Since my accident and resulting brain damage, there are certain Blips! that occur in my life.
I was staying with my sister, Liz. Every afternoon I go for my afternoon nap. I was feeling pretty gruck that afternoon with flu and was stuffed full of paracetamol. Strangely enough I couldn’t sleep, so I was lying in bed reading. Isabel Allende’s book, Paula, had me totally captivated with it’s heart wrenching prose and story. Suddenly the door burst open. My hearing aid was out but it wasn’t difficult to lip read what my sister was saying: “Fire, Gaynor, fire!”
“Where?” I cried sitting up, instantly ready to go and saturate the fire that was obviously raging in the kitchen.
“Your pillowcase is touching the bedside light and burning! I smelled it from the kitchen.”
Sure enough, the pillowcase, previously a lovely sky blue in colour, was now quietly smouldering to a magnificent scorched brown. I hadn’t seen it because it was on my right and my 40% eyesight misses out on so much. And I hadn’t smelled a thing because of my flu!
“Gaynor, I love the dress you’re wearing. You look great!”
I performed a rather strange dance. I did a remarkably ungraceful and un-ballerina type pirouette whilst shouting at the top of my voice: “Thank you! Where are you? I can hear you perfectly but WHERE ARE YOU?”
With my Cochlear Implants on, my hearing is now fabulous. However they don’t give me a sense of direction. A person can shout at me from their flat three stories up and I will now hear them clearly but I have got no idea where they are. To my left, to my right, under a bush, hanging from an oak tree!!! Having only 40% eyesight, I am well aware that my vision is limited. Hence the pirouette as I scan the horizon searching for that clear voice telling me how good I look!
I have short term memory loss due to frontal lobe brain damage. As a result, I battle remembering names. Recently I was speaking to my sister on the phone and I was telling her of a wonderful lunch I had been to.
“It was at that lovely restaurant…oh, what is it called?….It begins with a B. You know, Liz, it’s in that road that begins with a C. ”
Liz was flummoxed and didn’t have the faintest clue. My mother filled her in. It was the Bayleaf restaurant situated in Cathedral street!
The woman greeted me with a warm smile. I returned her greeting thinking to myself: Glory be, I have clean forgotten your name! I see you three times a week in gym and for the life of me, I can’t remember your name. It begins with an S, doesn’t it? Sue, Sharon, Simone, Stacey…..Oh, flip!
“I am so, so sorry, but I have forgotten your name. It’s my brain damage,” I explained. “I know it begins with an S.”
She laughed. “The next one down. It begins with a T – Trish.” I looked at her blankly. “The next one down,” she explained, “R,S and…T!”
Glory be, I was even getting the first letter wrong too!
In gym there is this man that has the most incredibly coloured sport shoes. They are turquoise, red, purple, and green with dynamic yellow laces. His name is Gary but he is quite used to me forgetting it. He met Mum today and was amazed to discover that she was my mother. He said to Mum: “She often forgets my name so tell Gaynor that the guy with the fancy footwear says he’ll see her at gym on Monday!”
“Oh,” I said with delight when Mum told me, “that’s…that’s…Graham…no, that’s…that’s…
GARY!” I exclaimed with delight!
That was almost a Blip! but thank the Pope it wasn’t. I will see the guy with the fancy footwear at gym on Monday!
I have gone from being an Honours student, Cum Lauder, to this person battling to remember names. Prior to my fall, my thought processes would happily weave themselves along the intricate pathways of the brain. This was revealed in the way I laughed, moved, spoke, related to people. This movement through my brain enabled me to show who I was to the world. After my fall, I would happily weave my way along the normal pathways of my brain, only to find them barred with huge signs saying: NO ENTRY!
Shytenhauzen, I had to discover new pathways in my brain to enable me to do things that used to come so easily to me.
How did this make me feel?
Initially, I was ashamed and furious. I cried bitterly at this new “stupidity” that had bowled me over. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light, ” Dylan Thomas said to his father. I was angry and I raged against the death of my light. But rage and cry as I did, it made no difference. You can either hide yourself away from the world or you can try and make sense of it in this body governed by this new, strangely working brain.
I have learned that there are things in this life that one has to learn to accept. I had to accept and learn to like this new Gaynor. I thank God for my sense of humour. Laughter is the most releasing thing and it is far more freeing than tears. I am now able to look at all my Blips! with a wry chuckle. Some of them even cause me to laugh out loud!
In this life of ours, acceptance plays a large part. It is something that challenges me constantly. My friends go for lovely, long bike rides. They go for a two hour hikes in the gorgeous forests of George. I know what it is like to ride a bike. I have felt the wind in my face as I swoop down a hilly gorge. I have been so fast that tears have run from my eyes. I know what it’s like to go for an invigorating walk over veld, down rocky slopes, to push your way through trees and bushes. I am no stranger to cycling or to hiking.
Now I am not able to enter these ‘hallowed’ grounds. Just recently, those DO NOT ENTER signs have caused me to retreat with a whimper.
Sigh – acceptance!
So, my life is made up of Blips! It is also made up of joy, frustration, excitement, boredom, peace and contentment. Robert Frost seems to sum up my life in his poem: The Road Not Taken. When I had my fall, I could have lain in that bed and declined to enter this wonderful Blip! infested life. Instead I have entered life, Blips! and all, and oh, what a delicious, ride it is proving to be.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.