A lot of things can happen in five years.
Five years ago, Peyton Manning was a badly injured Colt with an uncertain future.
Five years ago, Longmont was talking about how best to prepare for a 100-year flood, given the new, larger flood plain map that had come out a few months before.
Five years ago, the Colorado Rockies were … well, maybe some things don’t change that much.
And in the Rochat household, it meant the biggest change of all. Because it was on this week, five years ago, that Heather and I first moved in with Missy.
I still can’t believe I just wrote that.
For the newcomers to this column, Missy is my wife’s physically and mentally disabled aunt, the same age as I am physically, but so much younger in mind and spirit. We became her caregivers in 2011, arriving at her home with hope and uncertainty and way too many cardboard boxes.
I’ll be honest. I was scared out of my mind.
Heather and I had talked about doing this ever since Missy’s mom had died a couple of years before. Heather was excited, even eager. I was … well, uncertain is a charitable way to put it. Questions seemed to orbit me like race cars on Memorial Day.
“What if Heather gets ill again? She’s had a lot of chronic conditions in the past …”
“What if I don’t know what to say to Missy? Sure, I’ve visited before, but living is different …”
“What if something goes wrong? What if it’s more than we can do? What if What if What if What if …”
It became an internal echo chamber after a while. The questions were no longer really all that coherent, just background noise for a rising theme.
Maybe you know what it’s like. Walking in the dark, one foot forward, not sure if you’ll find a road or a cliff ahead. Wondering if it wouldn’t be smarter to stick to the known trails, the safe odds.
Which, in retrospect, is kind of silly. Life gives no guarantees. Even the safest ground can crumble beneath your feet, while the most threatening cliff can represent a chance to fly.
And for five years, we’ve done more than fly with Missy. We’ve soared.
I’ve had the chance to discover how a woman who says maybe a few hundred words a week can fall in love with the written words of her nightly bedtime story. We’ve explored worlds from the epic sweep of Narnia to the small towns of Homer Price. She even became an eager part of the Harry Potter fandom, complete with Hogwarts blankets and a loud whoop at Voldemort’s defeat.
I’ve learned how a woman who walks through the world with halting steps finds fascination in everything around her, from a classic car parked in the next space to a cute dog walking across the street. And how she seems to know literally everyone in Longmont, even picking her long-unseen grade-school teacher out of a crowded Main Street festival.
I’ve learned how fearless Missy can be about expressing herself, right down to shouting “WOW!” in the middle of a church service.
And through her, I’ve seen the world and myself through brand new eyes.
My questions weren’t entirely wrong. Heather did develop more health problems. (So did I, for that matter.) I do sometimes struggle to understand what Missy is asking or what she wants. There are times when it feels like we’re making it up as we go along.
But what I didn’t anticipate is that it wouldn’t matter so much. That the answers we would find would be worth so much more.
That the love of a new-found family could be bigger than all the fears the shadows could hold.
Five years. It feels like forever. It feels like yesterday.
No. It feels like the springboard to tomorrow. And I can’t wait to find out what the next five years will bring.