A former high-school classmate — someone I knew and even dated more than 50 years ago — said hello in the Blue Ridge Restaurant on a recent morning and I did not know who she was or even her name.
When she got mad and walked away I followed her out of the restaurant and asked: “It appears we know each other” and tried to explain that my memory comes and goes from an accident with a severe head injury two years ago.
She calmed down and came back inside the restaurant so we could share a cup of coffee and talk.
I wish I could say what happened is an isolated incident but it is not. My memory is fickle. People I should know say “hello” and I cannot recall their names or why I should know them.
Such memory loss is not unusual for someone who suffers from what the docs call “TBI,” also know as Traumatic Brain Injury. While laying in a coma in the intensive care unit of Carilion Clinic in Roanoke in November and December of 2012, I was unaware of my surroundings.
Amy listened to doctors who offered pessimistic doubts about my ability to recover. They told her I would probably wake up a vegetable — if I woke up at all — and would not know my name or hers.
Eventually, I did wake up, did know who I was and remembered her. My memory, however, fluctuates. I too often lose place in the middle of a sentence, struggle with names and facts I should know easily and greet lifelong acquaintances with a blank stare.
Next month, I do back into what is called “occupational therapy” with the goal of getting back memories that remain locked away in a the muddled recesses of a brain that took a beating in 2012.
I doesn’t help that I turn 67 next week — an age where memory loss is a fact of life.
During this time, I ask for patience and understanding. If I don’t know you when I should, if I stumble over your name and can’t recall something I should know, please know that it is a lingering condition that remains under treatment.
I’m still recovering. I’m not back to where I should be. I may never get there again but I sure as hell will try.
Like the alcoholism I have held at bay for 20 years, six months and four days, I face this one day at a time.