as I was walking in the frozen food section in Publix on Wednesday; I encountered a lady by the name of “Mrs. Ann; ” I believe our making the other’s acquaintance may be a blessing in my life. I hope that I will make her belief true that I am a blessing in her life, as well. When I was walking down the aisle, a “lil’ old lady” was helplessly looking up at the ice cream bars, and when she noticed me, I smiled genuinely.
At the same time, she said, “Will you please help me?” I responded with a cheerful, “Yes ma’am.” She said that she looked after an elderly lady, and the lady loved to eat the popsicles that she was looking at…the friendly woman then asked if I would please get her 2 boxes because she could not reach them.
I laughed, looking at the difference in our height, and said, “Ma’am…I am literally inches taller than you, but I will try to reach them.” I proceeded to climb the freezer, which is a very normal occurrence for me when I want to get something down from somewhere I cannot reach by standing on my tip toes.
After I handed the ice cream/popsicles to her, and she thanked me again…we continued to walk the opposite direction. I stopped in the aisle to retrieve something from a freezer, and I looked toward the lady. She caught my eye, and began walking toward me and said, “Would you mind helping me, again?” I replied that I would not mind, and started to backtrack in her direction.
Once more, I fetched what she was wanting, and upon handing it to her; she thanked me genuinely. I do not remember how the two of us began chatting; but we talked to one another a good 15-20 minutes.
She was telling me about the elderly lady she looked after. The elderly lady was 88 (this woman must be in her 70s), and showed the signs of early dementia. Eventually, I learned that the lady with whom I was chatting is named ‘Ann,’ and she is from Boston. She is the mother of 6 children…her last name is difficult to say, so she informed me that everyone called her “Mrs. Ann” and I was welcome to do the same.
Mrs. Ann began telling me about a coffee shop in the city where we were shopping, and asked if I would like to have coffee with her one day. I replied that I would love to have coffee with her. She then gave me her cell phone number (after she looked on the back of the phone to make sure she wrote it down correctly, because she had the number taped to the back of the phone). I then, asked her to write down my number, and her eyes widened with wonder/amazement.
Mrs. Ann told me that her son who lives in Tennessee and he pays for the phone, so that is why the exchange (area code) is not an Alabama one. I just phoned her, and there was no answer…I could not leave a voice mail because she had not set it up yet!
Hopefully, I will be able to talk to her, soon. I plan to meet her for coffee/lunch, and I will set up her voice mail box. I’m sure that she was not able to save my number in her phone (something I should have done–D’OH), and that is why she did not answer. I hope to be able to speak to her…she needs a friend. We hugged one another, first upon her asking…then the next two times, because I initiated it. I love “old people.”
Baby’s, Children, Old People, Animals…I love them all. It is the people in between I am not so fond of (so, people who are MY age…I jest. Well, kind of)!
Distractions are not good for me, especially considering my “mental issues.” Since the TBI, I haven’t been able to multi-task often; and when I can multi-task…things must be simple, without background noise(s), or distracting shiny objects (I am not trying to make a joke; rather, I am überly serious).
Tonight, as I was cooking dinner, HUD informed me that our friend Rae, was going to come by for a few minutes. Because HUD prepared me, I was not at all surprised when she appeared at our open front screen door and walked in.
She was waving and Rae was smiling broadly right before she opened the door and stepped inside. I returned the happy gesture, and smiled at her while gesturing for her to “come on in!”
Rae walked in the front door, and over to me in the kitchen as I was standing in front of the (gas) stove, frying pork chops and boiling ears of corn. I had HUD roll up croissants and put them into the oven (I realize that is a strange combination…but my love asked for the canned croissants). All I had left was to finish frying the okra, and we would have dinner ready to eat when the croissants were finished cooking.
[I think I had water on the stove to get ready to boil for INSTANT mashed potatoes (the brand I buy is actually good. Still, I prefer the real thing, as I planned to purchase real potatoes when I ventured out to go grocery shopping the following day).]
HUD had gone to the restroom, leaving Rae and me in the kitchen with the Princess and Mr. Whiskey. Rae was saying “hello” to Coco and Whiskey as they were excitedly jumping at her feet. She and I were talking to one another about mundane things when I started removing the okra from the iron skillet and putting it onto a paper towel in a covered, glass, dish.
I then began to take the remaining FROZEN breaded okra, and I dumped it all into the frying pan (it was pre-battered, and frozen/stuck together–I didn’t see any use in trying to pry it apart any more than I had already done with the first pan; so I put the ice block of breaded okra into the iron skillet to fry it). I thought nothing of it because I was too focused on conversing with Rae.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this story…I should only concentrate on one thing at a time–especially because I had never cooked FROZEN fried okra previously. The remaining FROZEN okra was stuck together in a big block of coldness.
