Sunday, December 16, 2012

No one survives a brain injury

                I was reading a really excellent account of a man's recovery from a severe brain injury he suffered in a bike accident, written by his wife. I find it interesting to read accounts by care-givers as it is the other side of the coin from my experience and it allows me to gain insights that I otherwise might miss. The book is called Learning by Accident and it is written by Rosemary Rawlins.

                At one point she is mentioning hearing the phrase, which we all have heard so many times, "He's lucky to have survived!" I won't go into her own thoughts about that as that is her story, but it got me thinking about that.  When somebody says to me that I am lucky to have survived I usually nod and agree, because that is polite, but it starts this internal dialogue:

Am I?

I did die, yet here I am.

I wouldn't say I almost died, I'd say I almost lived.

I had a near-life experience.

It was like I had a stare-down with Death and he blinked. If I ever write an autobiography I'll probably call it, Death Blinked.

Death's Scythe missed me by that much! Said in my best Maxwell Smart impersonation.

And of course, there is my old favorite, "Lucky sure sucks!"

                The point is, I'm not who I was. I won't say I'm better or I'm worse, those are relative terms and don't really address the issue that I am concerned with in this case. I was baptized by a gravel hauling Mack truck of a St. Peter while I was wearing an F-150 pick-up truck robe. It washed away my past and left me spiritually cleansed. I am different, I am not who I was.

                Nevertheless, I bear a striking resemblance to my former self. I impersonate him all the time. I feel like an intruder who has snuck in and lives in his house and sleeps with his wife. Back in 1989 when this happened I felt like I was trying to impersonate this guy who had a dream life. A beautiful house, a more beautiful wife who loved him unconditionally, a good job and good friends; and it was all mine, if I could just keep the charade going. However, that was turning out to be a trick that made learning to walk seem easy (learning to walk is my description of the hardest thing I ever had to do).

                I live a double life, but with a twist on the conventional meaning. This double life is not lived simultaneously, but rather in serial. Instead of trying to conceal one life lived from another, I'm trying to join two lives, one after the other, seamlessly. That is a fiction that cannot be done. The only way I have found to cope is to acknowledge the past as the past, and move on. The A team that was running my life has been knocked out of the game. In its place I am now the B squad; the second string. The game-my life-still goes on.  The odds makers have reset the numbers. I can still do really well, only now it always has a qualifier; I can do really well...considering.

Please return to paragraph two and read it again.