This morning, I spent almost three hours reading about a time in my life that hardly crosses my mind these days. I have been thinking all day about Aaron and how strong he was in 2005 and still is today and how much we have grown as a married couple and as individuals. I wonder what we would be like had we never experienced such a vulnerable moment in our lives. Maybe we wouldn't be different at all, but I hardly believe that.
I remember being in Washington D.C. in May of 2005. We met a guy, Andy Hatcher, who had the same injury as Aaron, but he lost his right leg. Andy was a Marine injured several months before Aaron and was nearing the end of his physical therapy days when we came along. We didn't meet him until we moved to Walter Reed, but Aaron and Andy became good friends immediately because Andy could hold his own in a conversation about government, politics, etc. After knowing us for about two days, he invited us to have dinner with him and his friend in Dupont Circle (I'm almost positive that is where it was. At that point, we had not explored much of D.C.).
That night sticks out so clearly to me when I think about our D.C. days. Andy had a prosthetic leg and Aaron did not yet. We were still relatively clueless about prosthetics because we had just moved from Bethesda, where it is not as common because the Marines are still in ICU or the 5th floor healing from surgeries. Anyway, Andy wore jeans that night, and I remember being utterly amazed at how great he walked and nobody could ever know he had a prosthetic leg. I specifically remember watching him step over a curb. He didn't jump or do anything crazy with the curb, he simply stepped over it like any other two legged human being on earth would do. But I was dumbfounded. Aaron and I loooked at each other with a look that screamed "Can you believe he stepped over a curb?!"
Aaron was on crutches and obviously was without a leg, so of course kids pointed and cried and people stared and whispered as we walked by. We were used to it and laughed about it. But seeing Andy walk around that night with such control and confidence was when I realized that Aaron was going to be like that too. It was a huge moment of encouragement for me and I'm sure it was for Aaron too.
Five months later, Aaron ran the Army Ten Miler foot race. He came in first out of all the leg amputees. Two months after that, we went snowboarding in Colorado. Then we went white water rafting, camping, hiking, rock climbing, cycling, and stepping over a curb was not as impressive anymore. I smile when I hear people tell Aaron how good he walks. I want to say, "Yes, and he runs good, swims good, golfs good, bikes good, skis good, and everything he does is great." It boggles my mind to think of everything he went through and how far he has come.
Note: Today, Andy Hatcher is an accomplished athlete, as he was before his injury, and will always be a reminder of hope for us.
I never think about those days anymore. Ever. But for some reason, today I am remembering the little things that brought us here. I remember Aaron's great attitude and strength and how inspirational he was to thousands of people around the country. I remember his first words after he woke up from his medically induced coma ("Hey Babe"), his first adventure out of the hospital to McDonalds, and the first step he ever took with his prosthetic. I remember how tough the physical therapists were on Aaron because they knew he would push himself to the point of blacking out (that happened) and he would never say "I can't."
I don't think that time in our life defined us, it just sharpened us. We learned a lot about each other and a lot about marriage. We traveled and met people that changed our lives. We experienced more in one year than we will in a lifetime. We shared hard times but more great times. I honestly don't know if I miss those days or not. But I do know this: I think my husband is the strongest person in the world. He makes me proud.
This morning, I read every single word of Supporting My Troops from Haley's blog. I read every comment and word of encouragement and realized that blog was one of the key factors that got us through it all. As I read, I could hear Aaron banging around in the kitchen or typing away in his office, and I was overwhelmed with the simple fact that I love his life, and it was almost taken away from me. I'm not positive why I read everything this morning, but I'm glad I did.