My Life before the That Accident
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
– Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
I would never have understood my story had I not been walking in my skin that fatal accident that changed my life. Looking back at that skin, I walked in, much has changed. I am in many aspects a shadow but yet, I am in other aspects superior to former myself. If I were to liken the me now to a butterfly, then the pre- accident self must have been the strongest alpha caterpillar. The stage where I battled first for my life and then to get back my life would be similar to me nestled in a cocoon awaiting metamorphosis.
To know the Caterpillar, me, I like to invite you into my skin and walk around in it. Specifically, I will endeavor to show you four dimensions that my life evolved around– my personal and family history, my physical pursuits, my cognitive abilities, and my social life. This compilation would be a snapshot of the movie before the accident.
It might not be immediately intuitive to you why this “life review” was important. To me, taking stock of what used to be was important because this knowledge provided the impetus to fuel my initial determination to overcome my injuries. The existence of a good pre- accident life provided standards to which I aspire on my subsequent recovery journey. The knowledge of a past life finally led me to accept that there are some things that can or will never be. This book is therefore an important waymarker and consolidation point in my recovery.
My Personal and Family History
My paternal grandfather, Richard Francour, grew up in a small town in Crivitz, Wisconsin during the Great Depression. He played basketball, baseball, and football. He lived on a farm so before and after school work was always a necessity. My paternal grandmother, Barbara Mans, was raised in Marinette, Wisconsin. When she was not working at A&W she behaved like a tom boy. She would always be outside swinging on trees and getting dirty. After returning from the Korean War my grandfather met my grandmother when he and she had been in there early to mid 20s.
My grandfather said that instead of going to a college he went to a Train School in the mid west of the United States. At that time, trains had been a major form of transportation for goods and individuals. My grandfather said that he has old (e.g., 1950s- 1980s) notebooks with the weather reports, gas prices, and of course my father’s and uncle’s statistics from sporting events. If it was meaningful my grandparents documented it somehow. Later come to find out that my grandmother even took statistics for most of her grandchildren’s athletic events. The stories that I hear from my grandfather and grandmother are the most captivating narratives.
My father’s parents later said that my father (e.g., Dick, Barbara, David, and Jim) picked and sold nightcrawlers from third grade all the way up to senior year of high school. My Aunt Jean had to stay home and watch the baby at that time was Paul. My father sold enough worms to have enough money for his first year of college. My family was so involved in the nightcrawler business that my grandparents said, when they lived on Hall Avenue that individuals would line up down the street to buy my families worms and even my grandparent’s ordered special worms from Illinois during the winter months. The Francour family he would be picking nightcrawlers till three in the morning and then my father and uncle had to go to school and my grandfather had to go drive truck at five a.m. all day. At that time my grandfather owned an oil business called, “Francour Oil.” My grandmother worked as his secretary for the company. I hope to someday have the same work ethic as him. My grandfather even at this present time is still challenging his mind with puzzles and crossword puzzles and during the spring, summer, and fall months you can find him at the Little League fields in Marinette working as the head grounds crewman. My grandmother can be found at Anytime Fitness walking on a treadmill during the week.
My grandfather’s personality somewhat reflects the time period. He is a veteran and has gain the respect of most individuals in the area. He started Francour Oil in his mid 20s and the business thrived threw most of 1950s all the way thru to the early 1990s when my grandfather sold the business to my uncle Paul. He is 86 and still goes to work everyday during the baseball season as a head ground crew personnel. The unique thing about my grandfather is he ALWAYS has a hilarious story or joke for a person. No matter what the time or date. Probably the FUNNIEST story he has ever shared was a story about his labradoodle.
It goes like this; one day a few months ago I had to fill my truck up with gasoline. I used to live in Green Bay, Wisconsin at that time and drove up to Marinette to see my family. I love my labradoodle so much so I decided to take her with to go get gasoline. As I arrived at the gas station with my labradoodle in the back end of the truck; I put the gas nozzle into my truck and went inside to pay for it. As I was inside paying for the gas; my labradoodle being the good girl that she was jumped out of the truck knocking the gas nozzle out of vehicle spilling gas everywhere. If you ever hear dog experts say that a dog does not feel guilty when he or she does something bad, is totally wrong. My dog felt so guilty that she drank up all the gas. Long story short she started running around like crazy doing front flips, back flips, and even misty flips, and then all of a sudden she fell over. As the person asks, “what happened to her?!” You reply, “She ran out of gas.”
