One of the most frequently asked questions I receive since my accident is “What is it like not having any memories of your past”. The best way I can answer that is “LOST” it is the most descriptive word I know of describing this feeling. It feels like everyone around you knows everything about you and your past and I just try to imagine my life and memories as they are told to me by my friends and loved ones. There are times that I will listen to my family tell stories of things that have happened in our past and I just sit there amazed that everyone knows this story but ”me”.
I often relate to this question of “What is it like not having memories of your past” to the movie Family Man starring Nicholas Cage as “Jack” and Tea Leoni. I have watched this movie several times and I find it difficult to get through because of the fact that it is so relative to my situation and that I share some of the same confusions, disbelieves and fears that Nicholas Cage has in his character in the movie. For those of you not familiar with this movie, it is about a character played by Nicholas Cage who receives a visit from an angel that gives him a glimpse of what his life would be like if he had married his college sweetheart and not gone to London to become a stock broker.
The movie begins with Jack in his life as a successful Wall Street tycoon controlled by the power of making money and being successful. He then runs into this man running a convenient store who turns out to be an “Angel” and gives Jack a glimpse of what his life would be like if he had married his college sweetheart. The next scene is Jack waking up in a bed with a wife and two kids and a dog and it Christmas Eve. The look of confusion he has on his face at that given moment when he wakes up is one that I can relate to. I felt that when I woke up the first time after arriving at home from the hospital it felt like this was a dream and it will soon go away. The movie has so many parallels with Cage’s character and myself.
We both married our college sweethearts and where both successful businessmen and both woke up one day and our lives were changed forever. We both struggled with trying to realize who we are and why are we here and we do not remember anything of our past. I found the movie difficult to watch for several reasons, but most noticeably is the fact that the fear in the characters eyes and the realization of this situation is not going to change is probably the most difficult thing for me. But as he movie goes on he starts to become more comfortable in his role as a husband, father and a business owner. Jack starts to believe that this is his life and begins to accept it and before you know it his glimpse of his life is over and he wakes up again in his previous life.
Many people have told me and Joan that our story is almost like a movie, well in this case it is correct but we continue to live this movie every single day and every scene seems to bring new challenges in our daily lives. I know our life is no “Hollywood Story” but I can definitely relate to the movie “Family Man” which I find fitting to my story is because that is what I am a ”Family Man”.
There are so many memories that I wish I could get back, but most of them revolve around my family and friends. There are so many memories of my daughter Taylor in her short 17 years hat I wish I could remember and be part of. My daughter is a beautiful young woman who is proofing to be intelligent with her 3.7 grade point average in her senior year of high school and focused on her career of the fashion world. Taylor will be attending FIDM in Los Angeles in September of 2010. She is full of life and everyone including me adores her. She is a captain of her high school cheerleading team and she attends EVIT for her fashion merchandising after her 2 classes in high school. With all of these activities she maintains a part-time job as a hostess at a local restaurant.
As I sit back in amazement and watch her develop into a wonderful woman, it is apparent to me that both my wife Joan and I have done an excellent job of raising her with values, morals and self esteem. Every time I look at her she reminds me so much of my wife who has the same wonderful characteristics and personality as Taylor. As I go through family pictures and see all the years of her growing up it is visible to me to see her transform into this wonderful person.
My accident has been hard on my Taylor, there are so many memories she has of the two of us sharing quality time as father and daughter. She shares with me special times such as the time we went to a father and daughter dance or me helping her race her quad when she was involved with our sons motocross. It is these special times with her that I will forever miss and hope that one day will return. As a father I can only hope that I have encouraged her enough and shared my life lessons with her that will carry on with her throughout her adult life. I may not have memories of her first 17 years but I am looking forward to some of he special moments that she has to look forward to in the future. Her senior prom, her first day of college, me walking her down the aisle on her special day and one day holding her child that she brings into this world. I can only hope that there are many special moments that I can share with her and be the father that I know my beautiful daughter deserves. If Taylor can forgive me for not remembering her first 17 years I can promise that I will be there every step of the way with her to create better memories for the rest of my life.
The past two days I have tried to get my “fasting” lab work done. This simple task requires two things: 1) not eating and 2) going to the lab for a blood draw. Yesterday, I had the appointment booked so I did not have to wait at the lab but I failed this task because I simply ate—so much for the fasting test. Today I was ready—or so I thought—I made the appointment (again) I would drop Grant off at work (driving Grant to work is a whole other blog), then go to the lab. Today I remembered not to eat—so far an improvement from yesterday, then I dropped Grant off and realized that I did not have the address for the lab with me—it is probably still on my desk at work where I made the appointment.
