We all have our stories.
A Holiday dinner was spent with the usual relatives, and a nice older couple I hadn’t met before. He was a retired Physicist who worked on weapon systems development somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, and she a retired Dean of a large university. They’d traveled the world together over the years both before and after retirement, and were now living in the south enjoying the fruits of their labor.
“Anne” had a mohawk. It was subtle, as her hair was light and short already, but I noted this right away, and thought it was pretty cool. Maybe she was a progressive, intellectual type? She spoke slowly, and sometimes relied on her husband “Tom” to fill in the blanks. Her speech was a little slurred, but the words carefully chosen and her delivery tinged with humor.
As we spoke, Anne and Tom revealed she’d undergone brain surgery for treatment of Parkinson’s Disease. The shaking had gotten so bad, she couldn’t function. Medications had helped up to a point, but the side effects were unbearable. She’d gone to Cleveland Clinic and had electrodes implanted which would stimulate specific parts of the brain to help slow the tremors down. The problem was, in the meantime, she couldn’t think very clearly and was getting regular headaches.
We talked over dinner about their many travels, and I marveled at how truly articulate she was, despite her impairment. She made us all laugh. A lot.
Anne expressed frustration over her lack of mental acuity, one she was so used to having. I knew how she felt. Following my own brain injury, I continue to have cognitive problems and if I linger on the thoughts of what I used to be like, it drives me crazy.
When I told Anne this after dinner, she looked at me with such relief. I’m doing so much better now, and this gave her hope, she said.
Now, when I think of what I used to be like and how that person is gone, I also think of Anne and the many others who suffer from some sort of cognitive impairment and how I am not, nor am I ever, alone.