“I smile, loving him for changing with me, for going where my Neglect has taken us, for getting the new me.”
“I decide I'm not dead because I can hear the sound of the rain hitting the roof of the car. I'm alive because I'm listening to the rain, and the rain becomes the hand of God strumming his fingers on the roof, deciding what to do.”
“I miss my old paycheck and the sense of pride, power, and worth that it gave me. I make a lot less money now. A lot less. But what I’ve lost in dollars, I’ve gained in time. I have time in the afternoons now to help Charlie and Lucy with their homework, to play Wii with them, to watch Charlie’s soccer games, to take a nap with Linus. I can’t wait to spend afternoons snowboarding. I have time to paint a portrait of Lucy (my only child who will sit still long enough) or the apples we picked at the local orchard. I have time to read novels, to meditate, to watch the deer walk across the backyard, to have dinner every night with my family. Less money, more time. So far, the trade-off has been worth every penny.”
“I’ve been so focused on what’s horrible and unfair and terrifying about my condition that I hadn’t acknowledged what is positive about my condition, as if the positive had been sitting quietly by itself on the far edge of the left side of my condition, there but completely ignored. I can’t copy a whole cat. But I can recognize it, name it, know what one sounds and feels like, and I can copy most of it, enough for anyone who looks at it to know what I’ve drawn. I am lucky.”
“Bob keeps insisting that I can do anything I put my mind to. But he’s referring to my old mind. My new mind is broken and doesn’t give a whack about the left or my old mind’s reputation for success.”
“On those days, I feel like a balloon blown to capacity, ready to burst.”
“To me, meditation sounds a whole lot like doing nothing. I don’t do nothing. I pack every second of every day with something that can get done.”
“It’s the kind of concerned, mixed-with-a-spoon-ful-of-horror-and-a-dollop-of-dread look that anyone might have if forced to sit next to any patient in the neuro unit.”
“Have you lost your mind?"
"No," I say, insulted. Well, I actually have lost some of my right mind, but now's probably not the best time to be literal.”
“She’s so warm, and her deepened breathing is hypnotic. I wish I could let myself drift off with her, but I have miles to go before I can sleep. This is the trick every night, to leave after she’s surrendered the fight to be up, but before I give in to the desire to close my eyes. When I’m convinced she’s fully unconscious, I slide out from under the covers, tiptoe around all the toys and crafts (land mines) strewn on the floor, and steal out of her darkened room like I’m James Bond.”
“Oh God, my chin. I have a cluster of five hairs on the left side of my chin. They’re coarse and wiry, like boar hair, and for the past couple of years, they’ve been my hideous secret and my sworn enemies. They sprout up every couple of days, and so I have to be vigilant. I keep my weapons—Revlon tweezers and a 10X magnifying mirror—at home, in my Sherpa bag, and in my desk drawer at work, so in theory, I can be anywhere, and if one of those evil little weeds pokes through the surface, I can yank it. I’ve been in meetings with CEOs, some of the most powerful men in the world, and could barely stay focused on what they were saying because I’d inadvertently touched my chin and become obsessed with the idea of destroying five microscopic hairs. I hate them, and I’m terrified of someone else noticing them before I do, but I have to admit, there is almost nothing more satisfying than pulling them out.I stroke my chin, expecting to feel my Little Pig beard, but touch only smooth skin. My leg feels like a farm animal, which suggests I haven’t shaved in at least a week, but my chin is bare, which would put me in this bed for less than two days. My body hair isn’t making any sense.”
“I can’t fathom the day when I’ll be able to figure out how to independently maneuver my way into my bra, like I used to, every day since I was thirteen. The left arm through the left loop, the left boob into the left cup. Never mind the clasp in the back. My poor injured brain gets all twisted up like some circus contortionist even trying to imagine how this procedure would work. I’m supposed to at least try every step of getting dressed on my own, but when it comes to the bra, I no longer bother. My mother just does it for me, and we don’t tell the therapists.She holds up one of my white Victoria’s Secret Miracle Bras. I close my eyes, shutting out the humiliating image of my mother manhandling my boobs. But even with my eyes closed, I can feel her cold fingers against my bare skin, and as I can’t help but picture what she’s doing, humiliation saunters right in, takes a seat, and puts its feet up. Like it does every day now.”
“My mother’s cure for a lifetime of regret lies within the words I forgive you, spoken only by me. I intuitively know this, but some part of me, old and wounded and needing a miracle cure of its own, resists this generosity and won’t allow the words to leave my head. And even then, before they can be spoken, they’d have to make the long journey from my head to my heart if they’re to earn the sincerity they’d need to be effective.”
“I know this looks pathetic, but I’m wearing black elastic-waist pants just like my mother’s, a hot-pink fleece hat, mismatched socks, and no makeup. I think it’s safe to say that vanity is no longer my biggest concern.”
