Anyone who has siblings can relate to this next entry written by my older sister, Jackie. Growing up, we would always get under each other’s skin and annoy the hell out of each other (apparently, I am still guilty of that). Over the years, however, things changed and we became extremely close. That summer, Jackie was always there for me, doing whatever she could to assist and while I was unable to express it, I heard the concern in her voice and could see she that she cared. To those on the outside, it seemed as though I was not in my mind. Little did they know, I was cognizant of my surroundings. I just couldn’t express myself – I was still there, the same annoying brother. I could imagine Jackie saying “come back, come back”. Funny thing is, I had never left.
It’s my turn to write an entry for Chris’ blog – I have been mulling over what I would write for weeks, preparing for this moment. I have so many thoughts, memories and emotions…they come in waves and bits and pieces.
I’ll start here…Wayne, Chris, Stephen and I went to see a Pearl Jam concert at what used to be the Meadows. Chris wasn’t feeling 100% but we went anyway. I remember Stephen, who was just 16 at the time, point out Chris’ eye. We all noticed it but no one said anything, all of us secretly hoping it would just go away. Stephen innocently pointed out how one eye seemed to cross but Chris brushed it off and we left the concert. Chris assured us he had an upcoming doctor’s appointment to have his eye checked. Of course, like everyone else, Chris included, we chalked it up to the idea that he needed a stronger eyeglass prescription and he needed it immediately.
Fast forward a few weeks later to what would be Chris’ worst nightmare. I can remember it like it was yesterday – where I was, the task I was doing, the outfit I was wearing (obviously) and the phone call from my father. I left work within seconds and raced to Yale and could barely process what was happening to my insanely brilliant brother who helped me pass quite a few general education classes at UConn (yes…it’s true).
The next few weeks, Yale became my second home. I was there every day after work, on lunch breaks and every free moment I had. I read books, I sat with my parents – we just sat and waited and waited. We waited for Chris to get better to come back to us. But things got much worse before they got better.
I can vividly remember everything about the day my parents called to say I needed to come now and see Chris because he wasn’t doing well. The fear in my parents’ voices resonates with me to this day. (Ashley also touched on this day in her blog post; it’s funny, until she wrote about it I had completely forgotten I spoke to her. As I said before, things come in waves and bits and pieces). After our visit, my head was spinning but I needed to stay strong for my younger brother, Stephen. We left the hospital, picked up our dog Chip and drove to my home in Branford; after all, Chip was a part of our family and he needed to be with us. We got out of the car and cried and cried and waited and waited.
We later learned that a subdural hematoma had formed in Chris’ brain, explaining the symptoms he showed of a stroke and thus the need for the immediate emergency surgery. Though Chris had survived that latest round, he contracted an infection and was released home with a grim prognosis. In the following weeks, I observed Chris and my gut told me he was still in there but that he was trapped in his body. He was a fighter and I had to believe he would come out of this thriving.
There were a few instances that brought me to believe this theory – here is just one story I wish to share that assured me that in time, he would be okay….
You might have to know Chris to understand this story, but I will do my best to explain. Chris, while he is most often serious in his daily life, also has quite a silly side. He is sarcastic, humorous, slightly annoying (sorry but you are) and finds the most ridiculous and idiotic things hilarious; once he starts his laughing fit he cannot stop. That summer the epic film (haha), Tropic Thunder, starring Ben Stiller, was released in theaters. Wayne and I took Chris to see the movie as we thought something funny was just what the doctor ordered. While Wayne and I were unsure Chris would be able to understand what was going on or follow the movie, Chris certainly proved us wrong. In my opinion the film was “eh, not so great” but definitely one the old Chris would find hysterical. I can’t recall what scene it was but Chris started laughing quietly at first and within minutes was rolling into his old uncontrollable laughter, the kind of laughing so hard that there are tears and sore abs the following day. Wayne and I were right there with him – we went from laughing at the scene in the movie to just laughing at Chris laughing (this was common when Chris had a laughing fit).
With tears in my eyes, I remember texting my parents from that movie at that moment filling them in on our silly movie adventure – Chris is okay. He is going to be okay. I just knew it. It was clear he was in there and he was just trapped…he would be back, I had no doubt.