Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color


I study the menu. I don’t know where to begin. Should I start at the top? What about the middle? Or the bottom? And then there’s the next page…I need help. Maybe Cindy… It doesn’t occur to me to seek help from Deb R. and Judy. They know my story, but they have not seen the effects of the bloody brain in person. Cindy knows, Cindy has helped in the past. But we rarely see each other, she’s not attuned to my bloody brain related issues as well as Joyce is.
I’ll have to explain… The thought is daunting.
All three heads are bent over their menus. They have no inkling of my plight. Should I say something? They’ll all stare at me, and I’ll have to explain.
Maybe if I try harder. I return to the list in front of me. There are so many words. There is no obvious starting point. My eyes roam over the page with no direction, with nothing to guide them, no frame of reference. All the words are tangled up, and I cannot find a tail-end that will help me unravel the mess of knots. I cannot make sense of anything. Nothing holds my attention long enough to enable me to read, to understand. I know that the words are there, I know that they hold meaning, but they are inaccessible to me, clusters of incomprehensible combinations of letters. My eyes slide away from the words before I can capture them and name them.
I let my eyes roam around the page, this way and that, hoping that they will stumble upon something that will provide a clue that will help untangle the mess.
Suddenly the word “egg” pops out at me. It grounds me, it is familiar, it becomes my focal point. I eat eggs, eggs can be good. Perhaps I’ll choose that item. I can’t read its name, nor can I read its description. There is too much activity around me, too much noise, too many colors; there are too many other words on the menu to distract me. My focus shifts down an inch. There it is again-“egg.” Two items with “egg”? I need to choose between the two?! But I don’t know what they are. Then I see another item with the word “egg,” and another.
It’s useless. “Egg” has lost its standing as an anchor. What to do? Perhaps another word? I return to my task. I search through the page in a random fashion. I now see nothing, not even the word “egg”; the tail-end has receded into the tangle.
I know I need help, but I’m not sure how to go about asking for it. I’m used to Joyce anticipating my difficulties; it never takes her more than a brief moment to realize that I need to be rescued. She is quick to identify tricky situations and then keeps an eye out for me, checking on me every so often, watching and listening for signs of trouble.
Deb R. exclaims, “This is the breakfast menu. We need the lunch menu.”
I feel a sense of relief around the table. Were they as confused as I am? Probably, but for a very different reason, for a normal reason. And I wasn’t merely confused, I was completely out of my depth. Unlike them, my relief is about being granted a reprieve.
As they chatter and laugh about the confusion, I make eye contact and smile, but I have nothing to contribute. I don’t quite fit in—I can speak the language, but I don’t always catch the nuances. I need to work hard to stay with them, and every so often I stumble and lag behind, or drift over into the reeds. They seem aware that they need to slow down occasionally until I get back on track.
Silence descends on our table when the new menus are in our hands. I stare down at the open page in front of me. I try to read the words, but it’s hopeless, it’s too much of a big black tangle, there’s no point in expending any more energy. I give up.
When Cindy raises her head I’ll make eye contact. I wait until there’s another shift in the atmosphere—they are ready, they have made their choices. They raise their heads almost as one, and we all make eye contact with each other. They are probably curious about everyone’s choices, while I am trying to figure out how to go about asking for help.
And then a revelation strikes me. I’ll just ask for help!
“Ummm…Cindy, I need help. I can’t choose. There are too many choices. It’s too much.” I turn to Judy and then Deb R. and shrug. “It’s a bloody brain thing.”