Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

June 3, 2018

My Bag of Ways…

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:13 am

For some of us, there is no longer a way.  Plain and simple.  There is brain damage so awful that we cannot do many or any of the things we once did.

But for so many of us, there IS a way.  Yes, many times it is not the same way we knew.  It’s not the way we prefer.  It’s not even the easy way.

But there is a way.

Often the way is hiding behind “the old way” or “the only way” we knew.  We cannot find it because we allow ourselves to get stuck on and feel defeated by the old way and the distance between us.

I’ve been at this more than 20 years now and, in all that time, I’ve had to find new ways more than any days are countable.

Some of the new ways weren’t very pretty, mind you.  Many made me feel, at first, almost childlike in their simplicity.  Some of the new ways humbled me and embarrassed me, even.

Until I came to appreciate them.

Those ways.  Those glorious ways.

I’ve learned to embrace the ways.  However different.  However humbling.  However more difficult.  However more challenging.

As long as there are ways, I’m in the game.

And so are you.

Ways allow us to keep from falling too far behind.  They feed us with critical feelings of accomplishment and value which grow so large that they take up all the space once filled with embarrassment and, even, shame.

After I lost my career, I had to find ways to make money.  To work.  To succeed.  And I did.   I tried a lot of ways and more than I ever could have imagined.  The reward for challenging myself to embrace and to follow the new ways was an independent life, a new condo, a great relationship, the realized dream of publishing books, the ability to speak in public and so many more.  It taught me that the new ways were pretty powerful and equal to the task of improving and enriching my life.

Now I’m at it again.  I know I’ve mentioned how I’ve been dealing with this dizzy thing since before Christmas.  More specialists to come, trying to find whatever it is to fix.

In the meantime, I’ve had to dig into the bag of ways again.  Thank God, the bag is full.

Because I cannot work one of my jobs, I’m having to find new ways again.  New ways to develop skills.  New ways to accomplish work.  New ways to make money.  New ways to see my dreams come true.

At the end of the day, nobody cares how we do it.  Our embarrassment or shame is misplaced.  What matters is that we keep trying.  That we stay in the game.  That we are courageous enough to try new ways.  That we keep working the problem from every angle until we find one that we can solve, no matter what it looks like.

It may be smallish.  For example, I’m narrating my books now so they will soon be available on Audible.  For most narrators, they have the stamina to keep their voice and pitch and pace at an easy level for a long time.  Me, not so much.

With my brain injury, I tend to become flat after a short while when I read aloud.  It’s hard for me to read at all, really.  I cannot stay on the lines or follow the lines.   Not fun.  Not good stuff.

But it’s important to me.  It’s worth whatever ways I have to create.

I decided that, in order to get this done, I’m going to have to pause my narrating even after a couple paragraphs to keep my reading lively and engaged.

Not a fun way, no.  Not the easy way, not by a long shot.  It’s going to take me 73 years to read one book.  LOL

But it’s a way.  It’s a great way because it works.

I’m finding a way because I looked.  I’m making a way because I was determined to.  That’s, truly, all that matters.

My bag of ways is full.   How is yours?

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May 18, 2018

Getting Up For The Royal Wedding

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 12:39 pm

I saw some people post on FB that they couldn’t understand why anyone cares about the royal wedding.  They thought it ridiculous that anyone in the U.S. here would set their alarms for the 4:30 am coverage on a perfectly good Saturday morning.

I don’t mind being ridiculous.  :))

I’m getting up tomorrow morning for the royal wedding because, in part, time just keeps flying.  With a brain injury, most of us try so hard to create routines to help us stay efficient.  I know I do.

But, unfortunately, routines often keep us from enjoying any fun.  We structure our days with such rigid borders that our years continue to fly by without anything to show for them or any way to slow them down.

I believe that we slow down years when we are able to mark them as different, somehow.  When we add in a bunch of fun days and dates and adventures that keep each year from looking so much like the one before.

