The Blessings of Short-term Memory Loss (or, the ongoing perils of being the “new me”)

 

My short-term memory loss is, in many ways, a blessing.  Want me not to pass on a secret you’ve just  told me?  Wait a minute and change the subject.  Chances are very good that I’ve already forgotten it.  I can be deeply sad one minute, and like a child, smiling through my tears the next.  I’m aware of when I get fixated on a sad thought and people gently introduce happier thoughts, but it works anyway.  In so many ways I’m like a small child.  More innocent, more tender, more in need of protection.  It’s confusing, I know, because to talk to me I seem very much an adult.  Only my husband sees the true me that I keep shielded from everyone else (our sons and daughters occasionally get glimpses).  I’m able to be the “normal me” for a couple of hours at a time, and then I’m exhausted.  If I don’t rest in a quiet room, I start to shake and even cry.  Loud or sudden noises affect me very strongly, and busy environments and crowds are very, very difficult for me.  Knowing I’m going to be going somewhere or attending something like that takes at least a day if not several days of planning, including my outfit, where I’ll be seated, where the bathrooms will be, who will be there, what will happen, etc.  Even something as simple as someone coming over for a visit I prefer to know about in advance so I can think about topics we can discuss, questions I can ask, and if they have any upcoming events that I should write down so I don’t forget to ask about them.  I now do things like writing down the names of my visitor’s children, even if I formerly knew them very well, because when I’m the least bit excited I simply can’t remember anything, and it’s very distressing and embarrassing for me if I forget anything important like that.  This is all very exhausting.

It’s very hard on my family to constantly be on the look-out for the “danger signs.”..my legs start to shake, I get terrible headaches, I get really confused and go into a deep “brain freeze”,  my speech slows w-a-y down, you can ask me a direct question and I just stare at you without seeming to register what you said…it’s a far cry from how I used to be.  I used to love nothing better than a party and visitors.   On well.  It’s the new reality.  I just pray that this, too, will get better and I will constantly be moving toward “normal” or “better than “normal”.  Or, if it’s forever, we find some fun in it.  We have a constant-running stream of dark humor that sustains us, especially on bad days, that is definitely a gift from God.  Like the way I’m constantly using “brain-damaged” to excuse myself for doing something stupid.  My daughter says that term has an expiration date, but I say as long as the brain damage lasts, I should be allowed to use it.  So there.  Like the constant litany of “you look great!”.  I  always seem to hear an unspoken underlying subtext of extreme surprise like they weren’t expecting me to look so good for someone who had been (pick one) a.  in a terrible car crash,  b.  sustained a traumatic brain injury such a short time ago, c.  been in a coma for months, or d. all of the above.  I know, I know, I’m far far luckier than I deserve to have not have had my face damaged in any way, and I know they are truly surprised and relieved the first time they see me because the term “brain damaged” conjures up such terrible, and sadly often true, images.  I know it’s an impossible and awkward situation for them, and they’re just trying to make conversation, and I really do appreciate it.  It’s just that it’s so inevitable.  Like “you’re doin’ so GOOD!” I used to hear all the time.

 

Trust me, if I pulled up my shirt they’d be quickly shocked into silence by all my scars…I joke that I look like a doll that a child tired of and threw away or tossed to a dog or something, and some loving person picked me up and stitched me together again.  My husband said that while they were inside me taking stuff out, they went ahead and took out my appendix.  I guess I didn’t need it anyway.

 

Anyway, this diatribe wasn’t intended to be self-pitying or whiny.  Seriously.  I just wanted to explain to people how it really still is with me,  because I know I’m deceptive.  Part of that is my own pride,  but mostly I’m so excited at seeing them and being with them that I really AM okay.  It’s just afterwards that I, and my family, have to pay the toll, for that seeming “normalcy” and I wanted to somehow explain that.  So the next time you see me and you exclaim “you look wonderful!” and you remember this post and you’re immediately embarrassed, don’t be.  I understand, and I really do appreciate it.  Besides, I know I’m one of the fortunate ones :-),

 

Thanks for reading.

