Monday, December 7, 2015

The guys don't get it...

... and to be honest I hope they never do. The only way to understand this is to experience it first hand. I don't like it, no one in my life really likes it, but I would not wish this upon my enemy.

A few days ago, I went out and assisted my brothers in a task. During this task, and they are aware I have thinking shortages, they never told me what to do. Anything I did was either from choice, involving myself in the activity because I wanted to do that, or from a polite request if I'd like to try doing this? Never was anything placed upon me, never was I told what to do.

They don't understand the phenomenal level of respect I was presented. Never was I treated like a cripple, never was I discouraged from using my hands or to keep quiet. In fact, at several points I spoke out about possible upcoming difficulties. They not only listened to what I was pointing out but eagerly discussed the validity of my solutions to the problems so presented. The level of self respect and self confidence such honest & valuable interaction is even now awe inspiring to me.

And while at some point they may read this and mentally toss off my gratitude not realizing the every day devastation my condition does to my psyche perhaps one day they will properly appreciate my level of gratitude for such interaction. It is because of moments like this, from an unlikely support group/system, that I am so motivated to do right by them, individually and personally, and by my Post of the VFW.

Brain Injury support and assistance from them, who'd of thunk it?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

This my life now.

This is one of those things that everyone has experienced but don't remember. We all start life and have to learn what sensations, feelings, and issues there are with our new bodies. Our brain is the interpreter of all of these information points. It learns and develops neuron pathways to understand, to react appropriately to stimuli. As we grow, we (and our brain) learns what is what. But what happens when the interpreter is disconnected?

What happens when those pathways are disrupted or shutdown, even for a hot moment?

This is where a lot of us exist. Relearning, re-experiencing, understanding our bodies all over again. Sometimes from scratch square one.

Trying to explain to others how I don't know my body anymore. To explain that my body, my skin, is NEW to me. I was reduced to infancy and life is not easy. Society just doesn't understand this anymore. In fact, Society which is all around me are bad parents. The abrupt lessons it has taught me are just that, abrupt, unkind, and hostile in many cases.

I am now really the odd man out and Society does not appreciate that. It is disheartening in many ways. I've fought for them, I've sweated for them, I've made some bleed for them, and I've bled for them. And, at times, they really don't like me becuase I don't fit into what they expect or want.

Here is a nice way I described some issue:

"however since I am disabled many employers don't want to touch me. Nothing obvious mind you but brain injury does make my memory unreliable and my social skills less than par.  Add to the fact that I am built like a linebacker, I can understand hesitation and reluctance regarding my possible misadventures in the workforce."

So here I am, a little mental kid slapped into the body of a line backer. Trying to live, to exist, to be productive while at the same time my Interpreter (brain) is re-wiring itself. Signals come in and have to find out where to go. To seek the recipient, to be understood, to be. Added to which my Interpreter has to find new pathways to express itself. Pathways that are new, or broken, or just not quite healed.

This my life now and sadly I'm trapped in the same ruts over and over again. I remember, kind of, who I used to be. Where I grew up, my extended family, my service and I'm still trying to make sense of the things I remember. The things these memories make me feel, not all of it is good nor is it comfortable. I know that I might be repeating myself, good Lord my hindsight works great but is disengaged during any experience. I know that I'm trapped, stuck in a rut, going over and over the same spot again and again but I can't stop this ride.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Misunderstandings and Misbehavings

One thing misunderstood about my accident is that a 44 year old man was instantly reduced, mentally, to infancy. I had to relearn how to swallow (from life support), had to relearn how to feed myself (just by hand), had to relearn how to walk (while wearing depends), and had to relearn how to go to the bathroom (BY MYSELF!!!!). Now during my recovery I have been regrowing up.

Self assessed but I think I've grown up 4 years every 6 months. I am now about the age I was (mentally) when I was a Sgt serving under fire. If this rate continues, I'll be my correct age in about 2 and a half years. I really hope the accelerated mental aging stops then as I don't want to be 90 years old in a few years. I'll miss the landscape that travel would bring me if I do it normally. But this might explain some very embarrassing moments I've caused and experienced.

