Imagine waking up one morning to discover the man you married isn’t there. Not because you had a fight, or he needed to make an early meeting. But because he left the night before, eager to catch a baseball game, and never made it home.
That’s what happened to Abby Maslin back in August 2012. She was living in Washington, D.C., after growing up in Phoenix, where she graduated from Arcadia High School. She was married, with a young son. And she had no idea how her wedding vows would be tested.
She's returning to Phoenix this week, to talk about the fateful night her husband was brutally assaulted on his way home after a Washington Nationals game, and the onslaught of changes it wrought in their lives. "We'd just celebrated our third wedding anniversary three days before," she recalls.
Maslin wrote a book called Love You Hard: A Memoir of Marriage, Brain Injury, and Reinventing Love. She’ll be reading excerpts and signing copies of her book at Changing Hands Bookstore on Friday, March 22.
It's well timed, given that March is National Brain Injury Month, when advocates are busy working to raise awareness. Over 2.5 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s easy to tune out the topic of traumatic brain injury, if it’s something your family has never experienced. But the themes in Maslin’s memoir resonate far beyond that context, highlighting the ways personal identity shifts in the face of tragedy.
And tragedy touches nearly everyone, often when it’s least expected.
Love You Hard started as a blog, after Maslin decided blogging would be the best way to make sure everyone she cared about got updates on how her husband was doing. His name is Thomas Maslin, but he goes by TC.
Three men assaulted TC on his way home from a bar he'd gone to after the game, taking his wallet and cellphone. He lay bleeding for several hours, just blocks away from home.
Looking back, Maslin wonders whether their dog might have sensed that TC was in trouble. She'd taken Spencer outside in the middle of the night, and recalls him trying to pull her in that direction. But Maslin was eager to get back inside, so baby Jack wouldn't be alone.
She called the police in the morning, after finding TC's side of the bed was still empty. And she called a doctor friend, who discovered her husband was at a local hospital.
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Maslin had brain surgery after the assault, and spent 84 days in the hospital. He faced myriad medical challenges, including a language condition called aphasia that makes it hard to communicate with words. One day, several months after the attack, he looked at Abby and said “I love you so hard.” Hence, the title of her memoir.
The book opens with Abby’s account of meeting TC, laying the foundation for the love story that’s woven throughout its pages. A gifted storyteller, she moves seamlessly between time periods, from childhood to present day, exploring ways who she was gave way to who she’s become.
“It took a violent assault to wake me up to my life and teach me gratitude,” she says. “There’s so much joy in my life now.”
Abby Maslin: Love You Hard. Friday, March 22, 7 p.m. Changing Hands Bookstore, 300 West Camelback Road. The event is free. Copies of Maslin’s book are available at Changing Hands for $27. Visit changinghands.com.