Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Home Team First...

In general, I'm a girly girl. I love clothes and jewelry and makeup and hair products and SHOES. Shopping is like an addiction for me. I'm not really into getting dirty or doing manual labor. However, I'm a big fan of violent movies, I hate the color pink, and I love football. During football season, I can usually be found watching college games all day Saturday, and on Sunday I'm either at home or at a bar watching the Steelers. Aaron could not be happier about this; in fact, it might be why he married me.

Aaron and I have only one team in common, the Pittsburgh Steelers. In college football, he's all about Ohio State, but I refuse to give up my loyalty to Penn State, even though I live in Buckeye country. We generally cheer for each other's teams except when they play head-to-head. On those days we used to purposely go out to watch the game so we'd be less likely to have to call 911. Several years ago, Aaron had this flag made:

Now, we'll watch just about any college football game, no matter who is playing. With the NFL, we used to not pay much attention to other teams, but we managed to make things a little more interesting. Back in the day, before the internet took over our lives, we used to pick all the NFL games against the spread. One of us would write down the matchups and the point spreads from the newspaper, make our picks, then read out loud to the other person so he/she could pick the games. And we always start this process by saying, "home team first."

Over the years we drifted away from this tradition. First, we got involved in picking games online with friends, and later we started playing Fantasy Football (we're in two leagues this year). But we always had fun with our own little contest so last week Aaron suggested we start it up again. We missed week one, but that's OK. And so on Sunday, while we were out for brunch, I got an envelope out of my purse and wrote everything down, getting the spreads from my iPhone (which is my excuse for why one of the games is missing from the list entirely), and then I said those three magical words.... "home team first."

For the record, we only picked four games differently, and Aaron beat me in all four. But have no fear, I'll bounce back!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Day of Remembrance ... for more than the obvious reason

As Americans -- hell, as human beings -- we remember September 11th as a day of unspeakable tragedy and terror. But beginning last year, September 11th has a much more personal meaning for Aaron and me. It was one year ago today that Aaron had his bicycle accident. That day and a few that followed were the scariest days I've known. Of course, this story has a happy ending, but I'm compelled to write it out just the same.

It was a beautiful fall morning. It was also a big college football Saturday, and in our house, college football is king. Aaron's favorite Ohio State was playing Miami (before both schools got into the trouble they're in now), and that night my team of choice, Penn State, was playing Alabama. We had plans for the neighborhood to come over for the night game, and we were looking forward to a day of watching football. Aaron was in training for the Columbus marathon, and he was supposed to run that morning, but he got stuck on a phone call and realized that he had run out of time to do his long run. I was planning to go for a bike ride so he decided to go riding with me and do his run the next day.

We rode about 12 miles and when we got to the point where we would turn toward home, we split up. I went home so I could get the car and drive out to our vet's office to pick up cat food (because of COURSE our cats are on special food), and Aaron wanted to stop at a convenience store to pick up some cigars for the festivities. He had my phone with him; it was in the saddle bag on his bike, and I didn't have any way to carry it.

We're not sure what happened next because Aaron has no memory of the accident. We do know that he got the cigars and somewhere on 5th Avenue near Olentangy River Road he wrecked the bike. There was a witness; his name is Bob but that's all I know. There was no car involved. We think that he hit something and the front wheel came off, and he just flipped over the bike, hitting his helmet on the pavement and landing on his back. Bob the passerby stopped and checked on Aaron, who was able to talk, although he did lose consciousness at some point. Bob flagged down a fire chief who then dispatched paramedics. Bob also started calling people from my phone. He eventually talked to my friend and coworker Kendra, who unfortunately didn't have any other phone number for us except the one Bob was calling from. Then someone (a paramedic or someone at the hospital) got in touch with our neighbor Amy, who was at work but luckily had her cell phone with her. Amy called her husband Colin, and he and other neighbors came over to the house to try and find me.

Meanwhile, I was obliviously picking up cat food. I pulled into the driveway, and there are about eight people outside the house, including friends from Cincinnati who were going to the football game. I'm thinking Aaron's home and we're starting the fun early. Then they told me what happened. I spoke with someone at the OSU hospital and found out that Aaron was awake and talking and that I needed to get over there. Our neighbor Sara went with me, and I'm eternally grateful to her (and by extension, her husband Matt and their son Zac). We got to the ER, and Aaron had on a neck brace, which I assumed was just precautionary, and he was pretty banged up, but I truly thought he'd go home that day.