I’m 53 now and I cannot tell you where 47 went or what happened when I was 51.  Too many years seem like the same thing without much to mark them as unique.  As I get older, I’m recognizing an urgency to place my mark on these years so that I can recall them, differentiate them and look back to enjoy them.

I was a teen when Prince Charles married Princess Diana.  We were on vacation and my Mom and I got up early for the coverage while my dad and brothers slept.  Together we enjoyed a mother/daughter special moment that still warms me, especially now that she has been gone for 20 years.

These injuries of ours are so isolating.  It is both our burden and our opportunity to fight the loneliness and to balance the need for structure with the need for spontaneity.  The need to remind ourselves that we are still living.  That we are in the game!

Tomorrow morning won’t be a trip to the Bahamas or anything extravagant.    I won’t post pics of my morning on FB.  Trust me, nobody wants to see me in my pajamas.

But I’ll make some eggs and toast and hash browns and fresh coffee.  I’ll enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the royal wedding and get filled and thrilled with the wonderful, romantic feeling of the people there.  I will celebrate with them.

There are so many bad things on the news these days that we can get sodden with dismal.  I embrace, then, the kind of celebration that the royal wedding affords.  People cheering and dancing in the streets of Windsor.  All the extraordinary stories and history and, of course, the gorgeous women’s hats.  🙂

We all need to chase the good, wherever we can find it.

Just a reminder that we are alive, you guys.  🙂  We have to keep finding fun and making fun and enjoying ourselves, however that looks.  Why else would we have survived then?  Why bother having gone through so much if there isn’t good and light and fun and new for all of us?

We deserve it.

Wishing you all a little bit of ridiculous.  :))))  Love you.

 

April 23, 2018

Look Where You’re Looking

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:40 pm

In all the correspondence I have enjoyed with so many survivors over the years, the biggest complaint seems to be that their people don’t understand them and their injuries.

This is a frustration, for sure.  It’s exhausting to try and explain things that don’t even make sense to us, especially at the beginning.  I can remember so many people asking me so many questions that I had no answers for.  I’ll bet I made some shit up.  LOL

But, over the years, I have come to appreciate the fact that people cannot understand.  We have to keep from hoping that anyone we love will know this so intimately.  Only if they are injured could they know…

And, even then, their experience would be discreet to their damage and their bodies and their lifestyles.

That’s why we are here, you guys.  Together, all of us.  I get such a kick out of seeing the 100+ countries that this blog travels to.  Canada and Australia and the UK, a lot (hi, you guys!).   But also to Singapore and Mexico and Niger and Sweden.

Literally all around the world we go  :)))

We have to try to stop setting ourselves up for heartache and disappointment by hoping that all of our peeps will be able to fulfill all of our needs.  It cannot work that way.

To those whose people accuse them of lying or malingering or failing, in one or a hundred ways, I’d zip those people right out of my intimate places.  You don’t have to understand everything in order to believe the person experiencing it.

My people, God bless them, have come to know ME and to believe me!  In the absence of every answer that made sense, they simply took the time to know me and how I had changed and what that implied.   They didn’t need to know everything about our brains or even everything about my damage.  They just needed to figure out how to help me stay in the game and keep moving forward.

That’s all we can ask for.

Please don’t expect all your people to understand what this feels like.  Thank God they should never.

Take a good, hard look at those who would accuse you and steel yourself from continuing to go to them for something they cannot offer.

And then come on back here.  🙂  You, from New Zealand.  You, from South Korea.  You, from Ireland.

Come back where we are all here in our brain injured stew.  Pretty awesome, all  🙂

We may be threads alone, flinging and clinging…But, together, we all make up one great blanket that is meant to warm us all.

Can’t lose a one of you.

 

I love you guys.  xo

April 1, 2018

Informative Conversation

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 4:46 pm

I belong to a Facebook group for women who have suffered concussion and TBI.  One of the conversation threads really tore a scab off for me when the women were lamenting how so many of their spouses, kids and loved ones are so impatient and unforgiving when it comes to how much they forget in day-to-day activities.

