AJ is a boy with a lot of mothers. I am one of them. He will be 19 in a few days, so I guess he’s not exactly a boy. He’s an adult–officially. Wow, that’s hard to grasp. I used to carry him on my hip, drive him to daycare, and hold him over the wood fence so he can watch the neighbor’s dog for hours on end. He was fascinated by dogs! He made the cutest barks! First he would take in air until he had a face that looked like he had an orange in each cheek; his eyes would enlarge into roundness and then he would pause for a second then let out a series of the best barks he could muster. This would go on for hours while I held him up so he could stare over the fence and at the neighbor’s dog. This was the only way to keep him from jumping off everything in the house, or pouncing on me from the kitchen counter just as I walked in. I would have to drop everything in order to catch him, and he never doubted I would. I don’t think he ever imagined the possibility that I would not be able to catch him one day. Anyway, it never happened. I dropped everything, books, food, dishes, just in time for him to land on me.
I used to wake him up in the morning, change his clothes, sit him down to eat breakfast. He wouldn’t eat unless his bear ate first, and every morning was the same: the bear sat on my lap and AJ sat in the high chair. I took some cereal with the spoon, put it in front of his bear’s nose, said “yum, yum, yum” and then to AJ’s mouth. I would do this until the bowl of raisin bran was empty. There was no other way breakfast was going to happen.
During most of his early childhood, AJ’s dad was MIA and his mother worked so hard to pay the bills that she was rarely home, so I was his nanny for a few years until other family members could help.
If you don’t know, I have 52 siblings (48 half-siblings) and AJ’s mother is one of my full siblings. Us full siblings are 4, all girls. We grew up in the cult together, lost our mother together, prayed together. My sister is my hero! Back when the FBI was still trying to break apart our cult, the kids who we called “the sixpack” (because there were six of them) were put in foster homes in Utah. A sibling old enough to be in jail told my sister, AJ’s mom, to get out of there NOW! It was a “KOG emergency” (a red alert). The bomb is already falling, and it’s headed for you. So, my sister, AJ’s mom, bought a car with the money she was supposed to buy new clothes with. It was an old, 8 cylinder gas hog, and she left it in a grocery store (or was it a mall?) parking lot. In my childhood we did all kinds of crimes (I say ‘we’ even though I was only 8 or 9 because I was in full support and thought it was cool) such as stealing cars from the US and selling them to the mafia in northern Mexico. The world was bad and they didn’t matter. My sister, AJ’s mom, didn’t steal a car, she actually paid $600 for it. But the car knowledge in our family sank in her head and she knew that, in order to escape, she would have to change the license plate on it. So she found another car just like the one she bought, took the license plate off and carried it with her on a city bus to put on the other car. While on the bus, she bumped into a woman she knew who asked her how things were going. “Good, very good”. The license plate was right under my sister’s arm and the friend didn’t notice. My sister could breathe again once she got of the bus. She rendezvous’d somewhere with other 5 members of the sixpack, got in the car and vanished. The sixpack made it home sometime later and I was so, so glad to see them! I was 12 and not allowed to go on any of the adventures in the US because I was just too young. I felt old enough, hated the injustice, but was faithful no matter what. I stayed home and helped care for the 8 children (all under the age of 5), and when the sixpack arrived home it was at-the-nick-of-time reinforcement. Since everyone was in jail, we were down to a tortilla-a-day and nothing else to eat. Ok, there were beans too, but only for the smaller children. The older sixpack members got jobs and we crawled our way out of starvation. AJ’s mother became an ESL teacher and later the company star. A few years after that she owned her own event company that did catering using “edecanes” –A type of hostess/cocktail server/information specialist/model all in one who must also be bilingual. She was 19 or 20 and her company was the best in Monterrey. People later asked her how she did it, and her answer was “pay the girls what you promised and on time, and all the best ones will work for you, and the company with the best staff gets the best gigs”. She was an edecan before she started her own company and would have to fight for her paycheck, which often arrived weeks or months late. (One of the sad and true things about still too many companies in Mexico is that they like to cheat their workers).
Anyway, AJ’s mother, raising a baby on her own without even finishing high school was a difficult thing, true, but not outside of the range of difficulties she had already seen, nor accomplishments she had already done. Actually, raising AJ might have been the hardest, but she did it. Imperfectly, but he is grown up and alive…
On that subject, the fact that he is alive is a miracle. The 18-wheeler crushed the entire car except the area where the driver sat. He had a broken spine and was going in and out of consciousness, but was able to tell the first people at the scene what his mother’s phone number was. They called her after they called 911. She didn’t answer and they called again. When she picked up they calmly told her that her son was in an accident, he was alive and the ambulance was on it’s way. As I write this, it makes me swell with sadness, not for AJ, but for his mother and how she felt hearing that news. I knew, because I felt it too, and I wasn’t even his mom. Someone told her to go straight to the hospital and not to the scene of the accident because the paramedics would be gone before she arrived. So she, and our other sister, Jenny, did just that and waited at the entrance of the ER for the ambulance to arrive.
*Off note, I was terribly sad for Steph for that moment, but every day I am sad for AJ who still cannot walk. We believe in miracles, so one day he will again, but I so wish I could carry him out of this situation right now.
Back to the story- I got the text from Jenny when they were waiting: “Pray for AJ. He has been in an accident with an 18-wheeler. He is in one piece. He’s in the ambulance on the way to Brackenridge. We don’t know anything else”. I had just eaten breakfast at the Temple of Zeus and was sitting down at one of their patio tables ready to dive into my homework when I got the news. I noticed that I had a strange reaction, I just froze. I felt cold, emotionless, suspended. Then I thought of his mother, how was she?! I called her and her voice cracked into pieces. This was more than I could take, I walked towards somewhere more private because I felt myself collapsing in a way that I had never experienced in my life. Then I got the next piece of news: his back has been broken. Something so deep in my core was shaken in a way that I cannot begin to explain.
After this, studying was impossible because I couldn’t see words. I couldn’t read three words in a row for at least 5 days, I forced myself to go to classes anyway. In moments like this, the world doesn’t stop for you. Classes go on, work piles up, and eventually, I really did have to pull it together and do the work. The pain in my chest was a constant, and tears emerged with any small thing not going perfectly smooth. I still had to run my regressions, which I did when no one else was around.
AJ hadn’t left my mind for a moment during the rest of the semester. I wanted to give him the world. There were so many things I wanted to do for him, places I wanted to take him to, and I never had the chance. The scene of the accident kept running in my head, even though I wasn’t there to see it, I had my own picture. I kept feeling the fact that he almost died on the side of the road in a crushed car, unable to feel his legs…AJ, AJ, AJ…he lived in my chest constantly, and I couldn’t shake the fear that he still might die. He ended up in the emergency room, close to death, several times.
A trusted friend told me it would be ok to take a leave of absence and pick back up the following semester, but I had a bad feeling about that. I might not ever be able to pick myself back up. Plus AJ didn’t need yet another fearful person at his bedside. But I did spend Thanksgiving week with him, and was able to cheer him up a bit. What I didn’t do was study for the prelims that were waiting for me upon my return to campus. I did only ok in them.
Today, AJ has therapy all day long about 3 days out of the week. On the other two days he does other stuff. Today is my day to drive him to all of his appointments, and there is no use going back home in between them all, so right now I am at a library writing on a public computer. I don’t have time to edit because I have to go pick him up now. He is still in a wheelchair (but not for long).
I chant, I pray, I meditate, I ask God to let me see AJ as he really in in his complete health. Today I feel so happy because I know he is healed already.