“We both laugh. I like the sound of my mother’s laugh. I wish she’d found these pills when I was a kid, that I wasn’t learning the sound of my mother’s laughter at the age of thirty-seven and at the price of a traumatic brain injury. I look over at her pillbox. It suddenly occurs to me that she took many more pills than should be prescribed solely for depression. What else could she be taking medication for? I wonder.”
“The majority of women in Welmont with children Charlie's age never miss a soccer game and don't earn special good mother status for being there. This is simply what good mothers do. These same mothers herald it an exceptional event if any of the dads leave the office early to catch a game. The fathers cheering on the sidelines are upheld as great dads. Fathers who miss the games are working. Mothers who miss the games, like me, are bad mothers.”
“We kiss good-bye. It's our typical morning good-bye kiss. A quick peck. A well-intentioned habit. I look down and notice Lucy's round, blue eyes paying close attention. I flash to studying my own parents kissing when I was little... I promised myself that when I got married someday, I would have kisses that meant something. Kisses that would make me weak in the knees. Kisses that would embarrass the kids. Kisses like Han Solo kissing Princess Leia...
Now I get it. we aren't living in some George Lucas blockbuster adventure. Our morning kiss good-bye isn't romantic, and it certainly isn't sexual. It's a routine kiss, but I'm glad we do it. It does mean something. It's enough. And it's all we have time for.”
“How does he do it? Bob in Charge of All Three Kids is an entirely different show
than Sarah in Charge of All Three Kids. With Bob, they’re happily willing to be independent little taskmasters, content to leave him in peace until he comes to them with an offer of a new activity. With me, I have all the magnetism of a favorite rock star without the bodyguards. They’re on me. A typical example: Linus is under my feet, whining, begging to be picked up, while Lucy hollers, “Mom, I need help!” from another room, while Charlie asks me forty-seven hundred relentless questions about what happens to trash.”
“Parked in the school lot, I grab their two backpacks, which I swear weigh more than they do, get out, and open the back door like a chauffeur. Who am I kidding? Not like a chauffeur. I am a chauffeur. No one moves.”
“Whatever I have to do here, I’m ready for it. Work hard, do my homework, get an A, get back home to Bob and the kids, and back to work. Back to normal. I’m determined to recover 100 percent. One hundred percent has always been my goal in everything, unless extra credit is involved, and then I shoot higher. Thank God I’m a competitive, type A perfectionist. I’m convinced I’m going to be the best traumatic brain injury patient Baldwin has ever seen. But they won’t be seeing me for very long because I also plan to recover faster than anyone here would predict. I wonder what the record is.”
“Buttoning the length of my shirt with Left Neglect and one right hand takes the same kind of singular, intricate, held-breath concentration that I imagine someone trying to dismantle a bomb would need to have.”
“Slide, turn, slide. I smile as we’re snowboarding, knowing that Bob and the kids are hanging back to watch me, knowing that Bob is probably smiling, too. I’m at the top of Rabbit Lane instead of the summit, and I’m on a handicapped snowboard instead of skis, but nothing about this experience feels less than 100 percent, less than perfect. I’m on the mountain with my family. I’m here. Slide, turn, slide, Smile...”
“I offered to pass along information about NEHSA to Heidi so she can let her patients know about it. I don’t have any scientific or clinical data to back this up, but I think snow-boarding is the most effective rehabilitative tool I’ve experienced. It forces me to focus on my abilities and not my disability, to overcome huge obstacles, both physical and psychological, to stay up on that board and get down the mountain in one piece. And each time I get down the mountain in one piece, I gain a real confidence and sense of independence I haven’t felt anywhere else since the accident, a sense of true well-being that stays with me well beyond the weekend. And whether snowboarding with NEHSA has a measurable and lasting therapeutic effect for people like me or not, it’s a lot more fun than drawing cats and picking red balls up off a tray”
“Later that night, feeling restless, I get out of bed, creep into Linus’s room, and watch him sleeping in his crib. He’s lying on his back, wearing blue feety pajamas, one arm up over his head. I listen to his deep-sleep exhales. Even years past those fragile newborn months, it still gives my maternal ears relief and peace to hear the sounds of my children breathing when they’re asleep. His orange nukie is in his mouth, the silky edge of his favorite blanket is touching his cheek, and Bunny is lying limp across his chest. He’s surrounded by every kind of baby security paraphernalia imaginable, and yet none of it protected him from what could have happened today.”
“No one's life made sense on paper. You cannot condense a person into facts.”
“Maybe love isn’t just
a bouquet of roses once in a while. Maybe it’s just sticking it out, when it’s hard, when you’re mad, when
“If you're going to ask God to do something impossible in your life, you've got to have some clarity about what you're asking for.”
“Then he fetched a camera and photographed it from all sides. ‘For publication!’ he explained. ‘Against the day when I need a job at a university. They don’t want to know if you’re any good: just what you’ve published …”
“debes asumir la responsabilidad del desarrollo moral de tus hijos. No esperes a que la escuela se haga cargo de todo. No”
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