Here I was a mentally 8 year old adult driving back and forth. Here I am a mentally 12 year old interacting with very grown men and trying to be involved. Here I was a mentally 16 year old boy striving to do well with a project being rudely dissed by a grown woman in my church. Now I know, dealing with annoyances is annoying but that is not the point. The point really is why were you annoyed in the first place?

People have far too often leaned on my brain injury as their excuse for their own bad behavior or day. Instead of exploring the true question: Why were they annoyed to start with, they misplace their hostility my direction like poor parents. After all, I have no defense. I can't properly speak under stress and no one really listens to me any more. Even those who have sworn that they'd be there for me are the most guilty of misunderstanding and misbehaving.

To find a place that will help me properly grow up I've had to develop my relationship with other people who get it. Many of them are brain injured (un-diagnosed) and the others deal well with their brain injured fellows. They understand I only speak when I have to say something and the other noises that sometimes come out my mouth are mental farts that blurt out. They still accept me for my prior services instead of weighing what I can do for them now or what burden I present to them now. (Which might explain why I got fired from the Krempels Brain Injury Support Center!)

But all in all I refuse to demit from life. I will be engaged, I will be involved, if that is uncomfortable for you or you make me feel uncomfortable in that process.... we will, we MUST, go our separate ways.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I blurt.

People keep wondering why I seem to go through drastic social changes. When I'm silent; I'm annoyed, I'm inattentive, I'm "something". Normally I can't shut up so when I'm silent, "something's happening".

Silence is my way of trying to re-learn mental thought control. See, we all have ideas that pop into our heads: "Hey, that was silly", "Man, that really pissed me off!", "Good lord, how can someone do something so stupid!". We formulate societies by what we say and do but what does one do when what is said is no longer under control? Ask me what you think is a reasonable question but warning you might not get a reasonable answer. Nothing dangerous mind you, just not what you expected or wanted as an answer. And, in fairness, my answer might be formulated from nothing you said or asked.

See, I'm not mentally ill. I'm mentally disabled.

I can't control the things that pop out of my mouth (disabled). I CAN control what I focus on though (ill). Distinct difference but a profound one that many people just don't get. Yet I commonly get clumped into the "weird" category along with the degenerates that exist among us. Here I am, forced to relive memories none of you can endure but thank me for that service however after 5 minutes with me y'all shove me into the discard box. This bothers me. Here I am, a man who as a kid (19) was shot at and shot back defending this country populated by people who have no use for me now.

Be a target, shoot a gun, GREAT and thank you for your service!!!

Be disabled, be weird, F--CK YOU and your service!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Inez Thomason's Eulogy (Mother-In-Law)

I just want to take a minute or two to tell you about the woman I knew.

Inez Thomason was an incredible person. there are very few lives in this room, if any, that were not deeply impacted by her. As is typical I did not fully appreciate or understand this as a child or even as a young adult. It is not until, as they say, "I got out into the world" did I realize all that she had done with her life.

I wanted to share some the things I loved most about my Mom:

She is what you could call "thrifty". She could work a coupon and a sale better than anyone you will ever meet. I was often pulled into the plan; to stop at a certain store while it was having the right sale because she had already used the coupon or bought the limit at our local market.

Even a reduced price at McDonald's did not escape her eye. I would often find multiple Mickey D's sandwiches in our freezer when they were running a special. Sometimes she would bring home extras from a buffet in her purse. It was not just all you eat but all you could eat and then take home and freeze for later.

There was no such thing as a disposable anything. Plastic cups and silverware always got a second use (maybe even a third and fourth). Packaged condiments that came with any meal, if they were within her reach a large quantity was coming home with her.

She could never consider throwing anything away. She had clothing and paperwork packed in the house on Elston Street that was from before I was born.

She was the hard working women. Ever since I can remember she worked at her job 6 days a week and then worked around the house all day on Sun cooking and cleaning. I don't know if I ever remember taking a sick day or staying home when the weather was bad. And, I never heard her complain about it. Thanks to that hard work, I always had whatever I needed when I was growing up. You never realize how amazing that is until you see how many people are not so lucky. I am still impressed by all that she accomplished on her salary.

I saw her time after time help friends and family in need.

