Collateral Damage

As I walk in the door, Daniel raises his head from behind his computer. He looks a bit sheepish. I know that look. It's the one he gives me when he knows he's messed up. It's the look he's given me several times lately, whenever I've chided him about the project he was supposed to finish a week ago. We spoke about it yesterday evening, and he told me he'll get to it today. I suspect he hasn't got to it yet, and it's already evening.

How should I react? Should I admonish him gently? Or should I be firm?

I find it difficult to be firm with Daniel. It had better be over something important and I'd better mean it. Otherwise, he'll pick up on it, and will either walk away or laugh it off and make me laugh

In addition, being too firm with him, even for a good reason, only makes him dig his heels in, slowing him down further. It's usually better to get the message across with banter—he knows that beneath it there is a serious issue, and he doesn't take offense. He's got a very strong sense of right and wrong. He rarely screws up where it matters, and when he does, he is very contrite, genuinely so.

Until now, all I did was joke with him about his procrastination. Every time, after bantering with me, he'd become sober. “I'll get it done. I will.”

I know he will. Though I don't know when. In a few days, weeks, months? We started the project several months ago, in November. It is now July.

But there's something more to his sheepish expression. I can't quite place it. Something's not right.

“Can I talk to you?” There's definitely something wrong. “There's reason I'm having trouble with this video, why I'm procrastinating.” He hesitates.

I narrow my eyes. What could be seriously wrong? I know he's concerned about getting a job, but that isn't it. He's upset about— No. That happened after the project was well on its way. What could it be? Is it— “Is it the subject matter? Like how hard it was for you at the talk I gave?”

He nods.

The effects of the bloody brain are far reaching, for me and my kids. We patched up some of the rents in the fabric of our being, but many have stayed in a state of disrepair. I know that in time, most of the harm will be undone to a large degree, but never fully.

I feel guilty, helpless, and angry.

I know it's not my fault, not anyone's fault. But I can't help feeling as if I caused this, with my defective genes, with my damaged brain.

I feel there's nothing I can do. I can't undo the fear my kids feel for my life, for the possibility that they too carry the defective gene. I can't undo their encounter with my mortality and with their own. I can't undo their loss of innocence.

The bloody brain. That bloody bloody brain. That damn bloody brain.