It hurts, still, to recall how, when my dad would have another stroke, the hospital and rehab personnel would ask him what day of the week it was, what year and who the president was.

It didn’t upset me that he didn’t know the answers.  I didn’t feel impatient with him or irritated or embarrassed of him, like so many in the FB group recount.  Instead, I felt sick to my heart FOR him for, even in an advanced stage of cognitive damage, there was enough of him there to feel the shame at not knowing.

It breaks my heart still.

Until it starts happening to you, you cannot imagine the pains of embarrassment and vulnerability that come with the realization that you don’t have all the tools you used to wield easily.  Whether from age or injury or spreading condition, the stealing of our memory is a heartless, cruel thief.

For those of you struggling with loved ones who are intolerant of your problems with memory, I invite you to send them a copy of this blog and invite them to be a part of your SUPPORT GROUP that is willing to help ease and reduce such a painful part of our injuries.

Informative conversation is an on-going practice that keeps people with cognitive impairment “in the game” by using cues in everyday conversation.

Instead of fearing that and waiting for a brain-injured person to forget that son Timmy has his first baseball game on Tuesday, family members can help by inserting this information into everyday conversation for days leading up to Tuesday and throughout the day on Tuesday.

For example, they can say things like, “I wonder if Timmy is getting nervous for his big first game on Tuesday?”  or “Maybe we can take Timmy out for ice cream after his big first game on Tuesday” and “Do we need to figure out how Timmy is getting to his big game on Tuesday?”

In more severe cases of memory dysfunction, loved ones can help by integrating even more basic, centering facts into conversations.  With my dad, I used to start out my conversations with him saying things like, “On this wonderful Spring day in April, Dad, how are you feeling today?”  or  “With Christmas just two weeks away now, Dad, are you getting in the Christmas spirit?”

It’s easy to stand outside of us with our lousy memories, point out our short-comings and say, “There you go again!”

Anyone can do that.

But if support people and loved ones actually want to support and love, it would be great help if they would “get in the game” and actually be a part of a positive solution.  It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort or time and the difference can ease a lot of stress and aggravation in families.

If words matter then make what you say be helpful and supportive and easing to the person who is struggling.  By incorporating information into your sentences, you are GIFTING those of us who are exhausted by our struggles.  Please help instead of just pointing out that we are not who we once were.

It is already heart-breaking to know.

 

March 26, 2018

All Over Again…

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:21 pm

I think I mentioned in a blog or two before this one how I have been dealing with the dizzies, vertigo, imbalance and motion intolerance now since before Christmas.

I’ve been to a clinic, hospital, three specialists, hearing tests and five weeks of physical therapy.  From a crystal in my ear canal to finding out I also have an eye component to the problem and maybe a neurological one.  Got new glasses.  Now waiting for a neuro-ophthalmologist to see me.  Hoping for an MRI.

Already I have recognized how similar this feels to when I was brain injured.  I don’t have answers for people who tell me they’ve never heard of this before.  I don’t have answers for why it doesn’t happen when I sit or drive, only stand and turn and walk.

What started out as “surely a virus” and not really a big deal has turned into something that is scaring me some.   Out of the four or five somethings it could be, there are a couple that are serious.

So…when everyone went back to work after the holidays…When the time between diagnostic steps began to feel torturous…I recognized that it was that time again like so many of us have experienced with our brain injury recoveries.

Time to get busy.

When we are brain injured, or suffering anything, really, we tend to want our doctors to fix us up and we tend to put off everything until we are fixed.

When we suffer more complicated conditions, it’s up to us to get on with things so that we don’t fall too far behind in our lives.

When it comes to cures and comes to healing, my theory is always to welcome it, invite it and encourage it with no time component.  But, in the meantime, we have to force ourselves not to simply wait for that healing and fixing.  We have to get busy in the meantime.