I proceeded to dump the entire block of FROZEN breaded okra into the iron skillet…of course, within 2 seconds, a large flame ignited. The flame rapidly began a mini indoor bonfire!
As I immediately started to pull the skillet off of the eye; in the same instant, I thought better of it, and began to push the skillet back onto the eye of the stove with the potholder I was present in mind enough to obtain from the nearby drawer. I do not really recall this, but hearing Rae’s recollection of the events causes me to be able to tell this story correctly.
Rae tells this part of the story much better than I feel I will relay it here. She says as the skillet was beginning to travel off of the stove, I was pushing it back (a larger flame had begun to dance in the skillet by now). Rae says that she was watching the skillet inch closer to the edge of the stove, and I just kept pushing it back onto the eye. Rae says that she was thinking:
“WHY WILL IT NOT STAY ON THE STOVE!?”
Rae says as she stood there, witnessing the fire actively start a mini-inferno from the skillet; she was watching in awe/horror, as she was thinking;
“Brandy, just push it back onto the eye! Don’t let the pan fall onto the floor…the whole kitchen is going to catch on fire, then!” (SIC)
As she was standing helplessly behind me; I was expecting Rae to swoop in and save me from the impending horror. Sometime while this was going on, HUD had stepped back into the kitchen. Neither of us women could say anything to HUD; we were both so horrorstruck, that we continued in our quest of doing nothing and saying nothing; yet, assuming that the other person was going to swoop in and save the day, er…night!
By about the third time the skillet, had inched itself forward, I decided to give up my quest and allow it to migrate to the floor. The skillet swiftly fell onto the linoleum floor…
and as Rae reminded me, it was a good thing that the iron skillet fell with the bottom facing up and the contents of the pan on the trapped on the floor underneath it, else we would have had a much larger problem…A FIRE!
As the skillet fell; the fire was actively burning. I watched helplessly, and sort of dumbstruck, as gravity encouraged the pan to travel lower. Even more absurd, I watched it as the fire was still ablaze inside, and I thought:
“Well, it’s hot, and I do not want to burn my face if I pick it up…maybe it won’t burn the linoleum too badly. If it does, HUD is wanting to remodel the kitchen, anyway.”
I assumed that if I were to pick up the skillet; the fire would blaze back up and this time into a much larger area…and burn not only my face but Rae’s face as well. I recall HUD being in the room while this was happening, and he stepped toward the skillet…I thought, “Oh, phew. A man…he’ll take care of this.” Not even one second later, I realized that HUD did not have a way to pick up the skillet (plus, that thought is completely dissimilar to my beliefs).
HUD was standing about 3-4 feet away from the drawer where the pot holders are kept; it was then, I became cognizant of the fact that I WAS STILL HOLDING A POTHOLDER! So, I proceeded to pick up the pan. I felt as if I were a superhero; I admit that I heard a super-hero score resounding in my brain. I was a bit disappointed when HUD &/or Rae did not cheer or at least give me a round of applause when I accomplished the task, and”saved the day;” which made me that much more confused that HUD nor Rae were as excited (relieved) as I was.
This was truly a moment where everything seems as if it is happening incredibly quick, yet the occurrences feel as if they are being dragged through used motor oil as it is happening. My friend, Rae, helped me clean up MY mess before she left. I will forever be grateful to her for that. I do remember telling her that it was not her responsibility to clean up my mess; her reply was something akin to, “Hey, it’s no big deal…I am not going to allow you to pick this up all alone. I mean, I was watching the pan fall!”
Rae stayed a few more minutes…as the two of us were giggling and recounting the events to HUD. I was thanking her, and she was telling me that she did nothing! She insisted that all she had done was prepare to witness the impending fire that we both knew was coming.
I now recall that friend helped me with sewing more than he did cooking in Home Ec….cooking was my female friends mostly). (Only now as I am writing this, the following morning, do I remember that I was cooking the okra with olive oil! Not that it matters now.)
Throughout all of this hub-bub; our babies were staying out of the way. It is only after Rae & I cleaned (even if I was insisting that she leave the mess to me), that they decided to try to eat what I missed when I was sweeping the floor. Needless to say, HUD’s and my appetites were missing when we were settled down enough to eat. So, all of that was for nothing.
I now understand what people say when an ignorant accident occurs by insisting;
“It all happened so fast!”Lessons learned:
Do not buy pre-made/pre-battered vegetables (even if the vegetables are not able to be found at a curb market or in a friend’s garden because they are not “in season”).
Friends will understand if I seemingly ignore them while I’m focusing on something…especially if the thing in which I am doing involves FIRE!
