Friday, December 28, 2018

62% Merry

Three and a half of my five days in Key West were fine. And that means they were very good. For me and for Henry.

In October, he was in a terrible crash that shattered his ankle and left him with a traumatic brain injury. He nearly died and was in a coma for two weeks, On the one hand, his recovery has been miraculous. His memory is in tact. His motor skills are fine. His ankle has been rebuilt. But he is still not well. Brain injuries take a long time to heal completely. He is still on a cocktail of medications and he still drinks too much -- at least two or three drinks a day. All this combined can leave him moody and erratic.

Day One: His birthday. He was waiting for me in the airport Saturday evening. What a sight for sore eyes! He looks the same. His hair is longer, since getting to the barber shop is not a priority, but it looks good. He and Reg had a little tempest over where we'd go for his birthday dinner. Once we settled on Italian, everything was fine. We all chatted amiably, everyone seemed happy. I was in my hotel room before 10:00 PM, but that's OK. It had been a long day of travel and emotionally fraught -- I hate flying to begin with and was worried about my reunion with Henry and Reg. It was good to get to bed, feeling the dinner had been a success.

Day Two: A movie and the Royals. I took an Uber to their home and visited with Henry and the dogs while Reg slept. (He's working very strange hours around the holidays.) I was happy to see how involved Henry was with "the fur circus." Initially, after his accident, his lack of concern for the dogs he'd always doted on worried me. I'm happy to report he's old self again when dealing with "the puppies."

He was watching a PBS special about Queen Victoria when I arrived, so I opined about reports that Meghan and Kate are not getting along. He became snarky with me. "Who cares?" Well, I do, obviously, I replied. And then I said, "I suppose Royals are only interesting when they're in period garb?" He laughed and we were fine. Here's the thing -- I was an invited guest in his home and he's not a child. He can't be a jerk towards me. I deserve better than that (everyone does) and while I will make allowances for his condition, I won't infantalize him.

We had pizza and watched a movie. We laughed a lot. It felt comfortable. I am sorry that he hates being touched because I just couldn't help myself -- I did hug him frequently. It was so good to see him so well again!

Day Three: A late lunch and tall tales. Christmas Eve. I felt bad that I couldn't go to church, but it just wasn't logistically possible. And I know that being there for my friends was a way of honoring Jesus, so I made peace with it. We got along fine, and after our meal, Reg joined us and we laughed a lot. But I could see Henry was getting tired. He was a bit like a key wound toy, winding down and getting slower somehow. He snapped at Reg, "Why are you looking at me as though I have two heads?" and he said some things to me that were just batshit crazy. He wasn't lying exactly. I believe he was completely sincere in everything he said. I just don't see how these odd things could have happened. I didn't confront him. I mean, why? He had a brain injury and he's doing the best he can, and these silly flights of fancy don't really matter.

I do worry about him at work, though. Does he say wacky things to his coworkers? Are they able to chalk it up to the brain injury and meds? I would hate for him to be doing damage to himself professionally through no fault of his own.

Day Four: "Don't be a dick." Christmas Day. Our only really bad day. There had been drama about whether to eat out or cook in. I told both Henry and Reg, over and over, that I didn't care, that the important thing was that we three were together. They decided we should eat out. OK, which restaurant? Back to Day One. Guys! I don't live here! This is your turf, not mine!

Ironically, we ended up at my favorite little Key West restaurant, Duffy's. It's not haute cuisine, but I've never had a bad dish there. I was happy, but it was definitely a compromise choice for them.

I'd been so excited about my gift for Henry: a Frida Kahlo tshirt with "Viva la Vida" emblazoned across the front. He loves Frida, the message was positive, and I was going to tell him that I hoped that he could turn his accident into art the way she did hers.

He took the package from me and said, "Oh, a shirt," before he even opened it. Then he held it up and said, "Who is this supposed to be?" He knew it was Frida Kahlo. The tshirt designer just didn't include her unibrow.

"Don't be a dick," I said. I told him how happy I'd been with my find, how I looked forward to presenting it to him and making a connection between his writing and her art. "But you're not going to let me have that Christmas joy, are you?" He literally just shrugged. He never thanked me for the gift.

I asked both Reg and Henry how their families were this Christmas. Reg was going to call his parents Christmas night so they could open their presents "together" over the phone and over the miles. Henry said he wasn't calling his mother. He hadn't called her on his birthday, either, as was their custom. He just didn't feel like having "the same conversations every year." Wow. So I knew I wasn't the only one getting Henry's "dick treatment" on Christmas.

Strangely enough, the dinner turned around when we started discussing the Robert Blake 2005 murder case. I don't remember how we got on the subject, but I recalled a lot about it and Henry was really quite animated when we were talking about it. Not your typical Christmas fare, I know, but then this hadn't been our typical Christmas!

Day Five: Silver bird. I told both Henry and Reg that, if I needed to get myself to the airport, I was more than capable of doing so. I'm a grown up, I enjoy traveling alone, it will be fine. No, they both said they wanted to say goodbye.

I'm happy to report that Henry was wearing the Frida shirt! "So you do like my present!" I exclaimed. He just shrugged. But he was wearing it. And he told me that he looked online to see what "Viva la Vida" meant in Frida lore. This meant a lot to me.

He was pretty silent at breakfast, nursing his bloody mary. Reg and I picked up the conversational slack. As I was boarding the plane, Reg held me tight and didn't want to let me go. It helped him to have me there. It was good for Henry to have someone other than Reg to talk to and it was good for Reg to have someone see, firsthand, what goes on with Henry on a day-to-day basis.

Henry is trying. Henry is healing. His accident exhausted him, depleted him. But he's working at getting well. I just hope that next year, he will be even better and stronger, and more of his sweet old self.


  1. Although it's challenging, it does sound like his brain injury is healing and progressing. To see him winding down is so very typical. And it sounds like there was less of the dickish behavior than there had been!

  2. It sounds like he's struggling to recover memories. Anger and rages are one of the most noted brain injury affects. Fits of pique...
    Since you keep in touch, his brain will start informing him and will offer up old times and memories of your times together. The brain is amazing, but no one understands how it works, even the scientists don't know enough about how it works. It heals itself but it takes time.
    I believe that Jesus lives and walks with us. He's always there..inside the heart. That's the miracle.


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