I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. Why did they decide on Phoenix? Anywhere but Arizona. Especially not Pheonix. I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t go.
I was on the WARP (Weave A Real Peace http://weavearealpeace.org/) board, and the rest of the board voted to hold our next annual meeting in Arizona. And as a board member, I felt obliged to attend.
Once I made my final decision to go, it occurred to me that this would be my chance to gain closure. I should visit the hospital where I underwent my brain surgeries, the source of my difficulties, the origin of the new me. I also needed to understand what had happened to me.
I was afraid. But my need to gain closure overcame my fear.
As I preparedemotionally for my trip, I discovered that I had no interest in visiting the hospital. What I seemed to need was a visit to the rehab center. I needed to see Abby, my occupational therapist, and Keith, my physical therapist. My first thought was that I needed to thank them. But then I realized there was more to it—I also needed to verify their existence. To validate what had happened?
I phoned ahead to make sure they would be there, and was surprised to learn that not only were they still working at the center, but they would be there on the day I’d be visiting. Had I hoped they’d moved on? I found that a part of me was excited to see them, but I also felt a twinge of dismay—now I really had to go.
I didn’t expect to remember the outside of the building. After all, my time there was spent on the inside. But I did. I expected to remember my way from the entrance to the rehab center--Abby had taken me along that route several times, to help me orient myself, and to work on my short term memory and attention span. But I didn’t.
My hear thudded in my chest as we I approached the doors to the center, but one I stepped over the threshold, I felt more relaxed. There was a reception desk at the entrance to the rehab center. Did I ever know it was there? I felt proud of myself took it all in stride. But when the receptionist guided me to the back entrance to the gym, where Abby and Keith were working, I became disoriented and discombobulated. Keith and Abby and I had always entered the gym from the front entrance.
But standing in the doorway, it clicked—this was that other entrance, and exit. The one that I’d only used once before. I stood tall—I remembered. And I was here, where one of my beginnings took place.
My gaze swept across the empty cavernous space in front of me as I searched for Keith and Abby. But I saw nothing. None of the patients, not the therapy tables, nor the parallel bars, just indistinct shadows. Was this really the right place? I remembered it as brightly lit, this room was dark and blurry. A wheel chair emerged from the gloom, out of nowhere. Was that Keith pushing it? He looked different. A silhouette popped into existence behind him. Could it be Abby? But her hair… it was straight, but not chin-length at I remembered it.
They walked towards me, smiling hesitantly. It was them. But it wasn’t.
“You probably don’t remember me...”
Abby interrupted, “I think I do. Weren’t you bald?”
She didn’t remember me. Of course I hadn’t been bald. But I did have a very short buzzcut… Maybe she did remember. “Not quite bald. But close. I was in the room in the corner.” and I pointed. “But then I was moved. Near the nurses’ station.”
Keith’s smile cleared and Abby nodded.
Had I expected them to recognize me immediately? Had I hoped they’d greet me with beaming smiles?
Our conversation was halting and brief. They had to get back to work.
I wasn’t disappointed. But I didn’t feel that inner shift I had hoped for, the shift that would signify acceptance. I should have realized, acceptance is a path, an ongoing journey, especially for the severely brain injured, whose recovery takes a lifetime.