Apparently his wedding ring was biohazardous

I remember that Aaron was very cold. He had many blankets on him but he kept shivering. He also kept asking the same questions over and over. He kept asking Sara where Zac was (as if we had left the then-seven-month-old in the car or something). He also didn't remember that we had split up on our bikes; in fact, when he was found he kept asking, "Where's my wife? Is she OK?" He had many doctors come and look at him, and he had some stitches both inside and outside his mouth. Then a nurse said something about finding a room for him, which was the first I knew he was being admitted. Then another nurse said something like "we need to put in a catheter since he won't be able to get up because of his broken neck." Um, excuse me?

When they moved Aaron to his room they told us to follow along. When we went into the Neurosurgical ICU, I think Sara and I looked at each other in shock. What the hell was going on? We didn't get a whole lot of information for a while. They put us in the "family room" and we waited. Then I started making phone calls. I talked to Aaron's parents and his sister Stephanie, who all live two hours away in Kentucky. I told them there was no need to come up just yet. Then I talked to his sister Cynthia who lives closer. She just said "I'll be there in an hour." I'm not overstating when I say that Sara and Cynthia, along with some other friends and neighbors, got me through those first couple days.

Aaron was pretty out of it, as he had finally been given some pain medication. Very gradually, we learned the extent of his injuries and that he would not need surgery, but he would be in a neck brace for 10 - 12 weeks. He had broken the C4 vertabra, and had also fractured T4, 5 and 6, as well as the left scapula. He had the stitches in his mouth, a concussion, and some nasty scrapes on his shoulder, hip and arm. He was in ICU for three nights. He could have left ICU after the first night but they didn't have a regular room for him.

We did have a few moments of levity. On Sunday morning, Cynthia and I were there bright and early because the surgeon was supposed to see him and determine if he needed surgery or not. After the doctors left, Aaron was moving his arms back and forth (remember, concussion AND pain meds). I asked if he was dancing and he said "no, I'm practicing driving my car." Then he was insistent that we should all go out for breakfast. He kept saying, "get that nurse person," and when we didn't, he picked up his bed remote like it was a phone receiver and he was trying to telephone the nurse. Cynthia and I laughed so hard we cried. And other times we just cried.

But on Tuesday, Aaron came home, and proceeded to heal quicker than I think anyone thought possible. We credit that to his marathon training, and the fact that he was in such great physical shape. He was released from wearing the neck brace after six weeks. He went to physical and occupational therapy, but not for long.

Shortly after being released from the hospital

A year later, you'd hardly know anything had happened. He has a small scar above his lip and some scars on his shoulder and hip, and his front four teeth are numb, but that's all a small price to pay. In the spring he bought a new bike; the frame of the old bike hangs on a wall in our bedroom as artwork. Our friends bought him a new helmet; the old helmet was split in two (and it WAS an old, old helmet but it did its job). Of course, he was unable to run the marathon last fall, so this year he's in training again. Today, on the anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11/01 and the accident of 9/11/10, we went to church to participate in a special service of remembrance, and then Aaron ran 18 miles. And he made a point to stop at the spot of his bicycle accident, to say "I'm still here." And I'm so thankful that he is.

With his new bike and new helmet

Thursday, September 8, 2011

You want to call me WHAT?

For those who don't know, here's the story of how I became the Gila Monster.

Many years ago (at least 20), my husband Aaron was reading a magazine about Arizona and saw an article on the gila monster, and he declared "I'm going to call you Gila Monster from now on." And he did. He rarely calls me by my actual name, instead using various forms of Gila Monster: Gila, The Gila, Monster, etc. (that is, when he's not calling me by one of his sisters' names or something else random). Now, the correct pronunciation is HEE-la, but that's not how Aaron says it. He pronounces it GEE-la, with a hard G. Some family members use it as well, especially our three nieces on his side who all call me "Aunt Gila."

If you're not familiar with my namesake, it's a venomous but sluggish lizard found primarily in the southwestern United States. As it turns out, "venomous but sluggish" really can be used to describe me on certain occasions, but we'll probably get to that at a later date. The gila monster is also not really attractive (I choose to believe that is not a trait that Aaron uses to describe me). It looks something like this:

For one of my birthdays when we were first married, we had a little party. Aaron gave me this T-shirt, in front of everyone. I still have it.

So there it is. I am the Gila Monster, and once I decided to pull the trigger on blogging, I knew that name had to be part of the title.

Until next time,

The Gila