I am researching my current condition all over the Internet and, more importantly, I’m really getting to know what is going on with me.  By that I mean, I’m paying attention to what makes me better and what triggers my imbalance and dizzies and full spins.

Whether it’s your brain injury or mine…whether it’s your flu or my dizzies…our bodies and our lifestyles make each condition very specific to us.

Recovering is different from healing.  I know now that I am not healing like I thought I might so, until I can get this thing fixed, it’s my job to recover.  Does that make sense?

Right now I can’t even take ten steps without feeling like I’m falling over my skis.  I find that I start walking like I’m on a boat, side to side, instead of forward.  I can barely walk twenty steps and I need to stop.  It’s dizzying and exhausting and sickening.

Today I told myself that I need to reteach my brain to trust my steps and not freak out and send the dizzy symptoms so I forced myself to walk several sets of more than I’ve been walking for months now.

Doctors have hundreds of patients each week.  Therapists see hundreds more.  We can be tempted to wait and wait for the diagnostic course to be finished but, in many complicated cases, that can take six months or more.

In the end, they are our bodies.  Our brains.  Our days.  While we are smart to wait to learn from our doctors and tests, we are also smart to learn from our bodies and our lifestyles.  I think it’s great to read and to do research and to gather.

But, at some point, it’s up to us to start solving our problems.

For me, I’m learning to not look up when I take a dish or mug down because it sets off full spins and makes me dangerous.  I’m measuring my turns.  I’m using furniture to steady me.

When everyone I know goes off to work now, I am utilizing my time when I can sit and not be dizzy.  I’m writing another book.

What problems can we still solve?  What problems are you solving now?  After six months with a brain injury or a year or five?  What’s left?  What are the challenges, still?

We can always get better.  No matter the windows of recovery that they tell us are closing.  We can get better at ourselves and our lives.  We can replace the waiting with the advancing and the improving and the new.

 

What problem are you working today?

 

February 17, 2018

For Parents I Admire And The Children They Love And Try To Protect

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:14 pm

Like many of you, I was sickened and saddened by the devastating school shooting this week in Florida.  When I heard, on the news, that there have been a dozen or more school shootings already in 2018, I was aghast.

Something one of the news anchors said inspired this blog.  He said something to the effect of:  Kids all over the country are talking about this on their phones, in their school parking lots and locker rooms, and out with their friends.

That scared me some.

If that scared me some, then I was mortified when, the next day, an 11 year-old was arrested for slipping a note under her principal’s door that threatened to shoot up her school.

You bet kids are talking to each other.

From my 20+ years of studying brain injury and our magnificent brains, one of the most critical treasures of information has to do with brain development and the ages at which we experience it.

I think it is valuable information as parents, all over the country, try to figure out how to address and whether to address this school shooting topic with their kids.

I was curious so I asked three strangers who were parents what their kids were saying about the school shootings.  Two parents said they don’t discuss those things because they are trying to shield their kids and the other one said she had a good kid who would “never get involved with something like that.”

Parents:  Your kids are ALREADY INVOLVED WITH SOMETHING LIKE THAT!

For parents who never taught their kids about the dangers of smoking, drinking, texting while driving or unprotected sex, your kids are gathering their information, nonetheless.  Same with school violence, bullying and mass shootings.

And, if those kids are left to learn about all these things from their friends, here is the brain development information I mentioned earlier:

Young people’s brains do not fully develop until their mid-twenties.  For some, their thirties.  Unfortunately, the critical part of the young brain not yet fully developed is the frontal lobe:  the part of the brain that manages impulse control, judgment, insight, and emotional control.  So when teens and college students engage in risky and/or irrational behavior, it’s not just that they don’t have the adequate life experience to know better, but, rather, their brains have difficulty assessing the possible consequences.

They need you.

True, kids may hear your lessons and speeches and go out and try pot, drinking and sex regardless.