If a person shares this hysterical story with someone please give my grandfather credit.
My father grew up in Marinette. My mother resided in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. My parents went to the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities for Education and that is where both met. My parents were brilliant academically. My father received a 4.0 in college and my mother received a 3.8 grade point average. My father tried out for the baseball team as a third baseman as a freshman. He received an athletic scholarship for his three years of college. He was an exceptional athlete playing football, baseball, and basketball at Marinette high school. My mother grew up in Blaine, Minnesota. My mother was a cheerleader at the University of Minnesota. My mother and father had athletic talent. My father states that he could have played professional baseball but instead married my mother. My extended family was also athletic.
My uncle went to the University of Minnesota on a baseball scholarship for being a pitcher. He was later drafted by the Oakland Athletics organization farm team but threw out his shoulder and could no longer pitch. My other uncle went to University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and to play football. My aunt, even though, was not athletically gifted she was musically inclined. She later stated, “being the oldest of the four children; I had no reason to get involved in sports because the school system did not have female athletics.” No one at that time period questioned things like women’s rights. Knowing the athletic history of my family I believe a reader can assume that I was placed under a lot of pressure to perform at a high standard.
My older sister was involved in ballet and dance along with softball and ran track but was not the best at either sport. My older brother played football, baseball, and hockey for a few years and played football at University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh. My younger sister participated in dance and ballet and was just starting out playing softball. In other words, if a person had the last name, “Francour” he or she had to perform in every facet of his or her life.
I grew up in somewhat of a large immediate family and a huge extended family. I had a mother and father who had been in her or his late 40’s, two sisters, and one brother. My two sisters’ ages had been 11 and 23 and my brother was 20 at the time. My mother and father are teachers at Marinette school district. My mother taught sixth-grade science. My father taught elementary physical education. My sister was finishing her collegiate career at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities for nursing and my brother was in college at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. I was a sophomore at Marinette high school. My sister was in fifth grade at Park elementary school.
I grew up physically, socially, and academically equipped to take on my childhood and adolescent years. Being a Francour, my family was involved in the community in sporting events in Northeast Wisconsin (e.g., Peshtigo, Marinette, Menominee, and Crivitz) so I was very well known for my physical presence. I grew up from a young age being very involved in sports. My earliest memory of myself being involved in a sport was swimming at the YMCA. I was five or six and I started swimming so vigorously when I heard the starting horn. I swam past the required finish line. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed. I cried so hard and was so disappointed in myself that I quit after that incident. Looking back I believe it shaped my personality to be a diligent athlete.
In elementary school in the spring time I played flag football. I had a quiet reserved coach that allowed me to dictate the team and practices. I played the quarterback position. I had a one grade below me good athlete. This athlete was the coach’s brother. He was quick. In the fall, I played Pop Warner football. I was on the team called the Eagles. I had an excellent group of players and coaches. My sixth-grade Pop Warner career was capitalized with a championship victory over the Steelers. I idolized players like Brett Favre and Barry Sanders. I love the athlete Brett Favre because he makes a horrendous play look magnificent and I feel he gets a bad rap for his indecisiveness.
In the winter, I played hockey and basketball. I have been told that my older brother was signing up for hockey so I got into line and was signed up as well. Skating with ragtag equipment I managed to develop into a quick coordinated hockey player. My second year was great playing hockey as a squirt. The hockey team and I won state for squirts and later would place high in the league and state tournaments. When I was a Peewee my hockey team and I took third place in the state tournament.
My basketball career was short lived. I was not the best at shooting the ball but I was a hard-nosed defender. I remember however twice in elementary school throwing up the basketball half court and sinking the shot to win the game before the buzzer.
In the springtime, I played flag football and baseball. I was quick and could move around opposing players that tried to grab my flag. I was the leader of my team and worked as hard as I could every play and if someone did not I would yell at him or her. Baseball was a great time. For a majority of my baseball career I played catcher. My baseball team and I won the state championship my Major Little League career and went to regional tournament down in Indiana. The following year in the state tournament my team would loose to Middleton placing second.
As my athletic career prospered so did my social life. I reaped the benefits of being well known in my community. I had many childhood friends and we had a lot of fun. I loved to make hilarious videos. When I was 13 years old, I snorted a noodle up my nose and the noodle came out my other nostril.
