It’s amazing what you can forget, spin and avoid altogether.
Post my great brain buzz of 2010 I did plenty of each. It’s all about self-defense.
I purposely – and sometimes subconsciously – forgot many things. When I was told I may not read again, relearn functional math or hold a steady job, I’d choose to forget and ignore. My faulty memory helped a lot with this in the earliest days.
When I’d be told that it could be a year or longer before I could think about getting back to work I’d spin the message as acknowledgment that I would get back to work.
“No, Tim, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get back to work,” the experts would clarify. “But if you do, it could take…”
“Na, na, na, na,” I’d retort back with my fingers plugging my ears. “I can’t hear you.”
Maybe it was my history as a reporter and a spin doctor, but if there was one thing that stayed strong during my early weeks and months of stroke recovery it was my ability to spin the truth and selectively forget.
As years past, I used my selective memory to focus on not forgetting what me and my family had been through. It motivated me to stay in shape, to arm myself against another sizzle. It motivated me to spread the stroke awareness gospel, talking to individuals and groups – anybody who’d listen — about ways of living to avoid a stroke, recognizing the signs if it does strike and motivating victims to make their best recovery.
This has always been a healthy thing for me. Sometimes it’s emotionally draining to think and talk about the brain buzz experience. But it feeds more than it bleeds. And it helps motivate me to deal with the remaining scars I’m left with.
But there are some bits of what the stroke did that I chose not to remember and – in some cases – made a very conscious decision not to know.
One of those things is exactly what my kids were going through in real time in the moments they watched their blubbering, confused dad being carted out of their home by paramedics. And the hours and days that followed before I next saw them.
Then, following last weeks’ Brain Food, Kristina, my oldest, penned a new entry in her blog, West Meets East.
In response to my entry she shared my brain buzz through the eyes of her and her kid sister, Anna. They were 13 and 16 at the time.
Here’s a bit from Kristina’s blog:
Eight years ago today, I was waiting for my dad to die. Hoping, praying, and pleading that he wouldn’t, but waiting for that phone call all the same.
It was early in the morning, and 16 year old me was getting ready for school. Something felt ‘off’; not immediately, but the feeling was gaining traction steadily. I went into my parent’s bedroom to say good morning, and my dad was sitting on the edge of the bed. His head was in his hands, and he was clearly agitated. Asking him what was wrong, he made some brusque reply, clearly not wanting me to worry, but also clearly worried about his well-being. He stood up, momentarily paced, and literally ran downstairs to shower. Looking back, I know he was trying to attach himself to some feeling of normalcy to distract himself from the multitude of sensations he was experiencing.
I looked at my mom: “he’s having a stroke.”
I had recently completed my lifeguard training. There are two situations taught in lifeguard training where, unless you’re a doctor with a plethora of medical resources at your disposal, you’re truly fucked (besides calling 911 and treating for shock). Those two situations are heart attacks and strokes.
I ran after my dad and tried to convince him to sit down so I could treat him for shock before the ambulance arrived. He refused. I remember sitting on a chair in the living room, looking at my mom and saying, “he won’t let me help him.” We looked at each other for a brief moment, but that moment expressed every fear we had. I can’t quite summarize that instant. My mom ran after my dad.
Madness. That’s how my dad describes how he felt from the moment he woke up that morning. We wouldn’t have the conversation about how he felt that morning for months because he lost most of his ability to speak. After what seemed an eternity, the ambulance arrived, and my little sister and I were left to our own devices.
My sister was 13, and being the protective person I am, I tried to maintain my composure for her sake. What do you do after you see your parents at one of the most vulnerable moments of their lives? Anna and I just looked at each other, and commenced our longest Sims marathon to date (12 hours straight, if you’re curious). When I look back on this day, I think of three things: helplessness, endless hours of waiting, and playing The Sims.
Eventually, Anna and I learned that Dad was still alive, but even learning this offered little comfort. How would Dad be able to recover from a stroke, if at all? At the time he was in his early 40s. Would his age help him? Mom was a stay-at-home mom…how would Dad be able to continue working? There were so many questions, so little information, and no answers.
You can find the entire thing – and other great stuff – here: https://httpwestmeetseast.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/happy-strokeversary-dad/
Ouch. Wow. I did that to them? That doesn’t feel real good.
Pre Kristina Tim never really saw himself as a dad. But when Kristina and Anna came around, I took to the ‘protect at any cost’ thing pretty naturally. Then I stroked out and put them through that? Sheesh.
I’m going to have to mull on this a bit. (Is that how you spell ‘mull’ as in, to ponder? Damn stroke played tricks on my already so-so spelling skills:-))
Anyway, until next time…