The old man sat quietly gazing out the front passenger window watching the changing landscape speeding past. Small businesses and residences give way to more bucolic scenes as the young woman drives onto the highway. He wonders if his melancholia will transition with similar alacrity over this long weekend, he would see. Change causes stress and stress results in confusion. The weekend will be fraught with activity, people, loud conversations, and even louder music, which ultimately leads to a “Flooding” event. However, this weekend is worth the risks and nothing would deter him from participating, nothing. He had considered several contingency plans designed to keep others from noticing his flat affect and other limitations; unfortunately, the cane precludes any hope of concealing the fact that he is damaged. Still, as long as he can quietly slip away when the need arose he might just pull it off. Without the walking aid he looked perfectly normal; unfortunately, the lengthy stay at the Rehabilitation Hospital seared into his consciousness that, “Falling is forbidden!”
“So are you ready for the weekend?” asks the pretty, auburn haired driver.
“I guess so.” The old man replies.
“You don’t sound convincing, are you feeling up for this?” The driver probes further.
“I would not miss it, just a little apprehensive,” the old man responded.
“What are you afraid of? You look great and everything will be just fine. The Sun is shining; the skies are blue, and clear. You should be happy. You just have to try and have a good time!” The driver implored.
“Oh, I have heard that before. Why cannot you simply be happy? Think happy thoughts,” responds the old man irritably; “As if I can control how I feel, well I cannot, alright!”
“Well then think of something else; take your mind off your troubles,” the driver suggests.
The old man turns his face toward the glass; his thoughts turn inward. He wonders how many times in his life that family and friends have uttered those same words to him. He could not venture a guess but it had to be a lot. Things are significantly better since the neurosurgery but after six years, he wonders if he will ever regain what he has lost or recover the man, he once was, “Some things cannot be fixed; they can only be carried” ~ Megan Devine
Well at least I fall a good deal less, and let us face it, everybody has something, it could always be worse. These thoughts are subjective, dependent on the day or the hour. Good days and not so good days; that is the way his life is now, the new reality.
“You know sweetie, I want to participate with everyone else and enjoy our time together,” The old man says, returning to the conversation.
“You need to be grateful, think positively when you are enveloped in negativity, and hold on to faith when you feel hopeless,” the driver said trying to be helpful.
“You know, not every depressed person can rise each day like the sun or simply alter their dark thoughts through cheery euphemisms,” the old man explains tetchily.
“So you admit that you’re depressed,” the red headed driver pounces on the term.
“Yes, I am sad and weary, you would not understand,” the man admits.
“Try me; I‘ve been told that I’m an extremely good listener,” the young woman encourages, hoping to gain some insight into the man’s emotional state.
“The ‘flooding’ events are the worst. It is difficult to describe them; you have no means to compare the experience,” the man explains reluctantly; “Every Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) survivor experiences them differently, depending upon the area of the brain that was injured.”
“Is that what you are apprehensive about?” The driver asks using the man’s own words.
“Erm… ‘Sensory Overload,’ a term I have had to learn about on my own, the surgeons and the doctors do not tell you what to expect. I guess they do not want to plant any seeds in their patient’s minds. I should have read the surgery release form more carefully; it does not just say what they can remove but also what they can leave you with when they are done,” The man states with a hint of anger; “The best description of a flooding event is as the word, “flood” suggests, an inundation of stimuli, drowning the brain in information, sights, sounds, or conversations and the emotions they illicit. Shopping is the worst!” The man patiently continues to explain.
“Oh, I had no idea that you were experiencing difficulties. You present so well,” the driver exclaims; “Is there anything we can do?”
“Since any or all of the senses can be affected, such as sight, sound, touch, movement, taste, or smell the only strategy that I have used is to leave, go sit outside with my bags, and wait for the van to take me home,” The old man confesses.
“Is that your plan for this weekend, to slip outside and hope that no one will notice? You know that you will be surrounded by people who know and love you, they will understand,” the young woman comforts.
“Yes; and although I will recognize most of their faces, I will be unable to recall their names, and never know who I will remember and whom I will not. It is an uncomfortable scenario to contemplate. It is so very difficult sometimes, I hate feeling this way,” the old man confides as silent tears roll down his cheeks.
“Dad, don’t worry, I will be right there beside you to hold you up. No one gets out of this life alive; we all need a little help to get through it,” the young woman comforts her father as they drive toward the wedding event of the old man’s youngest daughter.
The old man is grateful for this conversation and the daughter with whom he has had it. They will see what comes.
Dennis Caristi is a sixty-six year old aspiring author. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Health from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has written four books, one a Cookbook and Family Anthology, exclusively for his two daughters. His second attempt at authorship was a Novella. The third and fourth efforts are parts of a series of novels entitled, The Environmental Wars.