As an Aplin, apple pie is more than a mere dessert, it has history dating before my time. In fact, the origin of the name "Aplin" comes from England and means 'Among the Apples'. I' not entirely sure what that means, but I'm guessing the first Aplin's were Apple Farmers. Whatever the case may be, my Nana made the very best Apple Pie.

Nana + Dad Aplin

It was a family favourite and we would ask for it whenever we had the chance. I can taste it just thinking about it. Flaky, tender pastry that just melted in your mouth, accompanied with the sweetness of the apples, cinnamon, and sugar. Always topped with real whipped cream. Mmmmmmm

Photo by Julie Johnson @vineimages

The first time Chels ever made me apple pie, I knew she was the one. Not only is she gorgeous, smart, and funny - she was the first person who could make apple pie like Nana used to.

If apple pie was a glass slipper, it definitely fit!

But much more than that, Chels is the most loyal friend I have ever known. At the time of the accident, we had been engaged for four months. We were raising a child together and we were actively house hunting as we excitedly anticipated and prepped for our upcoming wedding day. Chels was in her first year of college in the Child & Youth Worker program and I was working my dream job with at-risk youth.

Our life was set and we had a plan.

#$*&^@#$_(@* CUE SMASH #@!$*(&#)(@

Our "plan" in an instant quickly changed shape. From day one of recovery, I never once doubted Chels' loyalty or commitment to me. She immediately (and without hesitation) gave up her summer plans to move into my parents' home with Max so they could be close and take care of me.

In the early stages, the doctors were unclear what was coming down the pipe for me. Chels kept coming anyways.

If you've ever been a caregiver for a sick or injured loved one or if you've ever had to rely on others for your basic needs as an adult, you know it's not an easy task. Especially with unfamiliar and unpredictable injuries like ABI. The road has been very long and dark at times, not only for me, but for Chels as my caregiver.

I did not have a choice in my accident, but she did. And she chose me. I am forever grateful for the sacrifices Chels made (and continues to make). Everyday she chooses to walk alongside me as my life partner and best friend; better yet, a best friend who makes me apple pie!

Chels has always made my recovery and care top priority, even at the detriment of her own dreams. Many times Chels had to miss school to support me through the hard times. More recently Chels has had to turn down amazing career opportunities in order to have the flexibility and availability for me and our family.

Despite the info available, acquired brain injury is complex and the spectrum is vast. Like with parenting, there isn't a handbook available that will fully prepare you. The learning curve has been long and sometimes no amount of ABI education will help.

The area of my brain that was most affected in my injury was my frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is your emotional control center. Because of this I have struggled a lot with emotional regulation. This basically means that my emotional dial does not work as effectively as it did pre-accident. I found myself becoming more easily angered and agitated about things. Sometimes over things that don’t matter at all. One time I was so angry with Chels because I could not understand why she would pay with cash instead of debit for our take out. Yeah, I don’t get it either. I am learning how to deal with my emotions better and through therapy I’m learning strategies to help me deal and get back on track with my ‘dial’ acts up or when I have a meltdown.

I think that one of the most valuable things that has helped Chels care for me is learning the art of self-care. Often caregivers are so caught up in the recovery of their loved one that they forget to take care of their own mental health and well-being, and that usually doesn’t end well for either party.

If you are caregiver make sure you are getting proper support for yourself. You are not alone. Find a support group, meet with a counselor regularly, and most importantly make sure you get time for you.

Have a bath, binge watch Netflix, or take up a hobby like yoga or furniture restoration. The bottom line is you don’t have to have it all figured out. You’re not a superhero and you don’t have to be. If you have a brain injury and a family member is your caregiver, remember the ABI affects the whole family. Just as you are trying to understand your injury and need to learn how to compensate in areas of struggle, they are learning also.

Patience, grace, a whole lot of love and an apple pie or two have been key elements that we have both needed. They have been essential to our survival thus far; grace, probably being the most important as we have stumbled our way through the past few years. I am so thankful to have a wife as dedicated and loyal as Chels and I hope that as we create this new normal together I can pour out as much love over her as she has on me.

Scroll down for the full recipe and step-by-step instructions on how to make this beautiful pie at home. Thanks again for taking time out of your day to step into my world.

Peace + Love,

Jonny Aps