She was so brave. I know some of the obstacles she had to face in her life and I can only try to imagine picking up my life and moving to a strange area with 6 kids to start all over.

I am talking about these things so that you will all realize I hope, as some point, she knew how much I loved and admired her. She will forever be a part of my life and who I am. Anything good that I can point to in my life she is a part of in some way. I constantly find myself emulating her in some ways and wishing I could emulate her in others.

I will miss her greatly. However, I take comfort in the fact the she is happy and with my brothers Michael and Sonny, my Dad and all those who went before her. I love you Mom and Thank you so much. I will be forever grateful that I had you for a Mom.

PS: My wife wrote this about her mother. Different details but it is almost similar to what I would say about my Dad. Three months prior to the day of my accident she left us. I remember this event as, without a doubt, not only was I in that room when this was read... she impacted my life and I am blessed for the impact!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Thank You For Your Service

People routinely say this to me. It often comes off as, "Made eye contact and I must say something for having made eye contact. Hello doesn't seem good enough so I'll toss out the old stand by, 'Thank you....'" And those close to me wonder why I feel awkward when I am thanked.

Only ONE time did I get thanked in such a manner that I turned to the person (a woman), stood at attention, and gave her the sharpest salute I could. My wife's jaw dropped, from my firm expression of gratitude and the manner in which I was thanked.

As my wife and I was leaving a restaurant, with my take out in hand, a woman walked up having noticed my veteran license plate and seeing the "Insert War" Veteran hat. She greeted me so vibrantly and asked if I would allow her to by my lunch. She then handed me a $20 bill and quite firmly gripped my hand expressing the strength of her gratitude.

I truly regret not getting her name or using my phone to take a snapshot of such a resoundingly vibrant face. But it is that experience which helped me to learn that perhaps some of you out there... mean those words.

So I no longer shy away from being thanked and for that, wherever you are my dear, thank you for thanking me for my service.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is who I am: Stranger, Yes. Offender, No

I'm recently back from a vacation to Philadelphia. Now, while on vacation I got in good exercise. I'd go walking for about 2 - 3 hours. New Jersey has these wonderful parks that encourage such efforts. Coming home I thought I'd continue the practice.

Now, I live next to the Middle & High School and behind the Elementary School. Kids by the dozens walk by my front door. Whenever I'm there I politely wave and give a short greeting and continue with my task. Almost ZERO interaction. However some of these kids are so appreciative of my service, I have a picture frame filled with a wonderful poem written by one of them on my living room wall.

So I had the practice of walking to one spot of High School grounds from my house. Measuring the distance, there and back was one mile. With my damaged equilibrium that would take me about 25 minutes to complete. I would do it NOT when the kids were going to school. No need to upset "normals" though I proudly wear my Desert Storm Veteran hat (with my airborne pin).

Having ended my vacation a day early I was sitting around the house and I realized that I could still do my vigorous walks. I walked to the High School, while passing the Middle School. My path took me out to a Greek Orthodox Church and to the local Fire Department. As I was heading back to Route 9 (my address) I went down Bartlett Ave.

As I walked down that way - I noticed a woman and kid having difficulty. I greeted them and asked if help would be appreciated. She turned and her face showed gratitude. I walked up and helped her empty the harvest bag from her lawnmower. The kid, and woman, just were not built in such a way to lift the bag to a proper position for easy emptying. (And it was heavy!!) Finishing up, and being thanked, I went to continue my walk and the kid started walking with me. I turned to him and asked him a question, "What's my name?"

"I don't know."

"Then I am a stranger! Now you go to Mommy or Daddy right now! Mommy or Daddy handle strangers, you do not!"

The Mom, who was looking a touch anxious, relaxed and waved thanks after listening to my lesson to the young man. The smile on her face, after helping and after teaching, was worth the experience. These are smiles that reach into my soul and tickle me. I am the oldest of six kids who grew up in a dangerous neighborhood. I know how parents worry and to make one smile in relief is joyful beyond words to describe.

I continued down Barlett with one of my hands smeared with grass cuttings and juices. As I walked I notice the Martin J. Flanigan Community Center was still open and I entered to wash my hand in the bathroom. I used to work at Flanigan. At the time of my accident, I was the Asst Spvr for Strafford County's Meals on Wheels program and that was the HQ for that activity.

