Off to the Land of Plastic Brains!

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One of the interesting aspects of my “recovery” situation is the misdirection of those who profess to therapize. My situation was, apparently, one of a relatively hopeless nature. But here I am!

There was much wisdom dispensed by professionals who (supposedly) understand these situations and know (theoretically)  best how to handle them. One of the most interesting of these was the passing on of the idea that whatever recovery I experienced during the first year was likely to be all I’d ever see. Au con·traire !

The greatest effort I am aware of that was made was the attempt to get me walking again. There were two problems with this strategy. The first being the fact that my handicap was not the loss of a leg, but rather the loss of a sense; the sense of balance. Ten years later I realize that no amount of stumbling around on crutches is going to facilitate the recovery of that sense lost. What is needed is a reprograming of the computer that keeps me upright. The second problem for my would-be therapists was the fact that I didn’t give a flying one-winged shit about walking. Truth is the only thing I really cared about is that I was gone and never coming back.

I missed me… I Still do!

In spite of misdirection and venality on the part of those who should’ve occupied positions of constructivity, I stumbled like an accidentally crafted tune into the key of coming-back major. Tuning up for a new melody… The staff and notes I played would be hard to follow but they landed me in classes at Utah State University and a BS in English! Creative writing major / Folklore minor).

It was toward the end of this educational symphony that I became aware of a principle known as “brain plasticity.” I was far from any real understanding of it. But it appears exemplified by an educational career that ranged from getting a D- in Biological Anthropology during my first semester (brain damage having all but eliminated my ability to retain the material covered), to getting “A’s” in every writing and linguistic class I took, and finally graduating with a 3.8 GPA followed by acceptance as one of only 8 admitted into one of the most prestigious Folklore MA programs in the country.

Much of my brain had literally been scrambled. I still have the tube in my scalp through which the blood and fluid was drained, but somehow I had developed the ability to retain a much more significant amount of data and my creative juices began to flow freely. Brain plasticity indeed!

And here, in the land of plastic brains, lies a hope I’ve only recently recognized. It is a seedbed of hopefulness for anyone suffering from a gigantic multitude of brain anomalies.

Yes, my brothers ’n sisters, there is HOPE! And you don’t have to learn to play the violin… although that certainly wouldn’t hurt anything!

Life in the Passed Lane

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Folklore is a fascinating sociopsychological science. “Folk-groups” being any two or more people who share anything in common, be it long hair, a job a Taco-Time, or an interest in cock-fighting. “Lore” being the way they reference that shared interest. Workplace lingo, the stories, the jokes, songs, the hot-fudge sundays… What matters is that it is passed on in some way and that it evolves or changes as it is passed along.

Each of us is a member of dozens, possibly thousands of different folk groups and we develop different behaviors, or personality aspects as we move from one folk-group to another. The biker has a different way of referring to his scooter, “my fuckin’ hog,” when he’s hangin’ with his “bros,” my Harley Davidson, when he’s at his daughter’s parent/teacher conference.

One of the principle folk-groups to which I’ve been unwillingly assigned, is the “recovering from severe brain damage” group. While I might prefer the river boat captain group, this one is tremendously interesting from both the sociopsychological AND the scientific standpoints.

Most of us have been through or are still experiencing one of the most interesting aspects of the group. That is a loneliness which is difficult to describe. It comes not from being alone in the traditional sense, but from being alone in the sense that all of those people and friends who surround you are members of a different species.  A species you once did, but no longer do belong to. You can relate to them, but they can not to you. I can think of no suitable analogy, but perhaps a unicilist racing in the Tour de France would have a similar frame of reference.

I am married to a lady I know quite as well as I expect she knew the once was me. She and most of my old friends have faded away (I still love her with all my heart and soul!) Me being no longer able to wade a trout stream, ski the chutes, hike the Cherry Peak trail, go on a bike ride, fire up the Harley, play baseball, mow the lawn or weed the garden… I’m not the bundle of adventure I used to be. Not only that, but in the world of the “normal” I’m quite practically useless. I can’t help you move to a new house, I can’t help relandscape your property, haul your hay, feed your cattle, handle your roosters. And to that is added the fact that Bacon’s liable to need something. Can you drive me to Logan? We can put my wheelchair in the trunk… Can you help me get this fridge into the back room? There is small reason for the friends I once knew to have an interest, and there is an element of discomfort which is amplified to some degree by sympathy… “That poor son of a bitch used to be superman, and look at him now.” “Let’s stop and ask Bacon if he wants to go water skiin’.” “Damn! What a magnificent huntin’ trip. We’d better stop and tell Bacon what he missed!” Nope… I don’t think so… Not that I’d be offended, or even bothered, but the bees don’t hang with the ants.

Thus the need if not the desire, for a new identity. New folk-groups with different drives, different stories, different memories. One of those is the “recovering from severe brain damage” group. It is, in my world a very small group, but it is growing, and we all share the quality of having once been human.