Lately, I've been asked many times what Allen was like before his injury. Often, I struggle to come up with words that describe how he used to be. So, I figured I should do an entire entry on this topic. I'm going to start this blog entry with a picture of Allen and I from his welcome home ceremony, November 2006. This picture was taken right after the welcome home ceremony for his first deployment to Iraq with the 2/137 INF. When this was snapped, we had literally just found each other inside the ceremony and then all walked outside. It was such an awesome day. He had been deployed for 15 months and it was so wonderful being reunited after such a long, stressful time. We were all ecstatic!
I love this picture of us. I recently found it while looking through some pictures for a project I will write about later. It really shows his personality. Allen was the life of the party. He was silly and playful most of the time. You never knew when you were going to be attacked by the tickle monster or shot with some water, even inside the house. It was almost like having another kid!! Many times I was getting on to all of them, not just the kids!
Allen was also very kind and compassionate. If anyone needed a hand for anything, Allen would step up to the plate. A couple of our neighbors are single moms and often called on him for help with their car or around their house and yards. He loved helping others out. It made him feel good to be able to do something nice for people. I think it also gave him a sense of accomplishment.
Another side of Allen was his calmness. He never really worried about much of anything. He was so laid back and never had a harsh word for anyone. I'm not sure he ever even raised his voice at anyone. Even when he was stressed out, he always had the ability to keep his cool and talk things out with people. He was amazing this way. Something I always wish I had been able to do. He was never quick tempered or snippy. It was part of what I loved best about him!
The bond Allen had with our kids was unbelievable. Our youngest son Dreyson and him were almost connected constantly. I think I was more of a babysitter. The only time I had to do anything for him was when his daddy was at work. He lived for taking care of Dreyson. He loved carrying him around in his back pack doing his thing. I think part of this was because he has always tried to take care of me and to make life as easy for me as possible. He always put us first, before anything else. As long as we were happy, he was happy. He never asked for anything other than our happiness. He coached Makale's basketball team and would play anything with Makale. It didn't matter what else he had going on, he would stop to play with the boys.
While much of this has changed in Allen, I want to make it clear that we all still love him, even now. We make sure we tell him this regularly. The goal for all of us is not to get back to what used to be, but instead, to make the most out of what is, at any given moment.