But, if you are not in the game, most will find themselves in dangerous and, even, criminal situations without perspective and appreciation for the consequences.

They’re not thinking like us.  Not even if they are raised by the best, smartest parents in the world.  Not even if they come from a wealthy upbringing or attend the best private schools.

They simply cannot think like a rational, measured, composed adult who appreciates consequence fully if they are simply teenagers or college kids.

Please don’t think your kids “would never do that sort of thing.”  There are over a hundred sets of parents who never imagined their kid would shoot up a school.

No parents ever teach their kids to be cruel bullies or to rape or to assault or to murder.  But these things happen, now, commonly.

Beyond just telling them what you expect and telling them what’s wrong, it’s important to find out what they are thinking.  To GO TO THE PLACE WHERE THEY ARE IN THEIR BRAIN’S DEVELOPMENT and to understand how they are putting all this stuff together and why.

I’m sure most parents will spend ten times more hours helping their kids studying math and science and doing writing assignments.  But they can flunk a test and not spend the rest of their lives in prison.  They can mess up a class and not end up on the nightly news because they threw boulders off of highway bridges, gang-raped a classmate or torched a house.

Kids can’t be totally trusted to do the right thing and to think like a responsible, safe adult until their brains are fully developed.  The very area that controls all the dangerous choices they might make simply isn’t ready for that responsibility yet.

Please, for their sake and for yours and for the safety of our communities, please don’t think you’ve taught them enough about things you would, otherwise, take for granted.  They ARE going to learn, one way or another and we simply cannot afford to think we know how they are thinking just because it seems obvious to us.

We can’t stop every school shooting but I’m cheering for you to be the ones who re-dedicate themselves to understanding the brain’s challenges at this age of development.

PS  When those kids were holed up inside that school and terrified as they heard the shots fired, they texted their parents.  No one ever wants to imagine such a scenario but, in that possible instance, parents need to know what they are going to reply and they need to prepare their kids for how to shelter in place, silence their phones, etc.

I pray for you and your kids’ safety in such a troubled world.  Love you guys!

February 13, 2018

What Are We Telling Ourselves?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 4:04 pm

As I watch the Olympics, I am wowed, of course.  Wowed by the spins and the moves and the turns.  Wowed by the flippy flips in the air and the twirly twirls and whatever they call that awesome thing…

I am near-constantly awed by the imagined number of repetitions it must have taken for each of these athletes to perfect their craft.   This leap, that throw, this spin, that turn…

I can only imagine the size of their hearts.  These young people have worked, some for four years and some for 30 years, to achieve their moment.  Their Olympic moment.

How many times did they fall on their butts?  How many mornings, dark and freezing, did they roll out of bed?  How many times did they literally drag themselves out of the cold, off the ice, out of the snow…physically and mentally wasted?

Countless.

And during all those times.  All those lonely moments when that podium seemed a lifetime away and their dreams appeared to be dimmed by failure, by the size of the task, by the enormity of the mountain.  What did they tell themselves?

I can.

I can do this.

I will be better.

 

 

January 23, 2018

A Banana Pepper New Year

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 2:00 pm

It came on like I had been hit by a truck…A couple weeks before Christmas, at work, all of a sudden I was hit by an overwhelming sense of imbalance and dizzying unsteadiness.  It rocked me and scared the heck out of me.

For someone who has struggled with TBI balance dysfunction for more than twenty years now, even the slightest tweak to my still-whonkey balance system was enough to throw me sideways.

I made it through the holidays and, to be honest, I have no idea how.   The New Year and a visit from my cousin and then my birthday a week ago…

Still dizzy.

I had heard of many people having this so I imagined it a virus.  With the holidays, I just couldn’t deal with anything other than that so I figured out what helped and what didn’t and started to adjust.  Right after Christmas I went to a clinic.  Young and inexperienced, the woman couldn’t really appreciate how my walking is abnormal to begin with.  She was horrified and got right on the phone and called the hospital.  She told me I could phone a friend or she would call an ambulance but I was going.

