12 years gone

At 12 years, I don’t have anything to say.

It’s much easier when numbers are leading up to 10.

10 is a big number. We can all say, “It will be 10 years since then, wow.”

My husband is laying in my arms as we are falling asleep. After a long period of silence, he tilts his head toward me and says something.

I cannot absorb it, because I am thinking about the hole of 12 years and how I cannot write anything, because it is too big a number, now. It’s been too long and this is still happening.

Somehow this is still happening.

“I’m thinking about Damon’s accident day tomorrow,” I say.

Hoping he will know what that means.

Translation: Whatever you just said is not important to me in this moment.

He says, “Oh.” And then a pause.

He understands, as he always does.

He says, “I know 10 years was a big one, how do 11 and 12 feel?”

I can’t breathe now, because he hit the place where I was already empty.


Now the numbers don’t mean anything.

Now they only get closer to 17.

Damon is forever 17, in a way, but after that then it becomes more real that he is older than that.

More years after than there are before.


It’s 2018 and somebody is teaching me the definition of complex PTSD.

C-PTSD, it’s called.

To distinguish it from the acute form of PTSD, that might come from an assault, an attack, an accident. An event.

C-PTSD happens in something like abuse or neglect, when the trauma is repeated, over and over and over again.

What about when it is both? I say.

What happens when your brother does not die but instead he might die every day?

What happens when he is dead but he is still alive because he is still there, just different?

What happens when that is the same day after day, and you look at the stitches on his brain, and his eyes don’t open but then they do and they look dead, rolling up and to the side, and he keeps having to go back in for surgery?

What happens when you sleep in hospitals for months and you can still hear the beeping monitors and smell the sheets when you close your eyes?

What happens when every year he still is not dead but is also not alive as himself, and you are all stuck in an in-between state?

What happens when it is both acute and complex, is there a guidebook for that?


There is no meaning in 12.

There is less of a meaning when I spend over a month with my brother, the most I have spent with him in at least 5 years.

Because there are moments, unexpectedly, when we slip through time, when my old brother is still there.

When he remembers something that we haven’t ever referenced, and he suddenly mimics me from 15 years ago, laughing to himself.

When we are together in public and he gives this sideways glance and there is this feeling, oh I am with Damon – the old Damon. But it is not him, but it is?

When I am driving in the truck and he is next to me in his chair and for a split second he is not in his chair and I am 17 and he is 15 and we are us again

Each one I want to grab out of the air, to try to hold it on my heart to patch the holes, but they are so fleeting, they disappear so easily.

And in some way they are more heartbreaking. Because I have them but I don’t really have them. Are they there or do I imagine it? This is not the type of improvement you could measure.

Those moments didn’t come before, but they come now.


12 years means nothing because at some point we will have to stop counting backwards and start looking to the future.

12 years since, but also what about 10 years from now? What do our lives look like then?

In my dreams, Damon is sometimes in his wheelchair, and sometimes 17. Half and half. But he is only in his wheelchair when I am trying to protect him from something.

12 years is

I am tired.


Objectively everything is nice.

I could tell you all about how much Damon loves living here and how much further he has come than the doctors said he would.

How there is so much for him to do in South Carolina. How lucky we are.

I feel more bitter this year.

To some part of me, we are in a never-ending nightmare.

How do you recover from the nightmare when it is still happening?


Everybody loves Damon.

When we are in the store the lady helps him find a shirt. She is laughing and laughing, helping him try on the most outrageous patterns. He likes them all, until my mom likes one more, and then he likes that one the most.

Behind the register, out of earshot of the others, the woman says, “What happened to Damon, if you don’t mind me asking?”

She is folding up my shirt, smoothing out each crease.

“He was in a car accident when he was 17,” I say.

Other words rise up but I swallow them.

I was 19. It happened when I was 19 and he was 17. I was in my first semester of college so I left. We were close and it was just my birthday and he had just come to see my school.

Do you see my heart, torn in half forever?

I smile instead, so she doesn’t think that she shouldn’t have asked.

“It’s 12 years tomorrow, actually,” I say to her, as if I did not know, as if it has just occurred to me, as if I am surprised by this date that creeps up every year for months.

She is already saying “Oh, I am so sorry,” as she puts my shirt in a bag, looking down.

“He’s come a lot farther than the doctors said he would,” I tell her, because I am trying to keep her feeling cheerful.

I know she will grasp onto this, saying something like, “Praise God,” and she does. It is the social life raft, and I don’t have the energy to watch her feel sad for us.

More words that I swallow:

He was in a car accident because the car company allegedly did not recall the car when they knew they should have and so the steering wheel locked up and he hit a brick wall

I think about saying,

My family never existed again after that

But I don’t, because I am already putting in my credit card and Damon has made her day because he is such a miracle



More like this:

11 years

– Wintertime

And these, but I wrote them when I was in the cult and you can tell:

9 years ago today I lost my brother

Ten years later