• Stella Tessler

ABOVE THE FOLD: When Everything Goes Awry

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

I write my blogs on the fly. I wake up on Saturday morning and write about whatever is in my head. There is no planning. There is no theme. It's spontaneous and fun. The same is true this morning, which, as I am sure you have noticed, is definitely not a Saturday. I have a cup of coffee, a bagel and a banana in my belly and the need to write in my heart.

Almost four years ago, my husband was stopped at a red light. He was coming home from Costco, excited to surprise me with a hotdog (seriously, Costco hotdogs are a national treasure). A rented minivan with a distracted driver behind the wheel slammed into Dan's car from behind. He had to wait a few hours for the police to come and write the report. The driver, a careless tourist visiting from Panama, was apologetic. After the accident, Dan was dazed, but insisted (as men are prone to do) he was fine to drive home.

Dan wobbled into the house. I took one look at his eyes and knew something was very wrong.

It's at this point in the story where I must say Natasha Richardson saved my husband's life. I never forgot how the beautiful and vivacious Richardson died from a simple head injury while skiing with her family. A simple fall changed the trajectory of her family's lives forever. The same would hold true for ours.

The minute I saw the glassy stare that replaced his beautiful blue eyes, all I could think of was Richardson. My gut knew something was seriously wrong. I grabbed our daughter from drama rehearsal and took him to the ER.

They sent him for a CT scan immediately. It was determined he had a brain bleed. He was rushed, by ambulance, to a trauma hospital. Our lives changed forever.

What followed were three major brain surgeries, a loss of short-term memory, the introduction of tonic-clonic seizures and what will be a lifetime of a different normal. He'll never drive again. He'll spend every day, wherever he is, wondering if a seizure will suddenly erupt. He'll spend a lifetime needing to be reminded of things. Repeating things. Looking for things. Frustrated he can't do what he used to do. Upset he needs to "bother" me to tell him things over and over.

It's what happens when things go awry.

Alas, this is not a story to make you feel sorry for us. We muddle through. We figure things out on the fly. We know how lucky we are. We are mourning a life that is different. But, we are not mourning a life that is over. That, in and of itself, is a miracle.

We are supported by an amazing tribe of family and friends who lift us up when we need it, (they also smack us around when we need that, too). With a few exceptions, most of our tribe lives in, or near, our hometown of Port Jefferson, NY. And, so, that brings us to this past week.

Dan has never had two seizures in the same month. Last week he had two within days. He was in our home in Orlando. I was in NY preparing for meetings with clients. It was the straw that broke my back. I was done. I needed him to be in NY and I knew it could not wait a single day more.

In four days time, I drove to Florida, packed up our home, moved it into storage (our stuff, not our home) and brought our sweet Toby and Dan back home to New York. Friends and family and a familiar place is exactly what Dan needs. I need him to be here with me. We are reverse snowbirds.

I'm telling this story, not to elicit sympathy (although, if it involves baked goods, I'm totally down with all the well wishes you want to send my way). I'm sharing it with you to let you know that things sometimes go awry. Then they get okay again (your new normal), then they get blown to bits again. In these moments of chaos and clarity, there is no right or wrong. There just is.

Sometimes, life is simply a series of Saturday blogs being published on a Monday.

This blog is dedicated to our loves:

Sue, Jim, Alison, Brian, Mary, Frank, Vivian, Gary, Lina, Roger, Maribeth, JP, Kelly, Bob, Doreen, Ray, Rene, Paul, Stacey, Jeanette, Charmaine, Dom, Angela, Ehren and my amazing children. My beautiful grandchildren, James and Lilliana - you both came along just in time to save my broken heart - you are our world.

Stella lives in Port Jefferson, NY and Orlando, FL (mostly Port Jefferson, these days) with her husband, Dan, and her loving and lazy yellow lab, Toby. She's the mom of three totally self-sufficient adults (serious shout-out here, folks). She's crazy in love with her gorgeous and brilliant grandchildren, James and Lilly (not named for Harry Potter's parents, but love the connection). She's the Co-Founder of eleven07 Main, a Public Relations Firm, located in New York. Cooking for those she loves is her passion. In all she does, she lives by the motto: Pay It Forward.

© Copyright, 2019 by Stella Tessler.

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