I love dark chocolate. I love the sweet taste with that subtle touch of bitter. It makes a most pleasant treat. That is sort of how I feel about this date. There have been so many things that have been sweet and precious to me this past year since becoming paralyzed, but it still has the slightly bitter side that can’t be denied.

This week I have been reflecting on a lot of things in my mind and you will have to forgive me if I sound like I am rambling in this note. Jimmy asked me today “Does it seem like it has been one year?” My answer – “It depends on the day you ask me that!” Sometimes, it seems like this year has passed so quickly and so many changes! Other times though, like when I am frustrated because I can’t quite reach that crumb I am trying to sweep up, it seems like it has been 100 years!

I have been thinking about where I was last year at this time. I was 5 months pregnant. I had already been seeing doctors and we were trying to figure out what in the world was going on with me. I became paralyzed overnight and we were so scared not knowing what it meant for me, for our baby, for our family’s future, would the paralysis keep going up, would I die, how do you have a baby, how do you take care of a baby, how do you take care of my other children and be the wife and mother I need to be. There were so many unanswered questions and fears.

The questions and fears were on our minds, but then you had daily life to try to live. I had to relearn everything it seemed. Things like getting dressed, going to the restroom, getting in your chair, getting into a vehicle, maneuvering your home, your kitchen, and your chores. So many of these things that you learned in toddlerhood!! You feel so dependent – like you have become a baby all over again with everyone helping you on everything. I thought my driving days were over. I did not know people could drive and be paralyzed!! There was so much I didn’t know! These were all bitter things and things like this still pop up and you have your “growling” moments but they are not as often as they used to be!

When I look back now, I see how much I have learned!! I remember when I first would go out, maybe to Wal-Mart or something, and it would be time for me to get out of the chair and into the van or vice versa. I would look all around and make sure nobody was watching. If someone was walking through the parking lot, I would just sit and wait. Jimmy would say “Get in” and I would say “Wait a minute”. He would say “Why?” I would say, “BECAUSE!! There are people walking by – just wait a minute!!!!” Of course, he would wait patiently and never gripe while I sat and waited for the parking lot to clear. I was so self-conscious about it! Now, I am like yelling across the parking lot, “Hey, everybody!! Look what this cool crip can do!! Bet you never knew that we could get in and out of cars all by ourselves did you?”:) I really don’t yell that but it doesn’t bother me at all and actually, I never even think about it. Well…there was a time a couple of weeks ago that the old man parked next to me in a handicap spot and I was putting my chair together to get out and go in the store. He got out of his truck, and wobbled very precariously over to me and said “Is there something I can do to help you?” I thought, “Yes, please go very carefully back to your vehicle and sit down before you fall and then we will have some real problems!!” I actually just smiled, thanked him and told him that I had it all under control. It was sweet to know that chivalry had not died! But, I did think about it that day that people do watch but I had forgotten that.

The daily part of life – getting ready every day, getting chores done, cooking and cleaning, taking care of the baby (who survived all of this just fine), taking care of the other children, still loving my hubby and trying every day to somehow compensate for all he does for me – this is all just our “normal” life now. We were at a park today with the children. The sidewalks did not go all the way to the play area and the whole area was covered in thick mulch (which is a major non-access substance for wheelers) and I was watching Jimmy push our children on the swing set. They were all squealing and giggling with joy while they yelled out “Watch Mommy!!” I had a twinge of sadness hit me, that I wanted to be out there playing with them. I wanted to push them again. But then I stopped, and thought, “Alicia, listen. That means life is normal. You children are happy. They are fine. You are fine. Life is good.” And life is good.

I have met fabulous women who are in chairs and have been a wealth of information and encouragement to me. We have more answers about our future (well, as much as anyone else can know), the doctors don’t think this will progress, they think I may recover some, therapy is going good, I have learned more about the human body and the spine and paralysis and trust me – it is complicated!! I feel much more educated and knowledge is powerful at times to controlling your fears.

So, on this date, a date that is a marker of something that has drastically changed my life, I hope that I will learn to savor this date – not dread it. To remember, that yes, life has changed but I have changed. I have grown, I have learned, and I have been enriched by those around me. My priorities have changed, new goals have been made, and I look forward to a bright and happy future. My heart has been reshaped for those with disabilities and new doors have opened for me because of mine.

God is good. He truly can take a catastrophe and use it in your life. I am looking forward to another year!!

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