Saturday, June 01, 2019

Sometimes I miss the road sign

Henry has never liked social media. Since his accident, he's had a hard time composing emails on his laptop. So our relationship now takes place entirely over the phone.

These are marathon conversations. Two hours is the norm. These calls are long-ranging. About our pets. About our families. About our jobs. And, always, reliving the accident and his hospital stay. I try to get away from that as quickly as I can, because no good can come of that.

I enjoy these calls, until I don't. We talk, and talk, and talk. Considering how close he came to death last year, how severe his brain injury was, I find this comforting. He has come so far in his recovery! He's back at work, he's writing poetry again, his memory is completely in tact.

But he is still not well. He's still on a regimen of medications that have an impact on his stamina and moods. And he is not his old self. Frequently Henry says things that just aren't Henry.

He's boastful now, in ways he wasn't before. "I have a high IQ and two PhDs," he'll say. The old Henry would never have said that. Oh, and it's not true. I've known him more than 25 years. I know he's worked two separate times toward the same advanced degree and never finished it. The dissertation has always stopped him. Why does he keep saying this? Does he think I don't know the truth?

And he says things that just aren't true. Couldn't be true. For example, he told the story of how he took his beloved dog Lola to the vet last summer. "I made the vet agree with me that she was dying, that she didn't have long to live, and yet he wanted to put her under anesthesia and clean her teeth anyway. I took her in my arms and said, 'Lola, we're going home.'" What? Huh? No vet would behave that way. Last summer -- before the accident -- he told me he couldn't afford to get Lola's teeth fixed and besides, he was worried the anesthesia would kill her so he simply wasn't taking her in. What's with this dramatic fantasy of arguing with the vet?

Or nuts. Like when he rides his bike now, he still doesn't wear a helmet because it's humid in Key West and besides, helmets aren't "becoming" on adults.

So after I hang up the phone, I'm upset and I stay upset for days.

Henry is doing the best he can. I know that. And it's a privilege that he reaches out to me, that he trusts and loves me. I treasure that. He always ends each call with, "You are my sister and I love you."

But there's an unpleasant reality that I have to face: Even though we have come so very far since his accident last October, this could be it. This could be the extent of his recovery. This could be our new normal. And you know what? That's OK. He's my friend, I love him and I'm in this for the long haul.

So I have to change my approach to these calls. When I sense that we're entering Crazy Town, I should come up with a reason to hang up. Maybe I should come up with a gallery of excuses before he calls next time, so I can have one ready when I pick up.

1 comment:

  1. It would be hard for me to keep up with the crazy talk--without challenging it.


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