So I knew where the bathroom was. Entering I passed the door to the gym while heading to the bathroom. Having some combat PTSD issues I always look and assess an area as I pass. So I glanced into the room to see what was going on. Some teenagers were at play and there was a Coach focusing their activity. I turned to continue to the bathroom when the Coach sounded off. "Who are you?!? What kid are you here to see?!?"

My aphasia kicked in with hostile verbal interaction suddenly in front of me. Stuttering I tried to talk but my talking was not fast enough for Coach. He approached me shouting at me and then I got worried that he might make the mistake of making physical contact with me. The Army taught me how to terminate such an attack and I got terrified that I'd fall back into habit and accidentally harming the dumb coach. I never even got to say my name. He didn't care: I was some perverted sex offender acting up on his watch!

Here I am, mentally disabled, walking into my old workplace, wearing a combat veteran hat, being accosted by a 6 foot PLUS overweight guy (which describes me as well) trying to figure out how to answer "ANSWER ME DAMMIT ANSWER ME DAMMIT". At my size and inability to speak, I'm a police shooting waiting to happen. Am I offended? Heck yeah. The picture frame with the poem inside it was handed to me by our Mayor. The honor of that still shivers in my spine.

Now, this is where people don't get this: I AM MENTALLY DISABLED. Not crazy, not perverse, not stupid. Just sideways in cognition. 2 plus 2 equals the same thing it always did. It just takes me longer to remember how to do math - math itself. Adding is easy for me, lickety split, but remembering and figuring out if math is appropriate at that moment... that takes longer.

It is moments like this that cause me great mental distress. I'm a member of Mensa (meaning I'm not dumb by far), I bled for the freedoms of my fellow citizens (Yes, purple heart-ed I am), I used to jump out of flying vehicles (planes mostly but sometimes helicopters), and I wielded death in my hands (M16 with an M203 attached).

So for a guy who got stabbed a couple of weeks after jumping out of an airplane to shoot bad guys and launch grenades at distant mortar emplacements to no longer be able to speak in the face of an a$$hole I could take out without building up sweat.... that is who I am now.

A Stranger, Yes. A heart broken one that can't always speak.

Offender, No. Even if you put your hands on me and I break your face/body for doing so.

PS: I'm realizing a trend here. Society does not know, or care to know, how to treat me. It seems that my being sideways is trouble for them. As such, when I was faced with the surprise question "Live or Die" why did I choose to continue living? Don't know but I endeavor to find out why.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Do not mistake me being odd/weird as hostile or dangerous.

See, all of my life I have been the odd man out. Growing up, the white tall kid where no white kids dare existed, even now. Army, an officer wannabe who got disqualified but jumps out of Airplanes (???). Civilian life, PTSD sufferer without any violent tendencies. The list goes on...

Throughout all this there has been some consistencies: Integrity, Honor, and Loyalty. Within this wreck of a body lives the soul of a Marine. Fortunately, a brain lives here as well. (/joke)

My accident has damaged my brain in ways Doctors still don't know. I am now high risk for strokes, aneurisms, slip and falls, again the list goes on. However, what has not been damaged is the core of who I've been all my life. Now, with some brain injuries this is not the case. With mine, I am STILL me with some small changes.

The biggest change is Aphasia. Another change is my tendency to blurt which may be a regular sign of my Aphasia. Blurt - say something suddenly and without careful consideration. I don't just blurt verbally as well. I blurt on social media also. Which may, for some people, explain my annoyance with the people of the world who don't know or don't properly remember me.

I didn't say I did not say that.

I said I am not the one who said that.

Yesterday I shared someone else's joke. I thought this joke was funny even if a bit off the beaten path. Of course I have always thought I was funny just off the beaten path. Before accident as well as after accident. I shared this joke on Facebook and on Google Plus. Facebook has been a medium of family connection, Google Plus not so much family but other computer geeks like me. Via Facebook family got concerned about my intentions, like gestapo-ish overseers, while on G+ laughter ensued and chit chatting over the topic engaged.