There was cursing.

The hospital said I probably have crystals in my ear canal in the wrong places but that they didn’t fix that.   They said to try the meds I’d been on but to do them 3X as much.  After that didn’t work, I went to an ENT.  Two doctors said I did not have the crystals and we’d have to figure this out.  They put me through a battery of tests and they said my brain injury showed up in many.  Beyond that, they concurred that yes, indeed, I did have the crystals.   Off to therapy, they suggested.

Today it is exactly a month since I was able to work.  I have recognized in myself what I had long forgotten…that slow adjustment and adapting to a new reality.  The process I had gone through all the years ago after my brain injury didn’t get fixed month after month…

It’s lonely and isolating.  It’s frustrating.   We all know.  I’ve done the exercises I found on youtube and I’ve tried everything anyone has suggested as helpful.  Each day there are good and bad parts.  Kind of like brain injury living, really.

Although my peeps have been so supportive and helpful through this, there’s not much more to say when it’s gone on this long.  We’re all just trying to keep our hopes up and work the problems and plan for better.

I have fought to keep my spirits up and I have promised myself that this new year will not continue on like the old one ended.  I’m unwilling to accept this as permanent, even given how many people have piped in to tell me they’ve had this for 40 years and more.  What?????!!!!!!!

In honor of my personal determination to find answers and to keep seeking cures, I promised myself that I would change the new year.  I went to SubWay and ordered a whole different sandwich and asked for them to put banana peppers on it.

Take that!

LOL

Tomorrow I will make it to the therapy place two minutes from my house.  I will throw myself at their feet and plead for help.  So far, it has been days and weeks of waiting for appointments and results and next steps.  In between is the day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute struggle of living with an unsteady world all around me.

So I just wanted to send a shout out. I didn’t write during the holidays.  Didn’t get any cards out.  Not much great functioning.  But I wanted to say hello and to offer up that this is banana pepper day!!!

All of us fight the slow-slipping comfort of how we once were.  Maybe it’s as acute as brain injury.  Maybe it is as subtle as simple aging.  In any event, we all must choose to battle.  To throw down the gauntlet and to determine that we can make a good difference.  We can improve things.  We don’t have to just give up and accept things, even in the face of long, listless recoveries.

So here’s to you and here’s to me.  Here’s a finger in the eye of surrender.  Here’s to rallies and strategies and trying every new thing.

Here’s to banana peppers on a sandwich in the new year.   To all of us.  Hooo-Rah!!!!!!

December 28, 2017

Excited To Share My News!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 4:36 pm

Couldn’t wait to share my news with you!  In the last few years, I’ve been focused on making sure that I was keeping in the game, investing in my recovery, trying not to get old and stale…

A lot of times with brain injury, we forget that, while healing might dwindle after days and weeks and months, recovering can continue throughout our lifetimes.

We just have to keep feeding the recovery!

For me, recovering has been about daring myself out of my comfort zone.  It’s so easy to rely on our brain injuries to keep us from anything new.   Often we fall into our safe places and we stay there and, slowly, we become afraid.  Afraid of things.

It’s like the person who doesn’t drive on the freeway for a while.  After too long, it becomes a scary thing to do and it’s too easy to just keep safe and slow on the backroads.

I knew that, for me, it was time to buckle up and hit the road again!

I’m so proud and excited to release my newest book, “Every Star You Can See Is A Star You Can Be!”

The book is geared toward young people just starting to think about who they might be and how they might identify their particular skills, talents, gifts and potential.  It’s a fun, interactive book that helps them to begin to find the perfect match of what they are good at with what they enjoy most.

I wanted to share it with you guys because you are always a part of my journey.  All these years later and I take you everywhere with me.  🙂

Maybe the book connects with me because, for those of us with brain injury, we have to restart again and we have to rediscover our talents and gifts and match them with, often, new things we like and are able to do.

