August 31st, 2005. Dean and I are now living in Australia (that’s a whole other story). We were renting a rather large house on a farmlet outside of Esperance, Western Australia (Dean’s hometown). I was adjusting to life in country Australia. It took time. I’m from San Diego. So. Yeah. But mostly I was loving it. The people were genuine. Open. Friendly. They usually meant what they said, which, being from California, I was entirely unused to. They were peculiarly much less vain as well, which gave me newfound freedom. The landscape was rugged and prestine. Harsh and inviting. Red gravel. White sand dunes. Turquoise beaches. Mines. Red backs. Dugites. No magic carpet, but this was a whole new world.
My Maddox was, much to my protest, brought into this world by cesarean 2 weeks early in the little Esperance hospital. Some women prefer to be spliced open. I was born with a birth canal and I had every intention of using it. Still, the “professionals” strapped me to a table, opened me like a purse, and pulled out my son.
He was magnificent. Beautiful little cherub with striking blonde hair. Only trouble was, all he did was frown for the first three days. No really. He was actually frowning. And he would only open one of his eyes. All of his features were Dean’s side of the family. 100% Mack, that child. I searched his face. His limbs. Trying to find some sign of me. None. If they hadn’t have pulled him out of me, I would never have guessed he was mine. All I could hope was that he would develop some of my personality traits (which he never did.) You try nursing a baby who’s looking at you with one eye and a furrow in his brow. We were a little unsure of each other.
The day after he was born, the nurses were nagging me to get up and about. Dean and I went for a walk and sat down in the courtyard. The sun was out and it was warming up a bit. Dean told me that his shoulder was bothering him. We tried to think of something he may have done to injure it in some way, but nothing came to mind. And we passed it off with the classic Australian, “Ah well, you’ll be ‘right.”
We went back to our little Aussie home. Now a family of four. Maddox was more of a handful than his older brother. So the battle of wills began. Dean was working for a builder doing construction. I slowly started to notice that he came home with more and more aches and pains everyday. This shoulder. That shoulder. The knee. The hip. I tried to sympathize, but after months I concluded that I’d married a complainer.
It was his sternum that got really bad. To hardly press on it sent him through the roof. Months went on. The symptoms seemed so vague. So unrelated. The shoulders would flare up. The right one. Then the left. Red and swollen.
“Did you hurt it at work?” “Did you do it surfing?” I would question him searching for a cause.
Then the night sweats came. He would wake up almost every morning drenched. Then there was the bruising. Black bruises that couldn’t be explained. Minor scratches that would bleed for hours. More pain. Sternum pain. Joint pain. Flus. The man who never got sick was suddenly sick all the time. He lost weight. He looked pale. He was still going to work everyday, but he would come home and just get in bed.
Something dark had taken hold of Dean. We just didn’t know what.