I went to a birthday party for a dear friend’s father. She came to the hospital when I could not speak or remember who anyone was, or why it mattered that I didn’t. She came in and approached the side of my bed. I knew her teeth meant something, but no clue why or who she was.
She came again the next night with five photographs. She handed them to me and I recognized myself. I recognized her smile and our friends. I went from not speaking to jabbering the stories of those photographs. The ICU staff was floored as I had not spoken to them except for babbling for three entire weeks and touching a laminated photo board to say I was cold. A switch turned and, although I struggled with everything else, I was talking and telling stories about these photographs.
The woman was a friend of mine in high school and older than me. She went away to the city after graduation to work and be a grown up. I was still in high school and, as there was no internet or texting we lost touch over the years, two decades to be exact.
I still could not tell you what day it was or what the word “day” meant, but these pictures brought me back, those memories were solid. It is my opinion that those memories are stored in another part of the brain and out they came. I was back and those around me could see it, finally. I had been in there the entire time and could not find a way to show them.
These five pictures were a connection and became a rope out of a very dark and lonely place. She saved me from a nursing home. When my fiancé arrived the party was in full swing and we were loud and having sherbet she brought. My fiancé let her come back to the hospital even after I explained to him that I had no clue who she was, except for her teeth.
She came to see me after I was out of the hospital. We played Yahtzi as a family and had fun telling stories. She brought her mother and I looked at her and my friend and said, “Your dad is…?” Her mother said,”Yes, he’s alive.” I was afraid I had missed something. We all burst out laughing.
A few months later she invited me to her father’s birthday barbecue at their home. My son went with me looking forward to the stories that would come out. The first thing her father said when I saw him is, “I’m not dead, still alive.” We all laughed.
We sat around in lawn chairs reminiscing her father was standing by me at one point. My son sitting next to me. Her father said to me, “I was in the same grade as your father, I didn’t finish” and I said, “neither did my dad he went in the service.” He said, “yes, air force. I played soccer with your dad.” I said, “What, my dad played soccer?” He replied shaking his head up and down “yes and baseball too.” Baseball made sense, soccer did not. I had never heard this in my life. My nephews, his grandsons, that he never met, won the state title in soccer their senior and junior year respectively. This never came up, I am sure. I was blown away.
I said, “tell my son some other things. He never got a chance to meet him.” He said “He always smoked a pipe and others chimed in “he was funny, he worked at the paper mill, he was the Chief of Police in town.” He was alive, right there in the driveway around that circle of lawn chairs laughing and telling stories. He was a real person to his grandson sitting right there beside me. He met his other grandfather for the first time. His name was Phil and he played soccer.