I felt a lot better last week. I’m finally getting back into the Recovery Routine. Part of the problem was that I forgot that the stuff I brought home from Oregon was going to be here. But now I’m done crying over my piano, I gave away lots of purses, and I made Ai Ai take the jeans I was wearing when I got sick (thank you, Medical people, for preserving them intact!).
It was particularly hard to see the gifts that poured in from my friends when my brain first bled. I was asleep so I didn’t see most of them until now. So when I pulled some photo albums I didn’t recognize out of a box I leafed through them in wonder. Some of them are annotated. J and A had combed through their archives and compiled a small album for me including the photo up top. J put notes on them, she said, because we didn’t know how much you’d remember when you woke up.
Sniff. Turns out I remember quite a lot. If you want to know about my childhood just ask. If you want to know about your childhood or early adulthood (and we’ve known each other for a while), I’ve got you covered.
I can remember a lot of ancient history but my brain often gets the hiccups and I forget what you just told me. Example: Last week I had a rough day at The Running Gym. I was doing an exercise while observing my form in the mirror. I asked Coach R if I should alternate legs. I got ready to start stepping, and then searched my mind for his answer. Booo! I clean forgot!! I burst into laughter because it was seriously like 3 seconds after he had told me but I had to ask him again. I had a 50/50 chance of being right. I should’ve guessed and assumed he’d roll with it. 10 minutes later I had another floppy brain moment when he was trying to tell me how many reps to do. I was thinking, Aaah!! Too many words! You’re talking too fast. Just fill in the blank: X sets of X.
This is in stark contrast to the way things used to be. We hosted an evening event with a lovely buffet one night at my first job. I was in the lobby meeting the caterers prior to set up and I told my friend the security guard I’d make a plate for her and bring it down. My boss walked by later when I was already upstairs and asked if he could bring her anything but she said, No, thanks – Ning said she’d bring me something. My boss replied, Ning never forgets, and proceeded upstairs to herd the unruly mass of brokers (I worked in corporate real estate) into the large conference room.
These days I forget things more than I like to admit. To compensate I’ve been trying to become more systematic in my approach to remembering things. I use apps on my phone, tricks I learned in Speech Therapy, Vision Therapy, and Business School, and when I really can’t remember something I go through the alphabet and think of related words until I find the right one.
I probably cannot remember the instructions you just gave me, but I know many fun facts about the people who cared for me when I woke up: that your dog loves buttered popcorn; that you plant a gazillion zinnias every year; that the Fourth of July is your favorite holiday; that you hid the bubble solution so your 2-year olds would never know their Fisher Price “lawnmowers” could blow bubbles, too… But it’s these little pieces of information that make up life. And the fact that I somehow absorbed these facts made me feel like a part of the normal ebb and flow of things.
The trick is to make the leap from passive observer to active participant. Yeah. I’m still working on that. One of the hard parts about this is that sometimes I remember things I think I’m alone in making a note of. It’s the concept of how the world keeps on turning although yours has stopped. I celebrated 3 years at home yesterday. Technically, this is not my home, although I grew up in this house and I love being with my parents. I had a home. I paid for it with my salary. I invited friends over. I cooked things and served them on blue and white Spode platters. I made appalling window treatments (they really were appalling – ask Mommy). I sat on my patio and read. I was happy there.
But I never saw it again, and I never will – it doesn’t exist any more. I took a break while Mommy and Daddy were sorting through my Garage in OR and snuck over to my old building to say goodbye. It was too far for me to get close but it’s just as well. I didn’t want to go too far in case they got worried.
My life is very much in a forward-facing mode now but I will always feel a sense of loss and regret when I think of where I used to live. I am very grateful that my parents rearranged their Empty Nest for me and spend their days shuttling me around (<3) but sometimes I miss my Old Life. I always will. That’s why I doggedly celebrate these anniversaries – because sometimes if you don’t laugh you’ll cry.
Yesterday, someone else remembered. A friend gave me the sweetest gift to mark the occasion of my homecoming. I didn’t fully understand at first because of my hearing loss, but when I realized what was happening I was deeply touched. Thank you for remembering. It was just the hug I needed.