Sunday, November 24, 2013

Again, who knew about brain injury?

This is just the most damage my brain has taken. Counting back through my life I have suffered many brain injuries. And I don't mean just a concussion here and there, though I did have one or two of those along the way.

The first one I can remember was when I was about two years old. I was in a self created car accident. There are some things that I do remember from my childhood and crashing a car is one of them. The car was parked facing downhill on a sharp decline. I was left in the car alone, against my mother's wishes, and I played with the gear shifter. Playing around, the car slipped out of parking gear and headed downhill taking me along for the ride.

My next brain injury was when I was 5 years old. My brother did not like the top bunk so that is where I slept. One evening he was talking to me, from below, and I was leaning over the side, downward facing, answering back. I don't think he liked my answer as suddenly I felt gravity yank me downward and I hit my right temple on our toy box that was beside the bed. I was blind for about half a day... this was early 1970's so who knew about brain injury?

The next injury came when I was 13 years old. We had been tasked with depositing purchases in the family vehicle that was parked a couple blocks away. Being the Philly Italian market, parking is at a premium to even find. So me, my brother, and my cousin Tommy carried things back to the vehicle and put them in. Then we trotted back to where we last saw our parents. My brother leading the way, Tommy following him, and me (as usual) bringing up the rear. At one point my brother hopped on top of a laying pallet to continue and we followed. When I hopped up on the pallet >BAM< I was struck by a metal weight. I did not realize my injury until we reached our parents. Then my Mom got very upset with my blood covered head from the long gash in my skull. Again, who knew about brain injury?

Then when I was 18 the list gets interesting; I was given a suprise blow the head from a jerk at the Keystone Job Corp, a blow that left me quite disorientated; Basic training where I excelled at Pugil Sticks; AIT where I took an accidental blow to the back of my head from a Drill; Jump School where to blows just keep a coming; then getting reactivated for war time service (enough explosions and what not there!); and finally got my slightly bent end of my q-tip out of the Army forever more. Again, who knew about brain injury?

When I returned home from Desert Storm; a local gang of teenage kids had "claimed" my backyard for their form of entertainment and did not like my returning. I, of course, evicted keg drinking and their partying in my backyard which got me targetted. One night I was attacked by a bunch of them. While defending myself one, in ambush, rushed up a struck me in the back of the head with a golf club. Much to his surprise, I turned to him and said, "Ooops", and broke his jaw with an upper cut executed so beautiful my Dad would be proud at my form. (Not at the violence!) I stayed concious long enough to have my friend get me on the road to my Mother's house, had a cigarette, and then apologized for my pending unconciousness. The first thing I remember after that point was a Doctor shining a pen light at my eyes at Temple Trauma Center. Again, who knew about brain injury?

I got a new apartment, on Oxford Ave, and settled in over a street side store. I loved that apartment however in Dec '94 the Old Bell building next door filled up with gas and ignited by surprise. I was the only person present for the occasion and I got thrown around a bit. Doctors, at the emergency room, check my internal organs for concussive damage but no one checked my brian. Again, who knew about brain injury?

I have since been damned careful about where, and how, I drive. I inspect my apartment/residence constantly. If anyone approaches me with an implement that could go upside my head - I am aware of him/her and never let that person out of my awareness. I am consistent and in constant "fear" of blows to the head though I never let my internal worries show in my actions, behaviors, or speech. Even now after I truly almost died from one.

Again, who knew about brain injury?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Something along the way of my day...

... I had so much work to do today. I had two blogs floating in my mind. One about how body language can be used to "mislead", which I do every breath I take, and how under represented/appreciated us Desert Shield/Storm Veterans are. I was contemplating these topics in my mind as I drove to Somersworth from the Goss Building. I was driving slowly, carefully, along Franklin Street (school is now out for the day), when I was passing a group of kids on my right side. As I passed, one teenager jumped up and down calling me a N-gg-r.


I went about 20 feet when my foot hit the brake, I spun the car around in a bootlegger's u-turn, and gunned it till I reached the kids. Slamming the brakes, putting the car in park, I hopped out and asked him, "What did you say?"

His face looked a bit startled and he said, "I said nothing." One of the girls in the group said, "I told you that would get a reaction!". I then asked the kid to read my license plate.

I asked him did he understand the nature of a Veteran license plate. When he said no I asked him to look at the back of my car. He said, "Same license plate".
I said read where I bought this car.
He then started getting a little worried. He said, "Damn, that is a rough town." I then told him what part of Philadelphia I grew up in, his face showed his understanding of what rough could really be but then I told him what rough really is. I asked him if he wanted to be tonight's news story.

"Kid killed in drive by shooting for shouting racial epitaphs."
Now, all things being considered, without meaning to do so he complimented me. Most people don't realize it when they deal with me but I am a black man with an annoying white skin condition. Some times so annoying that I want to scratch the damn itchy parts around me. Listening to such casual apathetic bigotry that I listen to on the regular up here in New England is ... mildly insulting.

However it is, for the most part, born of ignorance. Not mal intent, like some Southern States, just not knowing what is and is not okay to do. In fact, some bigotry my wife endures comes from fear of offending never realizing that offense must be intended to be offensive. Accidental offense is nothing more than an opportunity for sharing & learning.

So, today I saved some white kid in Somersworth Ghetto from his silly mouth. While I am proud of the accomplishment, the opportunity troubles me.

The kid has no marks from me. I took no notice of identifying features or marks. Of him or his companions. Only one thing in my memory bothers me. Since it is Thursday it is not likely that any of them where End 68 Hours of Hunger recipients however the generic non-descritive nature of all the back packs that where present makes me realize that I have spent more than just blood on these kids. I have spent time and sweat for the kids in this town and to have one so backhand compliment me with a racial epitaph that could be directed at my father, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, daughter, and wife.... I'm going to spend a lot of time in prayer this evening.

For guidance about the value of charity even towards the uncharitable by nature.