Memorial Day — it’s already here. Or maybe, depending upon your perspective, it’s finally here. If you identify as a service member of the US military, my heartfelt thanks and prayers to you and your family. I can only imagine the sacrifices made by both you and those you hold dear, let alone the experiences you’ve had and memories that likely cross your mind today (and everyday) as a result of that service. I would guess today carries a lot more meaning to you than the “average” individual. A date viewed as the “unofficial” start of summer and an excuse to grill excessive amounts of brats and burgers shifts to poignant memories of decisions made and people you spent many long and difficult hours with. I can’t and won’t pretend to know what today must feel like for you, but know I (and so many others) are especially grateful for all you have done and continue to go through.
I think days to pause and remember are good things. A time to reflect, process, and let go of some difficult memories or maybe revisit and laugh at others. This Memorial Day is a uniquely special one to me as it lands on May 25 — the seven year anniversary of my injury. I was injured at age 21, so as of today, I have officially lived in this “wheeling existence” for a third of the length of time I lived walking. Such a, dare I say, accomplishment may not seem like a mark worth noting, but thinking back to a time when living seven days as a wheeler seemed impossible…. well, making it and thriving (generally) for seven years is a beautiful thing.
Unsurprisingly, this anniversary feels quite a bit different than the previous six. Sure, perhaps some of that is the result of the classic “older and wiser” adage, but I’m pretty sure I can give a large nod to the state of the world and our country as we’re forced to contend with the unknown of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m experiencing this anniversary some 200 miles away from my family as I continue to “shelter in place” in IL, social distancing from friends, and spending more time with my cat than is probably healthy (though I don’t think she minds anymore…). I’ve had anniversaries away from my family before, all of which could be attributed to the grind and commitments of a dual degree training program, but this, “you probably shouldn’t be at home right now” is obviously a bit different. It feels strange to not be able to laugh side-by-side with my sisters, shake my head at some ridiculous remark made by my Dad, or give my Mom a huge hug and tease her about her “convict” ways when I was in the rehab hospital and she would “steal” forks and mayo packets from the cafeteria so we could make egg and/or chicken salad in my hospital room (true story). I guess I just didn’t expect this to be the way this anniversary would go down. And you know, I’m pretty sure I’m in the same boat as the majority of the US when I say I didn’t ever expect something like this to happen.
That’s the funny thing about life and expectations, right?
They rarely align.
While I don’t intend or want to minimize the implications and impact of a global pandemic, I can’t help but notice the parallels that exist between the experience of now and what I went through seven years ago. A world seemingly turned upside down. Questions of if things will ever feel normal again. Wondering how and what it will look like to return to work or school. Having to adjust and adapt on a daily if not hourly basis as you learn more, enter a new environment, or want to perform a different task. Having to maneuver and go out into the world with some additional physical items (though I promise you, masks are much cheaper and easier to manage than wheelchairs…even if they consistently fog up your glasses).Continue reading