Six months going on seven. We returned to Colorado in October last year and as much as we’d like to say we took our time to settle in, there has been little patience for accelerating activity across every aspect of family, professional, school and creative life. It’s likely our eyes are bigger than our stomach and we will shortly have to prioritize what we spend our time doing because there’s just not enough of it for everything.
Here’s the quick summary of events since the last report-out.
We settled in temporary housing while looking for our new Colorado home at a time when home prices in the Denver metro area are experiencing unprecedented appreciation. Within two weeks of landing, we fell in love with a neighborhood: greenbelts, charming architecture and the fall colors made quick work of any resolve we may have had to look elsewhere. We started stalking the neighborhood, trying to catch glimpses of home interiors under the guise of trick-or-treating on Halloween, among other desperate measures. No houses came on the market for five weeks, to our dismay.
We collaborated with our Realtor on a mailing that canvassed the neighborhood: the result was eight immediate responses each of which would have been sufficient to get us into the neighborhood. The ninth response was our undoing. When I saw the online listing, I knew we were done for: as soon as Tiffany saw the house, her first response to me was “We’re going to buy this house.” We moved in a week before Christmas. And we love it.
Settling the family back in to Colorado life was run in parallel to the house search. Rather than rip the girls out of school in Texas, and then potentially uproot them again once we found a house in a new district, Tiffany homeschooled the girls through the end of 2015. My sister was able to partner with Tiffany as well to handle the curriculum and instruction. Her contribution was invaluable and not only benefited the girls, but helped Tiffany retain some semblance of sanity.
Reestablishing Claire’s network of care, we knew, would be a tall order. We had to set aside the quality of care we left behind and the network of nurses, physicians, therapists and friends that had grown up around us since that fateful day and just focus on the care utility to making sure Claire’s continuity of care was maintained. Despite that we were always cognizant of the care relationships we had to leave behind, relationships that had evolved to be much more than just care delivery.
As I write this, I couldn’t get past the third name before the lump in my throat overtook me. Too many people to name – my utmost apologies to those I have not mentioned. Too many souls who have touched us in ways we can never fully express our gratitude.
We can not nor will we ever be able to replace them or replicate what they brought to our lives. We miss them.
The list of names that invest in our family, however, does continue to grow. Tiffany has two new nurses – both shockingly younger than us both which is a new experience we are not yet accustomed to. Most of Claire’s clinical care is now through Children’s Hospital Colorado which has been phenomenal – albeit, I may not be the most objective person to appraise the care.
There have been some net gains. Claire has been able to experience some new types of therapy. Music therapy is one bright spot. These new opportunities come at the hands of a different regulatory environment at the state level. Claire is not the only one affected. Tiffany has been able to get more nurse support hours in Colorado than she could in Texas. This is opening up new doors for our family.
We opened a physical photography studio space in early April. Our photography work in Texas was all on-location: Tiffany was unable to get away and focus on running the business, so it didn’t make sense to carry the fixed costs with a studio. With the greater nursing coverage, Tiffany is able to get away during the week and focus on herself a little more.
Autumn and Heidi are both settling in as well and taking advantage of new opportunities. They started at their new schools in January. The transition had some bumps both on the academic and social side. The Texas curriculum is ahead in some areas and behind in others than Colorado. We invested some midnight oil early on to make sure the girls could catch up as quickly as possible on the academic side of things. They’re both strong, dedicated girls and the struggle only furthered their character and ethic.
The next step for both is in community sports. Heidi is starting to take up tennis. Autumn is joining the community swim team. It’s a community we’re happy to be a part of and glad the girls will grow up with it.
With all these new areas of growth, we see new levels of complexity. And with this complexity, come new risks, threatening some of the things we value, at the expense of growth. I feel the pull of a more simplified life at times. One where we are all in the same place more frequently.
And that’s the struggle: how do we make sure we continue to get the quality time together, demonstrating the balance between activity and recuperation, and not allow us to be swallowed up by inertia? The struggle hit me today.
Since Claire’s accident I am much more susceptible to being blind-sided. The smallest, most unexpected things can shock me, reduce me to my cravings for simplicity. The big shocks are expected and as a community, I think we all expect that the big shocks, the things that rattle a sometimes tenuous foundation, force us to face what’s most important, to reconcile how we may have let inertia overtake some of the most basic, important values in our lives.
It’s the little shocks that still unsettle me. Today I was watching a classic movie with Claire, The Black Stallion. The plot had finally built to the last race scene. The main characters were in the spotlight. The world watching. Expectation and pretense could easily overwhelm. And when the race was at its height, the characters retreated to the memory of a simpler life. A life where they were seemingly happier. A life they missed. A life they would never get back.
It hit me. All I could do was reach out and touch Claire. I miss her. I miss the dreams I had for her. Tiffany, shortly after the accident, would sometimes mention how much she wanted to just steal away with Claire, so simplify life and just focus on serving Clair’s needs. I felt a piece of that today. But not to steal away with her. To steal away the accident. To go back. Back before the accident when life was simpler. Times when it was just our family, when life seemed simpler, where you don’t fully understand how much your healthy, running, joyful children sustain you.
Today when I could calm myself enough, I leaned down to Claire to tell her how proud I am of her. How much I loved her. While cheesy, I told her she was my little Black Stallion. Tenacious. Loyal. Free and wild.
We wish we could go back. We cannot. So when I feel the complexity starting to threaten the new life we’ve carved for ourselves, the little shocks remind me of what I need to continue to fight. Taking joy in each other. Not letting the world swallow us up with its expectations. Never giving in to inertia.
So I’m going to finish this update, then go and hold Claire. Because she’s still here. And the simple act of holding her is sufficient for now.
As always, thank you for indulging my thoughts and continuing to keep Claire in your own. Thank you further for being the crowd that sustains us through the big and little shocks.
Image of Claire is pre-accident, April 2010