The family was worried about Police involvement of my life.

"John people get arrested these days for stuff they post on Facebook!"

Yes, ID10T's do. In fairness, gobs of people get arrested every day. The list of people unfairly or unjustly arrested also grows every day. That being said, while unfair arrests happen apologies are rarer. There is always some charge that can be made in every situation.

My charge, off the back? Breathing. Add in possible conspiracy involvement, causing terror to short people for being so tall, forcing the general public to treat me nice by looking like a line backer, and guilty of being odd and brain injured. He is now guilty of being Mentally Disabled, of course he's stupid and crazy NOW!

The truth is I'm a police shooting waiting to happen. Even with a Veteran license plate, heck given the Hollywood disrespect of our PTSD issues a Veteran license plate is increasing my odds of being some nice guy shot down by the police. And that was BEFORE the accident!

So, to my friends on Google+ (especially the Eve Online buddies/targets!) thank you for getting that it was a joke and laughing along with me over the joke. To my concerned family: Shame on yall for forgetting who I am. Oh and bleep-bleep-bleepity-bleep-bleep.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Shared some tips

Me:  Shared some tips from my experience that they hadn't thought of... though they are exceeding well prepared from training opportunities. A couple of weeks here and there at NTC.

Friend on Skype
: uh huh

Me: Which is an opfor mission area in the Mojave Desert.

Friend on Skype: so you gave them your perspective

Me: Yeah... they were ready to pack sweaters or field jackets. I told them pack BOTH.
From their time in California... they experienced 110 degrees dropping to 70. Their jaws dropped when I told them what they might really get.

125 degrees dropping to 50.

Friend on Skype: hopefully they will listen and pass it on

Me: But the other technique that I shared really got them nodding.

"Whenever you get thirsty before you drink some water ask your buddy when was the last time he drank?" I got ??? until I explained the solution.

Friend on Skype: right so everyone stays hydrated

Me: Yup, but everyone stays connected and in touch with each other. That's the core of good teamwork.

Friend on Skype:
very true. brothers keeper, marco polo

Me: I.e. A casualty doesn't just put the team 1 man down. He's down and those taking care of him are down. It's one of them counter intuitive things. That's why a smart enemy doesn't want you dead... yet. He just wants you to help distract or divert your buddies.

They nodded in understanding... then I told them about their #1 enemy that will start attacking them once they get in country.


Heat casualties are really preventable and can be really troublesome. The brain starts going... on a person with a gun. Not nice imho.

So at the end of that "class"... I was given their unit patch and they all asked my name adopting me I think. The added facet... of all the VFW guys there I was Young uncle age to these kids. So I could talk their cultural language allowing for the connecting.

Oh, and at some point thier medical guys (emt's) found out from the other vfw guys about my TBI. Another aspect they could not really believe until they pointedly asked me if I had one. Yeah... oh and the fact that I was airborne made them laugh as well. Proof that I was crazy before my TBI in their joking.

I couldn't disagree with them.

Life long adrenalin junkie I am.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How low can confidence go?

It looked like I screwed the pooch, been spending the past few hours in panic mode over it.... and then it got proven that I didn't screw up. Just made a choice that added a slight complication to our day but not a bad choice nor wrong one.

What complicated things was that I did not remember the specifics of the choice I made so when decisions needed to be made... details seemed like I screwed up. And this is where the real problem lies for me.

I make a simple human mistake or is it? Is it because of my brain injury? Or the onset of age to this not young guy? Where do I place my confidence? In myself? This is a real dilemma though it may not sound like it to you. But for me?

I used to jump from airplanes, whenever needed I deployed my reserve chute. I used to be armed with an M-203 attached underneath an M-16. Quite accurate in use and excellently talented in knowing when to use them. I've got 15K combat miles and only one vehicle damaged (from a mine). All before I was 23 yrs old.

Now, I don't trust myself to talk because of Aphasia. I can't always feel confident even in what I feel as the pain never ends and sensation hasn't fully returned to my arms/hands or my face. My memory is shoddy as hell. A geek joke I make: My primary HD now has bad clusters.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Understanding our heroes and ourselves...

