This is a commentary about the slow lane, about the slowing of time since I suffered a severe brain injury while skateboarding with my dog. This is a blog about recovery; about our '82 VW Westfalia. It's about writing, surfing, camping, married life, bleeding ulcers that make you feel old at 32; about family, friends, and my dog Artie; it's about cruising in fourth gear, getting passed by every car and learning to appreciate every second of it.
The countdown to the reverse Craniectomy is on. Three days and counting until doctors attempt to replace the four by five inch piece of skull they cut from my head to allow for my brain to swell. As the surgery nears, my anxiety grows and there is little that can be done to stop it.
I do have one way to slow it down. During the next three days I'm going to focus on the good that may come from the surgery. The first one that comes to my damaged mind; losing my maroon helmet, the replica of a 1930's leather football helmet that I have worn since I woke from my coma last month.
Wearing the helmet was always difficult to accept. Aimee, family members, doctors and nurses all told me that I couldn't go anywhere without it and that includes the ten step walk to the bathroom. I agreed, of course, not without a fight but I agreed.
In the hospital, or at home, the helmet didn't bother me. Outside in public, however, is a different story. I see people looking out of the corner of their eyes as they walk by. I can almost see the wheels in their head spinning, looking for an explanation. Some scan the length of my body for more clues. Is it fashion? They ask themselves. Is this the new look?
Some people aren't silent about their curiosity and some can't help themselves from making fun of my new fashion statement. After lunch the other day, Aimee and I made our way back to the car. From a distance I saw a middle aged man on a bike pedaling towards us. The closer he got, the more details I picked up. His chest-length red hair was dirty, unkempt. In his left arm he held two 40-ounce beer bottles. His bike swerved from the side of the road into the middle of the quiet residential city street and he didn't seem to care. I could feel his stare as he approached. I looked him in the eyes. "What are you in town for the rodeo?" He yelled in a deep, raspy voice. "Enjoy the rodeo, yeehaw."
No longer having an emotional filter, I reacted. "Yeah, go drink yourself to death, asshole."
I saw the handlebars move. The drunkard started to turn around. Not a second later he changed his mind, straightening out and riding off.
Another reason I'm ready to shed my plastic skull for good; the other day in physical therapy my therapist said I could remove my helmet while I stretched out on a blue floor mat. I took it off. A few seconds later I caught her staring at the indentation in my head, her mouth agape. I didn't think much of it, until later, when I was at home in my chair. I took my helmet off and seconds later Aimee asked where that strange bump on my head came from. I didn't know. Staring into the mirror isn't one of my favorite hobbies anymore. She dug into her purse and grabbed a small mirror and handed it to me. I looked at the top of my head. The bump, the reason for the stare, was not an infected scar from where doctors has stapled my scalp together, instead it was a massive whitehead, one so big, the skin around my head was blood red. I looked at the inside of my helmet, my giant pimple was directly where I put my finger before placing it on my head.
The helmet struck again while I was on a community outing during rehab. We were taken to a large, crowded, big box Swedish furniture store. I was given a list of tasks to perform. I was asked to count the number of sofas, bookcases, and end tables and record the price range. I proceeded without giving it much thought. Halfway into the task, I caught myself, it felt like I was having an outer body experience. There I was standing in the center aisle wearing a maroon helmet, moving my lips and pointing to each of the 84 couches on display. I looked like Dustin Hoffman's character Ray, in Rainman. Shoppers walked around me. Kids stared at me. Some reached for their parents hand as they passed.
There are other stories to tell but I think the point has been made; wearing a helmet every second of the day gets old and because of that I am willing to fight this anxiety and go into the surgery room with a smile on my face. I just hope I don't wake up with the helmet by my side.