Collateral Damage

“Collateral damage is a general term for deaths, injuries, or other damage inflicted on an unintended target. In American military terminology, it is used for the incidental killing or wounding of non-combatants or damage to non-combatant property during an attack on a legitimate military target.”  As stated by Wikipedia and similarly by Webster’s dictionary. I am collateral damage. I am the unintended target.

This horrific event happened to me. It was an amputation, and maybe the bigger loss was discovering that I wasn’t going to die of a broken heart. I was going to rise every morning in all of my brokenness as an amputee and soldier on. Then in some undiscovered moment the battle was in the past. I don’t know how I survived it. Not all of me did. A part of me died back there, and most of what I lost of me was necessary for new life.

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LaFollette Complex, Ball State University 1988

Recently, I came across a photo of me taken the day I moved into the LaFollette Complex, my dorm at Ball State University. The year is 1988. I’m wearing a U2 concert t-shirt from the Joshua Tree tour, Guns N’ Roses is blasting out of an open window several floors up and I can not wait to get on with life. Looking at that picture today, twenty-nine years later, is so surreal. In a few short weeks I will travel to Seattle to see U2 perform the Joshua Tree tour some thirty years gone. The LaFollette Complex is scheduled to be demolished at Ball State, and in that still snapshot of my life I realized that was the day I first laid eyes on my husband. That’s what I was wearing. That’s where we met. What is left of any of that?

What is left of any of that? Me. I found me again. No one who knew me then would have ever imagined I would have walked down the aisle four years later. No one who knew me then would have ever imagined I would choose to start a family at twenty-four. They knew I had big plans for me; plans that included art, and career, and likely a big city, but then I walked through those double doors and secretly vowed to meet that man reading The Ball State Daily News.

 

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Havana, Cuba 2016

Between that photo and now I somehow lost me. I mean, we were good together, and I liked us, but I got lost in our life. After children, my daily life was raising them. I was losing my voice and I didn’t even realize it. There was no career or big city or art. Corey’s personality was so big. He was the center of the room and my universe. His wit and humor were unmatched and he could work a crowd. Kids loved him. Adults loved him. I loved him. But somewhere in there I became the quiet observer smiling and nodding and agreeing. So in life I lost my voice and in death he took my legs. How does one recover from mute and amputated? I don’t know. What I do know is in the abandonment of a battlefield new life grows. Through the cracks of the concrete delicate flowers reach for the light and ivy, if left to its own devices, will weave through and cover anything in its path.

The collateral damage of Laura made room for the return of her voice, her drive, her legs, her passion. She is strengthened by her past and passionate about her future.

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