Every time I clean something; be prepared for HUD or myself to dirty it up within a couple of hours (I had just mopped the linoleum in the kitchen and the floor in the living room/hall, as well as the bathrooms earlier today. HUD had walked on the WET kitchen/utility room floors prior to the incident described in this blog).
Rae is a great friend. I guess you had to be here to understand what prompts me to say that so often in this text.
Yes, HUD, I did write the story and recount what happened; get used to being married to a writer!
“TBI HOPE AND INSPIRATION MAGAZINE, 2/16 (ONLY PARTIAL BECAUSE MY COMPUTER AND I CAN’T SEEM TO GET SOME THINGS RIGHT)
Welcome to the World of Traumatic Brain Injury
By Jennifer White
As a little girl, I played with dolls and dressed them like a mother would. I would also carefully pick out a few other dolls and called them the mother’s children. I dressed the mother and her children how I thought a mother and children should look and, oh yeah –I added a puppy in the mix that I named Hershey!
As long as I can remember, I always wanted children. I dreamed of how I would dress them, where I would take them, and the hobbies I would encourage. Then, on July 28, 2000 the dream of having a child changed for both my husband and I, after I had a massive stroke, brain surgery, and a comprehensive stay in rehabilitation where I had to relearn all the rudimentary skills I learned as a child…how to walk, talk, swallow, eat, make a bed, boil water, and push things forward. In rehab, I learned how to push my own wheelchair forward, walk with the aid of a walker, nourish my frail and stick-like body with food that I struggled to eat,and perform light housework. I went from being a VP for a top nonprofit fundraising company to a permanently disabled person.
(WOMEN SHOULD NOT WORK OUTSIDE THE HOME) After the stroke, I learned to live in the world of the disabled. While you are waking up,having your first cup of coffee and remembering the things you might have forgotten over your holiday break, there is a disabled person with a traumatic brain injury who is nursing a sleep hangover, putting on his/her adaptive equipment, and trying to remember what goes first: breakfast or lunch, shoes or socks, shampoo or conditioner. While you are driving to work, a disabled person is struggling to hold his/her child without dropping the baby. Please don’t forget that there are people in the world that are not like you (EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE “LIKE YOU”): someone who might need a hand tying their shoes or just hearing the word “hello”.
Before I had an acquired brain injury (ABI), I did not understand what brain damage was like. After the brain injury I was challenged with getting dressed in the morning without falling, walking without veering to the right or left (MORE THAN 50 YEARS AFTER MY TBI, 40 DAY COMA, COMPLETE PARALYSIS…, I CANT WALK -WITH OR WITHOUT MY BRACES ON- WITHOUT DOING SO. BUT I RIDE MY BICYCLE 25-30 MILES A DAY WITH NO PROBLEMS) when my destination was straight ahead and learning that my future was in big part not completely up to me anymore. I had to let go of some of the control I so passionately struggled to get before my ABI.
Most importantly, I had to let people help me. Once thinking that asking for help was weakness, I now believe that there are people in my life that want to help me and now I let them. It feels much better to have allies in life than going it alone. After the brain injury, I lost my mother to cancer after losing my father to the same disease only a few years prior. My world was rocked and I lost the last of two very important people in my life. I am thankful every day that I have my husband to help me through this very difficult time. I was recently diagnosed with asthma, a relatively minor lung condition that had gone undiagnosed (sic) for years. I was sad that I could not call my mother and tell her how bad I felt or how scared I was before it was diagnosed. But I did have my husband who I rely on to support me when I am sick and well. I learned after the brain injury that it is okay to rely on people and is actually pivotal to healing.
Whether it is a friend, a family member, a relative, the clergy, a physician, or someone else. Let them in, let them help you. Life is unpredictable. I never thought when I was young that I would be on Medicare at age 37 and on long term disability at 37 years old…never experience motherhood, never be a grandmother…never see my children graduate from college, get married, have their own children. It is now my reality and a reality that I have had to accept over the last 15 years. It stings! It burns! But, I am still thankful I did not die when I was given a 4% chance of living. I have gained new skills (IT IS A DAILY CHORE TO LEARN THE NEW ONES THAT COME TO US UNBIDDEN) and have learned to appreciate things I once never noticed, and I love people more than I ever showed before the acquired brain injury.
Jennifer White is a traumatic brain injury survivor from St. Louis,Missouri. When she’s not writing about her life as a survivor, she enjoys spending time with her family and of course, quilting.“
My sense of confidence is completely back, I think. While in Las Vegas this year; I went to eat lunch by myself while HUD was tending to his work responsibilities, and the entire reason for our trip. It was lunch time, and after walking around the mall/casino of the hotel looking for a restaurant where I was in the mood to have lunch; I walked into a busy restaurant/bar all alone, and instead of asking the hostess for a table, I asked where the bar was (I could not see it, due to the fact that I am very short). I have always preferred the bar seating anyway, but I thought maybe I could watch TV and not be bothered by anyone.