Imperfect Parenting

76 birthday parties.  If you add together all 4 of my children’s birthdays, that’s how many total birthdays I’ve been responsible for.  I could tell you about ….. oh, maybe 4 or 5 of them that were pretty good.  We rented a coffee shop for a surprise 16th.  We had a luau themed 13th, a Scooby-Doo 5th (complete with scooby snacks), 4 little girls decorating a huge sheet cake with multi frostings and sprinkles, laser tag and pizza for 12-year-old boys.  We made a sea serpent cake, a castle cake, a carousel, dinosaur, horse ranch, heart, and a few others that were respectable.

We also have quite a few of “oh my gosh–it’s TOMORROW!” birthdays with a gift card, a purchased cheesecake, a friend invited on the fly to go…..to go….what the heck would be open tomorrow!!  We have a lot of “let’s have grandpa and grandma over and grill out” birthdays.  We have several “both mom and dad have concerts on your birthday–could we have a friend or two over in a week or so?”.

My daughters, and many of my students, are Pinterest-obsessed.  They find, and actually make, incredibly clever and decorative things.  They show me plans for Halloween costumes, birthday parties, decorations/treats/accessories that are insanely wonderful.

I’ve got to wonder, though, how much guilt can we heap on mothers these days?  How can these women have time to raise children (which is laughably demanding), earn income (which most of us do these days), and also create these Martha Stewart-worthy events for their children?

I kind of think (I’m sure this is rationalization for my shortcomings, but bear with me) that having a mom who isn’t always looking online for new ideas, who isn’t rushing you in and out of your car seat to buy hobby supplies, who doesn’t spend late nights staying up to craft some darling table favors in your party theme colors, who just possibly has time to play a game with you, who is smiling the morning of your birthday, who doesn’t care about the smears on the front door from the dog’s nose, who is just happy to be with you on this special day—maybe THAT would be something exciting for a kid!  I’m pretty sure that the parties I think were the best are not necessarily the ones the kids would pick.  Those parties were a whole lot about me–my success–my planning–my cleverness–my ability to do this well.  Not always a lot about my daughters and my sons.  They DID have some wicked fun, but usually it was during the silly things.  Laser tag was great, mostly because we all played and Mom and Dad got shot about 3x per minute during the whole game.  Grandpa and Grandma were great because they took them out to fly kites for as long as it took to get it up in the air–no hurries, no worries.

So just sit down for a minute already.  Keep it simple.  If you really dig doing all the cool decor stuff, and you have the time, then plan away.  But if you’re a schmuck like me, don’t sweat it.  Just remember to smile at them a lot.  Be happy.  Be fun.

Broken But Not Beaten

You may wonder why I’ve been silent for two years.  A lot has happened.  September 2014 I was driving to school one evening for a musical rehearsal when a truck hit my beloved blue Cobalt.  Almost knocked me into heaven.  Actually, I’m starting to believe more and more that the truck did knock me into heaven, and during my coma I was there, not here.  But more about that later.  Anyway, suffice it to say that I almost died several times, and when I started showing signs of coming out of my coma I was moved to On With Life in Ankeny, IA, possibly the greatest brain injury rehabilitation facility in the WHOLE WORLD.  I had to learn to think, talk, swallow, see, eat, walk, go to the bathroom, wipe myself, read, find my own nose on my face, shower myself, and basically learn to start making sense of all the signals that my senses were sending my brain again.  So many things I had been taking for granted all these years that my brain had just been doing automatically that you never think about…like brushing your teeth is actually a terribly sophisticated procedure.  I am sure that will be an entire blog post later.  But never fear…that doesn’t mean that the whole purpose of this blog is changing to be about my brain injury and how I’m miraculously managing to recover while all the time staying cheerful.  No.  Nothing like that, I’m afraid.  There are already lots and lots of great blogs about recovery from brain injury out there much more thorough than anything I could attempt, so I won’t even try.  I’m sure the topic will come up frequently because…give me a break..I’M BRAIN DAMAGED!!  Hopefully not many of you can say that, although sadly enough an ever-increasing number of us are joining the club that no one wanted to join.

 

Anyway, I just wanted to let anyone who cared know why I’ve been AWOL for basically 2 years.  I’m still not very good with a computer yet, so please forgive any typos you run across.  It feels indescribably great to be back writing and, frankly, still alive.  Life is good!