I called the lab on the lab order sheet. I was feeling good that I was able to problem solve this without involving Scott and having no coffee in my system to aide in my resourcefulness. I asked the lab what the cross streets were for the lab they said 3rd street and Dunlop…. Dunlop that is so far from where I am. I started to search my brain for the location where I booked the appointment. I had put in my work address and it said the lab was 2.3 miles from my work but it also said JCL location which is (John C. Lincoln) the hospital that is way on the North side of Phoenix and I am in Central Phoenix . When booking the appointment I guess I didn’t take my stock in the name of the location since they said it was 2.3 miles from my work in Central Phoenix. Well it is clicking in now that I am not going to get my labs done again today and I am hungry. I drive up the unfamiliar streets of Central Phoenix in hopes to find a little family run café where I can eat and get my much needed coffee. When I realize I missed the street toward my office I do a quick u-turn an nearly miss another car who zipped in the median turn lane behind me –who I obviously did not see. She laid on the horn FOREVER…honestly I would have rather got flipped off
This is the most frequent question I am asked when people hear the story. Well, he says he fell in love with me all over again. I say he is “Scott forward” not many changes except for a little less intense at times and this whole public speaking idea and telling people our private lives stuff. The way he holds me and kisses me is the same. Is it instinct? I don’t know but it feels the same. He looks at me with the same caring and loving eyes. I guess the female in me wants to think that his heart didn’t forget the love but the nurse in me knows that the brain is where the love is stored and maybe it is kept in a different part that was not damaged. When we hold each other, I feel the same except for the loneliness that comes when I think of an embrace that he doesn’t remember. It’s so strange to think that he is the same yet he doesn’t know me. Many friends have said “look at it this way he doesn’t remember the fights or bad moods you had” and I say but it is the good times and the special moments that only we shared together are lost also. I have a dear friend that lost her husband suddenly and that’s what she misses most are those things two people in love share and know about each other—I have Scott to create new memories with but we lost so much.
I guess as he doesn’t know who he is and he really doesn’t know me as well, that’s so hard to think about. We have been together my whole adult life and our experiences that we shared have shaped me to what I am today but he only see’s today. He doesn’t know Joan the naive college student from a small town. He doesn’t know Joan who cried every day and night and wanted to die when she lost Taryn our first baby who was stillborn full term. He doesn’t know Joan who was so confident in herself that she came fresh out of college and started in the emergency room as an RN. He doesn’t know Joan who worried every moment of her pregnancy that Grant or Taylor would not make it.
He doesn’t know Joan who was the best mom, so dedicated to her children, their school and activities. He doesn’t know Joan who has loved and supported him with every financial and business challenge they have encountered. He doesn’t know Joan who went back to the emergency room to work after eight years at home to provide insurance and income. He doesn’t know Joan who dealt with so many of the kids challenges that he never knew about. He doesn’t know Joan who went back to school after 20 years to get her master’s degree. He doesn’t know Joan who cried and cried in disbelief and feelings of helplessness when their son dealt with addiction. He doesn’t know Joan who celebrated every business victory right by his side. I guess I will spend the rest of our lives teaching him who he fell in love all over again with.
So many people ask me if we had to relearn about each other or was it there in his subconscious. I find it ironic that Scott has the mannerisms that used to drive me crazy—some of those could have gone with the memory loss! You see he would make this sound by sucking in his mouth through his teeth that seems to let me know that he is annoyed or frustrated—usually by something that I am doing. Also he still gets frustrated by traffic or having to turn around the car because he missed a turn or we need to go back for something. The same goes for me as well, if I do something that use to annoy him prior to the head injury—it still does. I pick at my cuticles—nervous habit, I guess, and this still drives him crazy. So even if he doesn’t have his memory of me doing something the same thing drives him and me crazy. That is why he seems “no different” to most people because he walks, talks and responds like Scott always did just don’t “say remember the time”……
Scott and I were going to Oceanside, CA. to go to the boat. I asked him if he wanted to stop in San Diego and get something to eat and walk around a little before we go to the boat. We had our dog, “Mocha” a four year old chocolate lab with us and it would be nice to walk around with her after a six hour drive. I had not been in the area were ended up in years. probably since our daughter Taylor was 4 or 5. I knew the basic lay of the land but not exact directions or specific roads to take to the coast or food. Scott took a right off the main road. He had seen a sign that said “beaches” and pointed this way, I did not see the sign and I really only knew that we just kept on the main road to the beach area and where I knew. The direction we were heading I vaguely knew and we were both tired –mostly Scott since I napped on the way here and he had been driving since 5am.
