It's not news to anyone who knows us that my husband lost his leg in Iraq. If you see him walking down the street and happen to glance down (cuz you won't notice if you just see him walking...he's perfected his gait) you can see his prosthesis. He's obsessed with fixing it on his own and makes adjustments everytime he thinks he can hear a tiny squeak, so there is no silicone cover over the top to make it look like a "real" leg. He looks bionic. And by anyone's account, he is. Not many people in his current life knew Allan before he had his accident-not even me. He will tell anyone who asks and will listen that he has been blessed beyond words because of his injury. He impacts people he meets in a matter of minutes.
In fact, at my chicken class last Saturday, the woman there had met us at one other event a year ago. Allan wasn't with me, but when it was my turn to introduce myself she said, "Oh! And tell everyone what your husband does!" I blushed and threw out a quick "prosthetist" and recieved the usual "HUH?" and explained that he makes fake limbs. The hostess smiled proudly, as if he were her own son and said, "He lost his leg in Iraq and he is the most amazing man! He has the greatest attitude! He said that if he hadn't lost his leg he wouldn't know what he was supposed to do with his life." It's so neat to see glimpses of what impresses people about someone I love.
And it's that way with everyone. People constantly remark on how well he walks, on his endurance, on his stamina. In a typical day around the house, he's on his feet for at least 75% of it, doing manual labor like working on cars, building a tear-drop camper, mowing the lawn, etc. After they get to know him, though, they stop thinking of him as an amputee because there is nothing in him that says "disabled." He never has, for a minute, allowed that title to stick to him--he was actually PROUD that the doctor in WA state wouldn't sign for him to get a disabled parking placard because he "does too well."
And I'm the same. I forget, too often, that stuff can't be on the floor because he can't feel under his prosthetic foot. Stepping on something ends in it breaking or him falling. I remember throwing many fits because he would freak out anytime we went to a mall. This was not something that took place frequently, but it happened often enough to bother me. He would get grumpy before we even got there and I'd be mad at him by the 2nd store. One day he told me "it hurts me to walk so much and I don't like being around all the people."
HOLD.THE.PHONE. My husband? My man who wears SHORTS nearly all year in public and shows all his metal parts off to the world to see?
But it's true. And it hurts sometimes, to realize there is a soft man under all that rugged "I-can-do-anything-I-used-to" exterior. Not because I don't like that he feels, just because it hurts to know how insensitive I can be.
He's been going on and on for about a month now about a pool; about how he wants a pool for our back yard. I just could not wrap my brain around this and I was blowing him off. Afterall, anytime I asked him to go to the pool with us in WA when we lived in 2 different apartment complexes with really nice pools, he would act completely disinterested. We'd go to the ocean and he'd give me the excuse that his parts would rust. Since we've lived in Texas I can't even remember a time he's gone swimming with us and I just chalked it up to him not liking to swim.
After the 300th time of him saying, "I really want to get a pool" and staring longingly at them in WalMart, Target and most recently, Costco, I turned to him and said point-blank, "You don't even like to swim. WTH do you want a pool for?" And he looked at me a little quizzically and said, "I love to swim." I said, "no you don't...you never want to go swimming with us." And then he said it. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. And I'm tearing up now thinking about it. "I just don't like taking my leg off in front of people." *heart breaking*
And I guess I should have known that. It's not that we don't ever talk about his injury or what it's done to his psyche. I know he used to be so active and feels bad that he can't be as active now. I know that he hates the thought that if someone broke into our house, he couldn't just jump out of bed and kick some arse. (Found that one out the hard way, too. BOY am I stubborn!) I know that we've become more sedentary than I'd ever like to admit because I don't want him to hurt.
It's been EIGHT YEARS in August since we first met and started dating. Back then, so much was about recovery...back and forth between San Antonio and Ft Hood. Hospitals, secondary surgeries, physical therapy. Then there's been Med Boards, petitioning the VA for disability ratings and Social Security which are never ending. But somehow in the midst of time, some things have still escaped me...things like how my husband FEELS about himself occasionally. I guess because I think he's so amazing, and so does everyone else, and because he's so darned ABLE I fail to see that the reality may be different with him sometimes.
Now I want to buy him a damned pool. But he won't let me. Because he's stoic and strong and a good man. Because he knows it would kill our water and electric bills. Because he knows it is a terrible time to make a $700 purchase. Because he's stronger than I know.