I can still feel the panic. I can still remember your small hands in mine, warm and sweaty. The fear and confusion in your eyes. Doctors and nurses moving like flies, swarming you.
The silence. Your silence. I can hear that over everything.
The questions keep coming at you from all angles.
“What’s your name?”
“Do you know who that is?” Fingers point to us.
“Do you know where you are?
You can’t talk, but your eyes are loud and pleading. This must be so strange for you. Your dad isn’t much given to tears.
So many tests. Still more questions. Still no words from you.
The doctor asks us to come with him so he can speak to us. I go with him, but my eyes stay with you, afraid to let go of our stare. I fear that if I do, I’ll never get you back.
The doctor talks in hushed tones, but it’s blurry. The words “stroke” and “life flight” are said.
This can’t be. Not to you.
Another flurry of activity surrounds you. They are preparing you for a helicopter ride that you have to take alone. We’re not allowed to come with you. We have to drive two hours and will not be by your side. My heart is on fire, fueled by helplessness. You are told about the flight, and you nod your head. It’s the first response we’ve seen from you; the faintest of hopes for all of us.
I can’t remember much of the drive except seeing your helicopter fly over us.
When we finally arrived at the hospital and found you, I can recall the small smile you held. The recognition was like a lasso pulling us toward you. Still no words are available to you, but I knew our Eric was on his way back to us.
Several hours passed, their numbers unclear to me now, before you spoke again. Tentative at first, as if you were putting a foot on ice you’re unsure of to test it out. More words come later, but they are labored. You were struggling, but fighting. As I knew you would.
After an astonishing amount of prodding, needles and more tests, the doctors finally agree to let you rest. We tried to rest too, but it was fitful and impossible.
The next morning you were more nearly yourself. You spoke mostly normal, with a gap here and there. You were almost back.
You endured a week of constant evaluation as you healed. We endured the unknown.
One year ago this happened to our vibrant, silly, boisterous, funny, loving son.
One worrisome, scary, blood-test-filled year.
The longest of years.
Tears come to me each time I revisit that day. I’m thankful for those tears. It reminds me of how healthy you are today, a year after our world nearly collapsed.
I’m grateful that this past year, the longest of years, will be followed by many more years for you…and for us.