Prior to Scott’s head injury, Scott and I would embark into unknown areas all the time when traveling trying to find a new unique place to eat or explore. But this was different for Scott; this was an unfamiliar journey creating anxiety for him that I was not aware of at the time. It was not so much of not having a plan but the “unexpected results” that concerned him in the new area. What could concern him? As a nurse I learned that the more we could prepare a patient by giving them information the more we could decrease their anxiety of the “unknown.” How could I not see that same pattern or need for Scott? I even wrote my master’s thesis on preparation of preoperative patients and how it decreases their anxiety. Wow, I am missing the obvious—it is just that Scott looks normal, sounds normal, acts normal but he has NOTHING NORMAL to rely on to reduce anxiety–no memory. How can I not see this and help him? I am going to be more aware that he needs that simple “here’s what to expect” talk when we are doing new things
As I laid in the hospital bed after my head injury I felt that my son Grant was almost too emotional for the situation. I didn’t feel like I was going to die so why was he so distraught? I was also curious about this much tearful emotion coming from my son; I felt that it was almost like he was hiding guilt for some reason. Upon returning home Grant went back to his apartment and was more or less not around a lot and I thought this was strange why was he so concerned at the hospital then not around? Next, I observed mood and health changes in Grant. Grant complained often of stomach aches or not sleeping well. At the family Christmas celebration, Grant was not happy and responded almost mad about the gifts he received. I did not know what to expect from Christmas or how people responded to it but I felt that they would be happy with a gift. I had seen shows and commercials on TV that showed Christmas celebrations and the joy people got when they received gifts and that was not Grants reaction. I wondered, what was with him? When my niece and her husband came over with their two small boys he noticed Grant withdraw even more and had little interaction with the very engaging children.
Joan told me the day following Christmas she takes the Christmas decorations down except for the tree in preparation for Taylor’s birthday—no combo celebrations—whatever that meant. Grant came over to help remove the exterior lights on the house. He once again complained of feeling sick and was noticeably pale. The lights were going to be replaced with new lights next year that Joan bought on sale. The job of taking the lights downs did not need to be carefully done since they were going to be thrown away. Remember we live in Arizona and the weather is a balmy 75 degrees and this was to be an easy job. Grant seemed to be very agitated that the lights did not come off the house easily and he began to swear and rip them off the house. I said I would rather risk getting onto a ladder 2 weeks after my head injury then see him show our neighbors his tantrum. He got down off the ladder and went inside the house to lie down and let me do the job in excruciating pain and risk of injury. Once he calmed down he came out and finished the job. I didn’t know much but I felt like I would have never allowed my dad to risk getting on a ladder if he was in my state and thank God Joan did not know this had occurred. What was wrong with him? How could my only son be so selfish and care so little after crying so hard at the hospital? The last straw was Joan kept “misplacing” my pain pills she would say while she was cleaning up my pill must have gotten put in the back cabinet or behind the plant out of sight. I had to ask Joan either I have a drug problem or more likely my son does cause his moods and behaviors are unlike anyone else and don’t make sense. That’s how I found out about Grant.
Yesterday I attended a board meeting for the Brain Injury Association of Arizona as a prospective board member. The meeting lasted for nearly 2 hours and at the end of the meeting I was asked to stay back and talk to the Director. The Director who is a very kind and gentle person told me that she had something that she needed to bring up to me and discuss. I come to find out that the reporter who did an article about my story had called her because he received a letter from a someone who wrote derogatory things about me and said that I was faking my injury to get out of pending lawsuits and he felt the need to contact this director to ask her for her opinion on whether or not she felt that she knew me enough to know if I was faking this injury. Long story short, the director of this association had informed him that my intentions were genuine and that in no way did she feel that I was faking or trying to gain something by this injury.
On the ride home after this meeting I suddenly started to feel embarrassed and confused as to why somebody would feel this way about me enough to write a reporter who did a story about me and my family and humiliate us in the way. Now the hard part, I had to tell my wife what had happened after the board meeting and watch the reaction of pain and amazement that covered her face. Not only was this person attacking me but they were also attacking my wife and children. Joan and I talked about who this could be and Joan knew exactly who this was.
