In which Jess surrenders, is the Warrior, waxes philosophical, and I lose my marbles

Day 12 – Friday, April 5, 2013

Day 10, our first day at home since the accident, began with Jess and I sitting together to determine a schedule.  Still the practical teacher, I do love to sit down and make a lesson plan. Occupational Therapy includes life skills, and Speech therapy includes cognitive skills, so I dictated our daily schedule while Jess captured it in an Excel spreadsheet on his computer.  He did great.  He made his own lunch, and he did a little physical exercise.  We also had a wicked game of Battleship (Jess won, despite the fact that I was ahead for the majority of the game.)  These kinds of every day things are the focus for now, with additional cognitive work as we are guided.  So far, we are not seeing any cognitive or speech problems at all.  He is still physically a little slow, which is good.  He needs to move like a turtle until his head heals, which should take 3 months.

The next medical hurdle is weaning Jess off of his seizure medication.  This happens in the next few days, with us watching him very carefully and preventing bright lights and loud noises.  I’m nervous about this one, having worked with kids who had epilepsy.  Jess has been able to watch movies, look at his computer screen and phone, and listen to some music, although we don’t let him listen too loud.  I hope we have not been lulled into a false sense of security by all of the things that Jess appears to be able to do.

I can see his frustration building.  Every time he wants to do something from his old life and I have to say “That’s not a good idea right now,” I can only think how sucky it is to be under your mom’s care after being somewhat independent as a freshman in college.  I’ve reflected a lot on his life since this happened, and I remembered a time when Jess was maybe 10 months old and got stuck under the stereo cabinet; he had to listen to my instructions and follow them EXACTLY to get out, which he did, to the letter.  If he had the good sense then to so keenly follow my directions, perhaps he will now, too.  I am explaining the severity of his injury to him now, that he seems to be out of the immediate danger, the things that could have happened, the things that still could.  But I ache for the loss of his freedom.

Day 11, yesterday, began with big Jess tears.  I think the experience finally built up enough in him and his anger defense gave way as the dam broke, and it washed through him like a cleansing tide.  I just held him and listened to him talk, my giant 19-year-old man/child, and held him some more.  He apologizes now every day, especially when he sees me cry.  He feels awful that his decision not to wear a helmet has created such huge consequences.  We keep trying to put it in perspective.  You lived.  You are going to have a 100% recovery.  Yes, it will take 6 months to a year before you can be independent again.  But you are still here.  We were all waiting to see when it would catch up with him when he would be well enough to realize what he’s been through.  I am relieved to see him cry, as painful as it is to witness.  I believe expressing emotion is healthy and that it should be encouraged, and that tears can be cleansing.  He has more color in his skin now than since the accident.

We headed off to Gainesville to have the “50 Staples” as we affectionately call them pulled from Jess’s head.  There’s something significant about the fact that there are exactly 50 staples…I looked it up (surprise!)

Here’s a few things that I found:

  • 50 = infinite transformation, infinite evolution. it is the number of the magician.
  • The number 50 resonates with the term ascended master.
  • According to Eckartshausen, it is the number of “the spiritual ascension to the intuition, the number of the illumination”.
  • Considered as “the holiest and the most natural of numbers, because it equals to the sum of the squares numbers 9+16+25 constructed on the sacred triangle of Pythagoras (3, 4 and 5) and also to the product of 5 x 10 of the pentad and the decade, numbers of the generating Life and the World-Harmony, the Microcosm and the Macrocosm”.
  • Number of the joy and the feast, according to the Bible.
  • Symbolize the “total” man.

The way I have been looking at the massive incision and staples (besides the Franken-Head comment) is as a tribal marking, like something that would be painted on the head of a warrior who is going to battle.  Jess has indeed been through a battle, and he has the scars to prove it.  We had all joked nervously over the last week about the staples being taken out, and we thought there would be some pain, so assumed anesthetic would be used.  When the nurse practitioner came in with the pliers used to crimp and pull the staples out, she explained there would be none.

