I can't believe it has been more than two weeks since Paul arrived home. It has gone by fast but also feels like living at Pate and the hospitals are long in the past. We had a great homecoming. Paul, Beth, and I picked up Buzz from school on the way in from Anna so Buzz was there with us when we arrived home. Although Paul needed assistance from both Beth and I, he did walk in the front door, which is one of the goals we both had for his arrival. He seemed very happy to be home and, as Beth and I prepared dinner, Paul and Buzz sat together on the couch and watched "SpongeBob SquarePants," which is one of their favorite pastimes. That night, we had a great dinner and made a toast to Paul being home. Buzz was so happy. He kept running into his room to get toys or memorabilia he and Paul had made to see if Paul remembered them. It was very sweet.
As happy as we were that Paul was home, those first few days were pretty difficult and emotional. Logistically, it was hard to get the hang of maneuvering him around the house in the wheelchair, transferring him, and getting him in and out of the house. We also are all getting used to being out and about with Paul in the wheelchair and the amount of planning ahead and time involved. It is a learning experience for all of us and has certainly opened my eyes to many things. I think it is hard for Paul to be home and out in familiar places because it has magnified his limited abilities but it also has made him even more determined to continue to practice his walking and his talking.
That first week, the mornings were chaotic. Since Paul is continuing his therapy at Pate in Anna through part of January, someone from the facility arrived each morning at 8:00 to pick him up, which is about the exact same time that Buzz goes to school. Thank goodness, again, that Beth is here to help. Right now, Paul needs assistance showering and dressing and takes a variety of medications in the morning so it took that whole first week to get a routine down that ensured Paul was ready when the van came and that Buzz made it to school on time.
We've also had many visitors, which has been a great thing for Paul, especially in helping him put the pieces of the puzzle (his life) back together. The home environment has really made a difference. For example, about a month ago at Pate, we tried to log on to Paul's e-mail and he could not remember the password. But at home, on our computer, he knew it immediately. We also took a field trip to MasonBaronet, the agency where Paul worked before the accident. Holly Mason, who owns the company and has been wonderful to us throughout this ordeal, met us there on a Saturday. Paul seemed enlightened by the visit and I really think it opened his eyes to his career and what he did. Again, putting the puzzle pieces together. Prior to that, he knew where he worked and knew his co-workers but I'm not sure that he remembered exactly what he did or some of his work. He still often gets confused and, although his short-term memory is improving, must constantly be reminded about things or told things several times before he can remember them. It is hard to tell for sure but I am excited because he has now showing more of an interest in his work and has begun drawing a little bit more too. His art and creativity is so much a part of who he is and I really hope that he finds that again.
On the Monday before Christmas, we were just finishing up dinner when there was a knock on the door. Samantha Reitmayer, who was instrumental in organizing meals being brought to the hospital daily those first few weeks after the accident, and Willie Baronet, showed up at our doorstep with a bundle (I don't even know if bundle is the correct word!) of gifts. They had four enormous stockings full of gifts and additional presents not just for Paul but for all of us. I thought Buzz's head was going to explode. We had a wonderful time opening the gifts and were all overwhelmed, once again, by the generosity and kind hearts of so many that donated money and gifts or have stopped by with packages and gift bags. That evening, Paul seemed touched as he opened his gifts and heard the names of those who had participated and spelled out on his letter board that he would need to thank each individually. (pictures below)
I am so touched to know that so many of Paul's colleagues and friends had participated. I've been so focused on Paul and his recovery that I feel like we've been living in a time warp and the rest of the world is moving on but knowing that so many still think of Paul and support him and us was touching. Especially everyone in the design community, which has been such a big part of his life.
Christmas was great too. We had a fun morning at home opening gifts and then went on to my mom's house where, because of various family obligations, traveling, and even the flu bug, we had a small turnout compared to most years. That was probably a good thing though because we stayed for more than four hours and I don't think Paul would have lasted that long had everyone shown up.
Thank you all again for all that you've done and for following Paul's story and his recovery. This has been an incredible experience for me - I've learned so much, gotten to know so many amazing people, and been deeply affected by all of those who have cared and offered assistance. I can't even begin to think about how things would have played out for me, Buzz, and for Paul had we not had the incredible amount of help we got from my family, our friends, and the design community. We now are looking forward to 2009 - a new year with many new opportunities.