An uncomfortable aspect of brain injury, for others, is our disability in "locking into" thoughts. For one brief moment we think we see a bright moment of glorious truth and we hold onto that moment for all we can. However, that moment is just that - a moment. That glorious truth does not encapsulate the entirety of the situation/person.

In my case, as an example, a friend of mine was worried that I locked into "hero worship" mode with him. I took some worthwhile gestures on his part during my recovery and expressed much gratitude for them. Perhaps over expressed them, from his mindset. And, in fairness, he could be right. Throughout this process I've not always made the best choices or expressed myself in ways that I am proud of nor in ways that does the best justice to the situation. But hero worship?

It is, or was, possible as our decision making process has been interfered with. For a brief moment, or not so brief, our attachment to life and society was interrupted. Surviving that moment has changed us in ways not understood and not always for the betterment of us. The people during our recovery are complex individuals with history. Likes, dislikes, proud moments and not so proud moments. When we meet these people we are not looking at them from a similarly complex mindset. We are, or can be, looking at them from a toddlers mindset.

"If you've ever tried reasoning with a 2-year-old, you know the meaning of futility. Toddlers are wondrously curious and beguiling. They're also irrational, self-centered, and convinced of their own omnipotence. But you can't blame them -- that's just the way their brains are wired. Still in an early stage of cognitive development, toddlers think in fundamentally different ways from older children and adults."

So, in the early stages of my cognitive re-development I developed an idea that bothered a friend with the weary burden upon his shoulders. In an attempt to fix that, I've taken this morning to try to understand and explain what happened. I can only hope that I've scratched the surface of the subject enough as the only way for someone else to truly understand is for them to experience brain injury themselves.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Virtual Geocaching

... is how I briefly explained Ingress.

Geo-caching is an interesting activity that I really don't find interesting. Additionally anything that involves me doing any writing is not something I want to do. (As my mangled wrists has not even begun to write like they use to - and they weren't well skilled then!) My speech therapist was asking me about the multitude of activities that I exercise my cognition with. Minecraft she knew of, but hasn't played, but Ingress she had never heard about. She felt Geo-caching was interesting and that led to explaining it that way.

Another aspect of Ingress is not just the Virtuality of the Geo-caching but the social aspect. For entertainment's sake there is a competition side, one team against another team. This competitive aspect makes the Virtual Caches insecure requiring attention to them.

The linking mechanism is another social aspect competitive addition. Link to another Virtual Cache can not cross other links so you could be blocked by a teammate or a competitor ... even totally unaware of the block. Successful links between three caches creates a field which adds to the team score. Personal scores are tracked mind you but helping the team - a nice social aspect. As an added bonus many Virtual Caches are not easily accessed by car, and should not be!!!, so like an old soldier that I am I get out and walk to them.

Using Virtual equipment, gaining Virtual Achievements, on an on.

See, computer gaming exercises your brain. And in safe non-physical environments thus if you oopsy no one gets hurt. Or only their feelings if anything. For a brain injured person, exercising the brain is a strong part of recovery. Stimulating exercise prevents stagnation of ideas.

Embrace the dynamic is what I say.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

I am not who I was then but none of us are.

We've all changed since yesterday even if the change is so minor that it is unnoticeable. However in some cases, the change is severe enough to change the course of a life. This is something we have trouble understanding, accepting, and dealing with. And when I say "we" I mean the survivors: The victim, the caregiver(s), and their family.

If I could be who I was I could work, thereby ease my household's economic burdens. I could take proper care of myself without needing to be reminded, like a normal person. I could provide comfort to my spouse instead of consistently giving her reasons to worry about or for me. If I was who I used to be, I would not be a burden, at least in my mind.

This is what brain injury does to you. It replaces you, who you are - reading this now!, with someone else. It changes you in ways no one should ever imagine but, well, there it is.

My brain injury changed my age. In some cases, I am much younger than reasonable. My social skills are inadequate to normal society but then they were never up to "par". I've remembered (or relived) my military service which I tried to distance from my though processes. I've instantly become an elderly gentleman as well, physically and mentally.

So, are you prepared?

I who used to be a boy scout, a combat Airborne trooper, was not even close to being prepared for the burden that I sometimes become.