The hostess informed me that the bar area was directly in front of me; I rolled my eyes, and gave a look of “DUH” and I thanked the girl. I then started walking toward the bar area. As I was looking around the bar for a place to sit, preferably one where no one would be prone to chit-chat with me (as with every thing else, I must have my full focus and concentration even when EATING, else I will just end up talking. I can not talk and eat…that is multi-tasking).
The bar area was full, too…I noticed three empty chairs. One of those seats was in between two men, and the other was beside a man. I chose the chair at the end of the bar, near the entrance to the kitchen. I decided on that seat because I would be less likely “hit on” or even chatted with.
Behind the bar, a 20-something guy came strolling out. I was immediately enamored with him, and could not get my manners to react to my brain telling my eyes to “look away.” He was short, he had dark hair, and his right arm was SLEEVED! That in itself was enough to make me stare at him.
He walked up to me sitting at the bar, handed me a menu, and asked if I wanted anything to drink. My insides fluttering, I was having a celebratory party in my head, because the extremely attractive man was my server.
Gaining control over myself; I ordered a Sprite (I could not fathom drinking alcohol before/at lunch–even in Vegas). He got me a Sprite, and I looked over the lunch menu while he gave me time to decide what I wanted to order to eat.
When he returned, I told him what I wanted to order. I do not remember now (I chose to write this post one month after HUD’s and my trip to Vegas), but the two of us made small-talk. It was not even 2 minutes after we began talking that I mentioned HUD. I guess I just wanted to put up a “CAUTION” sign before he said/did anything. I felt the need to let him know up front that I had a boyfriend, so I asked if he would help me talk my boyfriend into getting a sleeve.
After all, I’ve worked in the restaurant/ bartending business…I understand how bartenders are. And he was paying attention to me in the way I remembered guys looking at me when they are attracted. I did not want him to flirt…that in itself would have made me feel guilty. Guilty, because HUD was working…HUD flew me to Vegas; we were staying in a nice room overlooking the strip because of him, but if I allowed this bartender to flirt with me, I would be disrespecting HUD.
The bartender’s name is Chris (“I guess I can’t win for losing,” is what ran through my mind. My favorite male names, are; “James,” and “Christopher/CHRIS,” and I once loved the name, “Arthur.”). Chris was incredibly professional, I could sense that he was wanting to talk to me…but, thank God I mentioned HUD immediately. As I was waiting for my order to come out of the kitchen; Chris was very professional and only talked to me occasionally…it was a good thing I mentioned HUD so quickly, I decided.
When I returned to the hotel room, and HUD came back in from working, he asked what I had done that day. I told him that I had ventured out of the hotel and went to eat…I also told HUD about the bartender with the sleeve…and as we were looking for somewhere to eat a couple of days later, HUD suggested we go to that restaurant. I remember doing a remote for the restaurant when I worked in radio, and I thought, “GROSS!” I did not remember that I was not impressed with the food the day I went alone, but then it hit me, why HUD wanted to go to that restaurant (he will never admit it now).
Chris was working…he looked at me with HUD, and he did not act as if he remembered me. I thought it was because when he met me, I had styled my hair curly, yet this time it was styled straight. The more I tried to get eye contact when he neared us…the more I sensed that he was avoiding my eyes purposely.
HUD was also being nonchalant about meeting my new “friend”/ acquaintance. It was actually a little annoying; and at the same time, it made me feel the way I once did when I was young girl and a cocky, erm, confident, version of the woman I am now. I could not get Chris to look in my direction; so I simply got off of my barstool, and “confronted” him as he walked by us.
I said, “Chris…do you remember me? I was in here alone the other day, and I sat at the end of the bar.” Chris smiled at me, and said that he did remember who I am. I said something akin to, “I was wondering, because you seem to be avoiding me! This man is my unofficial fiancee, and I want you to convince him to get a sleeve! Remember?” Chris said that he did remember. I responded with something about me not bringing my boyfriend in so he could try to talk him into getting a sleeve, and that it was my man’s idea to come grab something to eat here because everywhere in the mall was covered up!
I went and sat back next to HUD…Chris came over to where we were sitting at the bar a few minutes later. I forget what he said to HUD, but he did tell him that HUD should get a sleeve because his girlfriend (me) LOVES them. HUD said, “Okay”, then that was the end of it. Chris walked off, HUD changed the subject. I know it is silly, but I felt like the confident Brandy I was before the brain injury. It was nice…
HUD is not going to get a sleeve. *sigh* Even if his soon-to-be wife LOVES sleeves/tattoos on men. Well, HUD is perfect for me/to me in most everything…I’m not going to complain. But, I am not going to stop mentioning it to him either. *I jest…*