We’re coming into a New Year and God Bless all of us, we are still here.  Stumbling some, maybe.  But fighting on.  Rallying.  Achieving.  Creating new lives from the ruins of those that no longer fit like they did.

I hope you’ll join me in embracing the idea that, Every Star You Can See Is A Star You Can Be!   I believe that with every best bit of me.  I believe that in every one of you.

Happy New Year, all.  I love you guys.  May you reach out from your comfort zones and dare new dreams this new year.  You are already stronger than you imagine and stronger than any I’ve met.  Treat yourself to a great new year.

Go Be Amazing!!!!

Available on Amazon

Every Star You Can See…: Is a Star You Can Be!
by Kara L. Swanson et al.
Link: http://a.co/1392HEZ

December 3, 2017

The Toilet Flushes And The Screaming Starts

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 1:25 pm

The toilet flushes and the screaming starts.  This tells me it is Saturday or Sunday.

She hasn’t yet made the coffee too weak or too strong.  She hasn’t yet cooked the eggs medium when she knows he likes them sunny-side up.  She hasn’t yet burned the toast or forgotten the marmalade he likes.  That will come soon enough.

But, for now, the toilet flushes and the screaming starts.  It has gone on now a year.  A year that I know of.  It could be ten for her.  There is a child between them, after all.

“Call the police!”  I hear.  It is easy from outside.

But they don’t realize how she’ll pay for that call.  I do.  I know this close.

The officer comes and he’ll call the officer “Sir”.  He’ll tell him that the TV was on and that there was shouting on the movie he was watching with her.

The officer will ask, “Are you OK, ma’am?” and she will be scared.   Her eyes will plead with the officer:  Take him!  Please help me!  Take him away!

But she’ll tell the officer that everything is fine here.  And so he will leave.

He will blame her for that.

Even if they arrest him, he will return.  He will blame her then, too.  No matter how long they keep him, she knows he will find her again.  She knows.

The toilet flushes and the screaming starts.

I know the house is clean.  I heard the vacuum last night at midnight.  The scrubbing.  The hopeless dusting.

What could have happened, I ask myself, in that two seconds between the flushing and the screaming?  How could there be so much to scream about already this morning and the one before that?

What could possibly have made him THAT mad in the waking seconds of any morning?

He smiles at me, sure.  He asks me how things are going.  He is smooth, you know.

But, when they moved in, they dragged armfuls of clothing and belongings that had been thrown into a car seemingly in a hurry.   I remember wondering about that back then.

That was before the flushing and the screaming started.

Right after Christmas, it was.  The ground was sloggy that day, vulnerable underneath my long-suffering lawn that I’ve tried so hard to revive.

As the son dragged armful after armful of haphazard clothes and belongings across my poorly lawn, I politely asked him to please use the sidewalk.  I barely could explain how the lawn is vulnerable when his dad appeared in a flash, demanding to know what I was doing addressing his son.

Fire in his eyes.

A red flag took aim inside me.

I cannot save her, I know.  This is tough for me.  All the flushing and the screaming.   How many times can you call the police, knowing he will blame her as soon as they leave?

Blame her like the toast and the coffee and the eggs…

There’s no other neighbors around me whom he might assume would call the police.  Only me below.  He scares me too.

He’s not there all the time so I know she could leave.  She does not.  When he is gone, she could flee.  Call the police, a shelter, a friend or family.

Get out!  I scream, myself.  Get out before it’s too late!

She does not.

This happened before, just down the way.   Same situation.  Same asshole with a different face.  Same twisted belief that he owns her somehow.  That he rules her.  That she deserves to be constantly corrected and fixed and punished.

We called the police that time.  We called again.  We called and we called.

He killed her, he did.  He killed himself too.  And a young son grows up now as they hide the press clippings.

This one above me…she must save herself, I know.  She must realize she’s had enough in that hair-thin window of time before he does.

She must save herself somehow.  I pray she can.

Before the toilet flushes and there is only silence.

 

 

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