me inside. I wanted to cry.
The next couple of weeks were relaxing and surprising. New challenges would appear out of nowhere that needed to be figured out – like whether or not I would be able to stand at the sink to brush my teeth. Simple things that were easy in the hospital were suddenly difficult to figure out in my new setting.
A Christmas party at Heather’s had been planned for the 14th of December. I was determined to go. I figured that I would watch from my chair. I didn’t intend to actually be social during it. I just needed to be around my friends.
When we arrived at Heather’s house, it hit me that there was a step to get into her door. I knew that Adam already had it figured out, but I hurried through the process in my head anyway. I needed to think it through for myself. It wasn’t yet apparent to me that my need to think through the process on my own was a tiny sign that my personality had shifted.
When we arrived, Adam helped me into my chair and rolled me to the front door. He pressed the doorbell and I heard multiple sets of feet making their way to the door. Panic. I swallowed hard as the door opened and familiar faces looked back at me. I just wanted to get inside, watch everyone, and drink some tea.
After exchanging greetings, Adam helped me stand and step over the threshold. We figured out how to get me back into my chair and I took a breath and held it as we rolled down the hall and into the living room. Another round of greetings. It quickly became apparent that some people simply weren’t sure of how to interact with me. It frustrated me. I hated that I made them feel uncomfortable.
I talked with Heather, Meg, and Kat for a bit. Kat slowed her speech and spoke louder when she talked with me. It was adorable. I had settled where I would be able to see everyone and close enough to let people address me, though I didn’t seek out conversation. I preferred to laugh with the group so that I could be loud without feeling self-conscious.
Keagan and Isaiah arrived a bit later. I was feeling more at ease and wanted to talk to people – I just sounded so damn weird to myself. Isaiah talked to me the most that night, and I can easily say that I felt much more comfortable about my speech afterward. I even laughed in front of people. A few of us stood – I sat, of course – on the back patio and just talked. It was the most I had ever spoken to someone whom I wasn’t already close to. I didn’t know that Keagan and Isaiah would become two of my biggest supporters by simply liking random Facebook posts. I would begin to rely heavily on their support without them knowing it.
Throughout the night, Angel and Heather found a way for one or both of them to be at my side, even while tipsy. Adam was with me constantly. I tried not to think about what would happen if one of them weren’t by my side. I hated feeling so needy. Toward the end of the night, Adam let me stand at the kitchen island. I felt isolated from the rest of the group, even though a few of them came to chat in the kitchen, but I didn’t really care about feeling isolated. I could stand. I had to hold onto the countertop, my chair had to be directly behind me, and Adam wouldn’t leave my side, but I was standing. I never wanted to sit in my chair again. It was the best present ever, even though Adam didn’t know that I considered it a gift from him. Those are the best type of gifts though, right?
Eventually, my legs felt like jelly and it was time to head home. I was exhausted, but I’d managed to stay awake past 1 a.m. It was the best night since I’d been home.