If a person has ever seen the television show, “Jackass,” my friends and I emulated sketches from that television show (e.g., riding my little sisters tricycle down a set of stairs, riding my bicycle into a curb and being catapulted forward six feet, or riding a sledding hill in a shopping cart that was borrowed from a local grocery store) are just a few instances that reflect my personality and friendships.
My friends and I had a great time together. I have also been interested in some animate (e.g., Dragon Ball Z) was a television show that I really liked to watch starting at about my middle school years.
I loved to hunt and fish. In the fall, I could be found in the water wrestling Salmon or Brown Trout at a local stream. My mother’s extended family would always spend one weekend during the summer at my other grandparent’s cabin on a lake in Minnesota where we would play cards, go fishing, and of course sight see. A person always could find me out in the woods when I was not engaging in sports or academics. I shot with my bow or rifle my fair share of Whitetails. The biggest buck that I shot during gun season was a nice size eight pointer with a spread of 15 inches, along with other little bucks, on my Uncle Tom’s property.
My family life was good! I have a very good relationship with my mother and father as do all of my siblings. My father was a tough, demanding, and showed little emotion when I was in athletics or school. My father, even though he showed little emotion, took my brother and I fishing or hunting when in season regularly. I love it. My mother was the opposite she showed emotion and could listen to any of her children. I was more of a mommy’s boy then a daddy’s boy because of my older brother was my father’s.
My Physical Pursuits
Now I am going to shift towards me specifically of what I was like right before the accident . I was and still am muscular. In my first year and a half of high school I was at the weight room regularly when I was not practicing for a sport. I was gifted athletically. I played football, baseball, and loved hockey. I was a strong running back, quarterback, and linebacker. I have a video of myself in the Marinette versus Menominee football game having the ability to power over someone or easily tackle the opposing player.
I am somewhat short (e.g., 5’7”) but I would not be intimidated by anyone. My baseball career was played as a catcher. I was quick with my throw down to second base and on the bases and could use my muscular body to drive the ball while batting. I batted third in the batting order. Hitting third in the batting order was a sign that I could make contact with the ball and that I had power and speed.
As for hockey, the sport that I love was played as a center and wing. I was very talented on skates because I showed no fear no, smart, and quick. I used that to my advantage because I would sometimes check or move around a skater. It is important to note, that even after my accident, I was still leading goal scorer on my hockey team. That fact could be interpreted two ways. One way may be I was just that good at hockey or my team was just that bad. I like to think that I was just that good at hockey. I was well-liked by everyone in the community because of my athletic ability and intellect.
My Cognitive Abilities
If only I applied myself to my scholastic career like I did to my sports I would have easily been the top student of my class. I was ranked 16th from the top of a class of 254 students. In other words, learning came very naturally. I did work at school but not to the extent of my other classmates. I took advanced English, science, a foreign language, and honors math classes in my first year and a half of high school. I was intellectually talented enough to not study much but I did worked hard with what little time I was given during school. I did not have much time to really excel in my academics because I was so invested in my athletic career I really did not need to put forth much time towards school.
My Social Life
My social life was extremely active. With being in sports, I mostly hung around athletic friends. I had the type of personality of quiet, confident, and collective until a person would get to know me. Then I could be a good friend or a harsh joker. I had my many types of friends: my loyal best friend at the time was Briana, my fearless adventurer was Sam, a brutally honest friend was John or Ben, and my two friendly neighbor or childhood friend was Jeri and Hans. I was a leader, most of my peers looked up to me. I rarely chose the easy path. I was a Francour.
As a freshman in high school sometime in October I asked this beautiful and intelligent female if she would like to hang out. She said yes knowing who I was (e.g., a Francour, who was athletic, popular, and intelligent) and we dated (e.g., approximately 18 months) until a week before my accident occurred. My relationship with this female had its ups and downs. We would form secret clubs that would talk about other individuals (e.g., Joyce Winters) privately, go on many adventures to football games, and just spend a lot of time together. She was my biggest fan and came to most of my sporting events, and we got lost in one another. The relationship had rocky points as well. We had been unfaithful to one another; she put a large scratch on her father’s BMW, or our promiscuous behaviors. We would admit to loving one another endlessly but in retrospect it was nothing more than a high school love.
I hope you understand the constant pressure that was felt to perform my best but to have a level head while doing it. I hope that you will take as many pictures and videos as possible of loved ones or yourself. I make this suggestion because who knows what is going to happen tomorrow or the next day. Being able to reflect on what I was like before my accident makes me try that much harder to get back to some normalcy.