How to prepare?

Invest in the souls around you as one day, if you are lucky, you will need the return on that investment.

I am blessed for the investments I  made before my accident have come about and repaid me beyond anything I could have hoped.

- My spouse still loves me.
- My friends rushed out to help my spouse bear the burden of my accident.
- My church has stood beside me as I figure out who I am now.
- My friends have gotten closer to me as I figure out who I am now.

- Social Security still won't call me disabled. ( I did not even apply for SSI but the gov't I served still won't call me disabled!!)

So, somehow, I've got to learn to accept what has happened to me, accept my new limits, and only push the boundaries of those limits when it does not disrupt the lives of those around me.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The litany of a Brain Injured Warrior's life;

When I was 5 years old I turned over in bed. It was the unblocked top bunk of a bunk bed. As I fell I landed on my the corner of my toy box striking my left temple. For a day I was blind.

     - But I will go on.

When I was about 12, I got a clue that my brother was not my friend. We were traipsing, at a run, through South Philly's Italian Market to return to our parents. My brother led, Tommy & I followed. I remember one moment where we ran over some ground laying pallets and then a few moments later my Mom was screaming.

A police officer snatched me aside while she screamed and proceed to inspect my gaping scalp wound. I then realized that my face and chest were being covered by blood. Apparently, just over the laying pallets was an iron weight holding down an awning of a section of the market. My brother, being about 4 inches shorter than me (Tommy too), took us that way - perhaps with the nefarious hopes that paid off.

     - But I will go on.

A female friend of mine approached me between classes to tell me that Big Fred, a gargantuan fattie of ill repute, wanted to talk to me to bury any hatchets that we may have. Seeing Big Fred behind her I told her I had none and little time between classes to chit chat. I then turned back to my actual girlfriend, who was getting some of my books out of her locker, when Big Fred struck me from behind.

His fist slammed into my skull from behind, striking me just under the left ear. My head then proceeded to rudely introduce itself to the nearby locker causing the lock to strike me around the right ear. Sudden unconsciousness ensued that lasted about half an hour.

- A common flaw the average person makes is thinking that my body requires conscious thought to engage in physical activity. IT DOES NOT! -

As I arose from the School Nurse's bed my girlfriend grabbed my arm to stop me. She told me that I turned to her and said, "Let go" with such a blank face that she thought I might be dead. I then proceeded to respond to Big Fred. All of my friends were outside the nurse's office, waiting for news, and my closest one realized my mission. He shouted, "Grab him!!" 20 guys tried to restrain me and failed. None were wounded but all of them were quite embarrassed at how effectively I avoided restraint without seriously hurting a single one of them.

Using my arms and hands to block restraint or divert tackles I then proceeded down the hall until the Vice Principal, with good thought, locked my hands in his arm pits and clenched down with his arms then shouted in my face, "Stop!" Having a moment to thinking about stopping, I then returned to an unconscious state.

Big Fred was an awesome trumpeter in the school's band and I was the most skilled IT geek in a 1985 Ghetto school. Big Fred got a week of detention for his actions. I got suspended for a week for the hooplah "I" created afterwards. No wonder I have issues with Authority.

     - But I will go on.

Military service. Then Combat service. The injuries are numerous and brain injuries common.

     - But I will go on.

I returned home from Combat service and found that the backyard to my apartment had become a shuck and jive point for a local teenage gang. I proceeded to tell them that they could no longer use my yard as a drinking party spot which they, at that time, left without any display.

The next night there was a knock on my door. The oldest gang member, surrounded by a dozen other ones, was shouting and screaming for me to come out and answer for my ignorance. Since I had a girlfriend over at the time, I could not just let them trash the outside of my apartment (as they were starting to do) so I stepped out into the street.

The gang started circling me as the leader took a boxing stance facing me. I did not take one. The leader tossed a jab (which missed) and I just looked like a country bumpkin (which they let my Kentucky accent mislead them) and they teased me about not even knowing how to box. "Nah, my pah-pah just taught me how to wrestle the cows down while he branded them," was my response.