I am starting to realize that not everyone is going o be sympathetic to my injury and condition and that some people are going to do whatever they feel to try and hurt you more than you already are. All I can say is that I did not ask to fall and I certainly did not ask to have a traumatic brain injury resulting in retrograde amnesia. For anyone to think that this is some kind of free ride I am taking, my response to them is I have not earned an income in over 10 months and my family has suffered both financially and emotionally over this accident. Being involved in a lawsuit in aviation is not a matter of if you are going to be sued it is a matter of when. My inability to recall memories is only hurting my case in my lawsuit and in no way has it helped me or benefited me financially. I guess I better get used to the idea that there will always be people out there who will try to hurt you and put you down when you are going through a rough time in your life. Joan stated it best that “She is thankful that I do not remember this evil person that somehow entered our lives”. I can only hope that this person can somehow find happiness inside of their miserable existence.
One of the questions that I get asked frequently since my accident in December of 2008 is “Do You Remember What Food Tasted Like?” my answer is NO. When I was in the hospital my wife Joan would fill out the daily menu form that was supplied in the morning and she would order my food for the day. I had no idea what she ordered but I did not question it in any way because my wife of 25 years knew me best. With having retrograde amnesia I recognized types of food from watching countless hours of television but had no idea of what food tasted like. In June of 2008 I had lap band surgery because I was very overweight and until my accident I had lost nearly 80 pounds and my diet had changed considerably since the surgery. No longer were the days of eating large amounts of food now my meal consist of about a cup of food at each meal. In the hospital I would eat mostly eggs in the morning, soups for lunch and chicken of some sort for dinner. When I got home from the hospital is where I rediscovered what food tasted like.
I can remember being at home and looking in the refrigerator and pantry and wondering what these food items were and what did they taste like. Joan was still preparing my meals since I was in so much pain and taking pain medication every 4 hours I would eat small meals so that I would have something in my stomach each time I took pain medicine to avoid an upset stomach. I would eat oatmeal every day in the morning because it was easy to swallow seeing that my stomach was now the size of a racquetball and the restriction required foods that are eay to swallow. For lunches and dinners is where I would start experimenting with foods. There were so many choices in our house from deli meats to fruit and cereals all of which I had no idea what they tasted like. I remeber wanting to try everything I could to see what I liked and what I did not enjoy. After the first week of being home we started going out to restaurants and I would tell Joan to order for me what I would normally order so that I knew I was getting something that I liked in the past. We always went to the same restaurants so that I felt comfortable in my surrounding because at this time the world was still new to me. I soon realized that I still enjoyed most of the foods that I did in my previous life but I felt the need to try everything because I had not experienced it before.
Soon after I started ordering my own food at the restaurants we visited and Joan would always tell me that I would have ordered that same dish before the accident so that made me feel better, like I was still my normal self. I did go to a Jewish deli with one of my Jewish friends and ordered liver pate and he said to me “are you sure you want to order that because that seems pretty jewish and I am not sure if you will like it” I ordered it anyway and I must admit it was pretty tasty but I would never order it again.
So, the one thing I will always wonder is “does food taste the same to me as it did before my accident?” I may never know the answer to that question but I will enjoy trying new foods and try to expand my taste for life.
The memories I have of playing college and professional football are no longer with me but new memories of what it must have been like are what I try to rebuild. These 7 years of college and pro-football must have formed who I am as a man in so many ways that I will never understand. I watch the HBO show called “Hard Knocks with the Cincinnati Bengals” and I can only imagine that this is how my life was throughout my football career. As I watch this show I wonder how things are different now compared to over 25 years ago, I am told ny close friends that I played with that there is not much of a change in the game as far as training goes. I watch with amazement as the work ethic of these professional players unfolds in their daily workouts.
The wear and tear that their bodies goes through on a daily basis and why I should not be surprised why my body feels the way it does every day. Being on the Board of Directors of the NFL Alumni Association Arizona Chapter I see first hand the quality people that come out of this game and the accomplishments and the failures we all learn by. I know that by being part of an organization such as the NCAA and the NFL allowed me to further my education both on and off the field of play to become what I no longer remember. I have to say I may not remember the game that I played but I am proud of what the game has made me.