That’s when I saw my son put on the face of a warrior, setting his jaw and knitting his immense brows.  He squared his shoulders and said, “Let’s go.”  I had given myself permission to look away, but then I felt my heart answer his courage in solidarity and I watched every one come out.  If he could have it done to him, I could bear to watch it.  It hurt him, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.  As I watched Jess FEEL the pain (he didn’t have to feel the pain from the fall and the surgery, but this he had to FEEL), I found myself being willed to stomp my foot on the ground.  Down, down into the earth.  Fight back, be here, embrace the pain because it means you are ALIVE.  I stomped again, and then I saw a Maori warrior in my mind’s eye, the dance that is done before battle to show the enemy one’s power.  It is an extraordinary dance of menacing masculinity, and I was almost overcome with the urge to dance in the examining room in Jess’ honor.  Perhaps our own indigenous ancestry came through in this moment, a connection to the earth and grounding through the feet.  He felt like a million bucks after, and we celebrated with lunch and headed back to Tallahassee.

That night Jess started talking about the journey he has undertaken.  It seems that he is now able to describe some of what he experienced in the hospital and during his recovery, and it is certainly mystical.  He describes the feeling of being far away from this plane, and that we were his only tether.  The feeling of coming a long way back to us every time he woke up, like he hadn’t breathed for hours and was just taking a full breath when he awoke.  He said he felt many hands lifting him back to us, as if he were under water (I wonder if this was all of you who have been praying for him).  He described having a sense of helpers all around him, and that there was something important about this having happened towards his life changing.  His voice was soft when he spoke about these things, as if he were finding the words amongst the dark corners in his mind, stopping to delicately pick them up and try them on in his mouth to make sure they tasted like the right ones.

I’d like to update our readers on me, since so many of you have written in to ask if I am taking care of myself:  First, thank you so much for caring, for reflecting that I can’t help Jess very much if I don’t take care of myself.  I want to be a good role model for others who might face this (or any challenging) situation.  Second, this is hard, and I am not going to lie to you about that.

I still awaken exhausted, even now that I’ve had several nights of basically full sleep.  I’m still having some PTSD type symptoms, especially at night, although perhaps they are lessening a little.  I still cry and am surprised at how accessible the tears are.  I’m worried about my family, how much stress Peter is under as the financial provider and the man-daddy, the shoulder I cry on…and Aidan, the younger brother who had to be so strong while he watched his idol, his big brother Jess, fall.  I think Peter might have been right when he said that now that Jess was home would come the hardest part.

I sat at my desk in my studio this morning while Jess still slept, a place that feels so sweet and clean and bright, full of possibility, and remembered the feeling just 2 weeks ago of the luxury of time, of deciding what I would do with my day, of choosing to ignore deadlines I had set for myself because I didn’t feel like writing that day.  I wept again, but this time, selfishly.  I’m so tired.   I’m feeling sad for the person I used to be, sad for the person that feels overwhelmed right now.  Will I ever feel regenerated?  Will we be able to pay for all of this medical care?  Will I ever feel like I can trust that my children are safe in the world?   Will I/we be okay?

And what will happen with my work?  My higher power told me over the last 12 days to “allow my life to change”…in my times of faith, I know it will reveal itself, but in my moments of doubt, I wonder what that will look like.  The immensity of this change in my life is starting to be evident.  A bit of a pity party, and then I remember that my son is alive.  We are supported.  We will find our way.

Someone in the long line of well wishers mentioned the Phoenix rising from the ashes, and that image holds strongly in my heart today.  Our family got burned to cinders through this experience, and now we are compiling the remains and forming the body of the Phoenix, and we will indeed rise.

Community continues to hold and support us, whether by bringing us beautiful meals or picking Aidan up from school or spreading the word about the fundraising campaignOur artist friend Julie Guyout is offering the incentive of a free Bird Bowl (one of her signature pieces) to folks that donate, and my husband Peter Berry wants to send a signed fractal print to anyone who donates $100 or more.  I hear that some kids at Leon High School are setting up a fundraiser, too.  Folks we don’t even know are donating in the name of a person in their life who has experienced TBI, or simply because Jess’ story has touched them or taught them something.  Jess is blessed to be so loved.  I understand, he’s pretty lovable.  And I’m so thankful.

Please consider a contribution to Jess’ Medical Fund, and



No Helmet No Bueno1 by Peter Berry

No Helmet No Bueno by Peter Berry,

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