Discovering grace

January 23, 2016

Grace softly embraces my thoughts as I finish the last of my breakfast when the phone rings and a tug of guilt nudges at me, leaving any trepidation at bay; I lean in to the uncertainty before me.

Ever since the brain tumor was removed her life has been saturated with confusion. Betrayed by her thoughts, we volley through an exasperating tangle of repetition, which eventually fades into another blur of the unfamiliar for her to inquire about later.

Her frustration is immediately evident as she attempts to describe her morning, excavating for words that don’t arrive only adding to her irritation. Emotionally spent, she begins to spell the words, a technique she resolved on her own when her mind fails her.

In order to shift her mindset I must redirect her thoughts towards the highlights of our day ahead. Soon this upbeat chatter allows the laughter to return and we begin again.

To announce my arrival I drum on the door in a cadence she will recognize and she greets me with squeal of delight. “She knew it was me,” she cries, and I shrug off her tears to avoid the onset of my own with a joke that delivers giggles as she clings tightly to me.

This is the new relationship we share, one where she volleys from her life married with grown boys, to our childhood living with our parents, each filled with complex emotions as the stories dispense another dilemma to untangle.

As we navigate through her days led by her spouse and a small tribe of women, we fill her time with exercise, crafts and therapies. Often she greets me with tears and reminds me that I am still her best person. Both saddened and humbled I remind her I am her ONLY sister, and she laughs, leaving the grief caught in my throat.

Provoked by a search for patience, I witness the frustrations she fights through each day, an unending struggle from dressing to walking only adding to her world of hindrance.  With every spoken word her memory, the largest traitor, constructs a confabulated tale she attempts to solve.

We drive together singing songs of the 70’s and for a while I am enchanted in our previous life together, but like the songs ending, the moment surrenders as another barrage of questions appear. Filled with doubt, and the pain of deception she examines the confusion that taunts her.

Performing our best to improve her life by examining ideas with the hope of generating growth, the heartbreak still remains. She often expresses her awareness in feeling off, combined with her inability to explain, she repeats the questions her short-term memory refuses to hold onto.

Her inquiries that once crushed me have now become routine. Searching for our brothers phone number taught me to gently remind her again how he died twelve years ago, even though another similar question will bloom later.

The list of loss in our lives is hefty, and each reminder is another wound that abandons me in the well of pity I fight to avoid while pursuing the knowledge that can assist her in holding onto this moment.

Our conversations of loss seldom come with shock for her, and I wonder if somewhere within she clings to the small fragments that remain as she recognizes the tiny clues, before they fade from her view.

The avalanche of confusion is ongoing with the difficulty weighing heavily on our hearts.  Old photographs send a push of sadness, dislodging joyful moments of our earlier days before the bittersweet reminder returns.

Her life is different now with all of us still holding out for hope, holding space for things to get brighter, while remaining devoted to improving her daily life, we fill each gap with the happiness we uncover.

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Traumatic Brain Injury

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