The leader did not realize he had a bad boxing habit. He let his feet cross as he moved sideways... and he'd do that when jabbing. One time he jabbed while his feet were cross and I struck. The jab lined him up for my Tyson-like upper cut. I felt his jaw break but as he fell he shouted, "I'm down!" Then the gang member who stayed lined up behind me hit me in the back of the head with a golf club.

The common flaw engaged: The look of terror on my attacker's face when I turned around and struck back was phenomenal. I then had 8 more teenagers try to put me down with fists and feet. I gently cleaned my street with them. I then had a close neighbor offer to help me. I got into his car and said, "Mom". He started driving to my mom's while I lost consciousness. I have flitting memories of being transported from his car into a Temple Police car. My first firm memory was of a Temple ER Doctor flashing a light into my eyes.

There is more I could share on this but the important thing to note: The attack and lack of conscious event happened within a 20 minute time frame. That is Philly for you. You can be thinking about what you are about to do to your Girlfriend's fine body and 20 minutes later be unconscious after having to spank almost a dozen kids.

     - But I will go on.

September 2013 I join Boston's Hub on Wheels event. Sign up to do 20 miles and something happened around 15 miles. That is all I know and that is mostly second hand information. My first conscious thought was when I was strapped into a device that had me on my stomach, with my arms (which were mangled) outstretched and restrained, being cleaned - even in some quite personal areas.

On and on, on and on, ... ....

     - But I will go on.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I'm debating a kick-starter.

The eventual goal, not the dream, is a recumbent trike. My accident happened on a bicycle so I must eventually face wheels again. Why? Because TBI did not end my life but I am stuck in half-panic mode. I remember biking, I remember the gathering that led to the huge biking event, I even remember some moments of that bike ride.

Always with tears coming out of me when I talk about my last memory ... that last memory was glorious. I can't see how that a God given moment has anything to do with the accident but I can see how such a wonderfully glorious moment can stay inside this old Soldier.

So it is my opinion that I must, at some point, face certain things again. That section of Boston, or nearby Boston, has not been faced yet. But I did drive myself to the hospital where I was treated. Facing that was hard... but successful. It released some tensions in this soul. That experience made me realize my "face the music" mechanisms are right on target. So I must bike again at some point.

- My balance has not returned sufficiency. Bicycle itself is out as I'll likely lose balance and do myself harm again.

- I am disabled. People are not banging down my doors with employment opportunities sufficient to my lack of abilities.

That being said, a recumbent trike is not free nor should it be. It is a worthwhile item to utilize and should thus be treated as such. That leaves me sitting here pondering methods of accomplishing what I can with what means are available to me.

Now there are many doors I can drop my knuckles onto:

- Freemasons, as I was a Master Mason before my accident;
- Veterans of Foreign Wars, as I am a veteran of a foreign war;
- American Legion, as I am a legionnaire;
- Goodwill of New England, they considered me a "protected veteran" and they have a veteran fund;
- Eve Online: even across the seas from my many well wishers from that community (Shar Tegral, one of the E-Bank founders).
- Even upon the Ingress community, as I am an Enlightened Agent (SharQTegral) and that community has been wonderful in mental and social support as I recover.

There are so many doors upon which I could knock. In fact, too many for me to remember or realize that I've knocked upon it. Such is one of the problems with Brain Injury. But, I do think I know the category I could aim for as a Kick-starter project: Art.

Two forms of art are at my disposal, possibly three. Firstly, getting this old Airborne ground trooper back on wheels is, in itself, something of a miracle. Walking, talking, eating, is also a miracle given the extent of my injuries but having wheels under me again would be a miracle of personal delight.

Secondly, I've been writing my autobiography. Granted no publisher has been contacted nor has any tapped on me. But I have been writing it, in fact this here will likely be a part of it. Irony being, you can influence if this segment has a good ending or not.

Thirdly, a presumption on my part, I am a sporadic member of the Berwick Artist Association. I have influence but only from the talent of my passion. You will not meet people with as much passion for life and art as me. I grew up in a school just a few city blocks from the Philadelphia Art Museum. While some people will say it is not the height of art, this kid descended from Frenchmen disagrees. It is not the height, yes, but it is up there.

Next step, figure out reasonable rewards for donating to this cause.