the gift (a vignette)

Over the course of our lives, we all must have received gifts that overwhelmed us with their thoughtfulness, suitability, and timeliness.  One I received a couple years ago from Mr. wd qualified in the first two ways, but as to the third, please consider the implications of its irony as you read about what may end up being my favorite present ever.

Over a decade ago I sustained some pretty severe brain damage during knee surgery, although none of the surgical team would ever even admit to anything having gone awry.  When I woke up from the anesthetic, among other horrors, I discovered that I’d lost all sense of time, basic arithmetic skills, boatloads of words, people’s names, and more annoying things like cognitive abilities. I.e.: I’d become the proverbial box of rocks.
Knowing a bit about different strategies and exercises that could help repair/reroute damaged neural circuits, and inventing a few of my own, I did gain back some of my brain over time.  One avenue I chose for some healing was starting to write, first as a contributor to the local free press, then slowly online, which often also required a lot of research.  At some point a few years ago, my healing seemed to have plateaued, which was quite discouraging, given that one upon a time I did have at least a certain amount of mental game.  It was starling to learn how much intellectual ability depends on memory, especially of the short term sort.  One needs to remember several ideas, terms, and concepts all at once in order to weave them into some coherent whole.

But ha!  I did get basic arithmetic skills back eventually, and as a side note, I will say that the IRS officials who graded my forms for our family taxes were kind to me about my many errors.  Every year when they sent my sent my pages back full of red ink, I imagined the look of bemusement on their faces as I looked at them, and read their…suggestions…as to what I’d done wrong.

Math skills?  Whoa, Nellie, no!  Truth is, I am now hooked on calculators and even do some simple math arithmetic with pen and paper, just in case.  (oy)  Oh, but time, time.  Time is not my friend, and even which events in my life came before or after  others requires knitted-eyebrow hard thinking, and I try to create milestone markers that sometimes help sort things out.

I’m laughing as I type because I’m recalling having created and printed birth announcements for our daughter’s first child.  Upon receipt of the first batch, they were forced to nix them due to the fact that…er…I’d gotten the goddam year wrong.  Pfffft.  Okay, I made a second batch, over-nighted them, and got a call.  Wrong year again, goddam.  Thus, one of the standard family jokes in the family was any variation on:  “Hell, y’all must know I’m just about to zero in on it!”  Hmmm; maybe even the IRS agents had that same faith in me, although I did finally begin to include a cover letter to that effect on top of the bundle of tax forms: ‘Demented moron here, not an intentional crook’.

But over the past year it’s become clear that the damage to my noggin has predisposed me to early dementia, whether of the Old Timers kind (as they say around here) or not, who can say?

But back to the gift.  The woman Mr. wendydavis has worked for over the past ten years recently grew very ill, and seemed to be dying.  He’d been remodeling four different houses on her big spread, and as her money supply grew short, began doing a lot of the work of the employees she’d had to let go.  But a new one was nursing her before her son agreed to call in hospice workers to take over once she reached the point she required round-the-clock help.  While she was by no means and easy woman, he was pleased to be able to offer her care and comfort before her death, and often acknowledged how much he’d learned in doing so.  Love is action, of course, even more for those who might be well-meaning, but not easy to actually like.

Once she’d crossed over to the other side, her son had some hard financial decisions to make, and one was how to sort through what myriad of her possessions to keep, sell, give away, and so forth.  Now I will say that she seemed to have some extraordinarily nice stuff, including fine arts, jewelry, furniture, and whatnot.  But still: stuff.  Her son, generous soul that he is, told Mr. wd that anything he spotted that we might like, say so, and in all likelihood, he would gift the items to us.

But as joss would have it, Mr. wd had just recently spent two weeks in Nebraska clearing out a lifetime’s full of stuff from his parents house, and he came back home with a burning mission to clear out this place in advance of the time our kids would need to be faced with the same unenviable task.  So, long story short, we decided to just ask for a few bits and bobs here that wouldn’t clutter up our house much, mainly fabrics from the global south, a few pieces of rock crystal, a few fossils of sadly unknown origin, and such.  He did, by the way, ask to bring home a number of her amazing oil paintings to show me, not that we asked for any of them; he would need to sell them to keep the place afloat.

Time, that devil, whether it be an agreed upon reality or something else, it does make itself known in our lives, and having no sense of it can become a trial.  By now, I’m down to writing myself little notes on the calendar next to the bed, like an ‘H’ for hair-washing day.  Now I try to wash it only every two days lest I go bald, as the hairdressers advise.  But hell, most days I’d have to get to my laptop to discover what the hell day and date it even is, in order for my notations to have any instructional value whatsoever.  Cripes, I felt like an idiot.

That night Mr. wendydavis came in from work, laid down most of his assorted paraphernalia on the dining room table, straightened up, but held one hand behind his back.  Perhaps I’d looked at him quizzically, but he said, “Go ahead and ask.”

“Ask what?” my face must have asked.  “Ask me what I brought you” (another wee family joke on accountta I don’t get out in the world much these days).

Bringing out a rumpled bag, he laid it on the table, and began to open it, possibly with a mite bit of trepidation.  He pulled out a sweet little battery clock…that only marked the days of the week!  I laughed with such mirth that I almost cried; what a lovely gift for a half-demented, crazy crone, old of brain before her time!


When I had a bit of time, I worked to extricate the clock from its rather elaborate, not quite hermetically sealed cardboard and hard plastic packaging.  What ho?  I finally put my Walmart cheaters on, took it to the window’s light, and saw that it was secured by two tiny screws with large plastic washers.  Okay, I went to get my box of assorted jeweler’s screwdrivers: nope, they wouldn’t budge.  I went through several sizes of Phillips head screwdrivers, and finally muscled those little peckerwoods off.  The instructions for setting the clock were on the back of the box, so I gave it the old college try.  “Poke the tip of a pen into one of the two indents in the center of the clock’s works, then rotate clockwise.”

Well, of course I needed to advance it six days’ worth, which meant spinning the sucker about three hundred times, the pen popping out at intervals.  “Christ”, I’m thinking, “what the fuck?  Do they imagine some geezer needing to be reminded of the goddam day is already in a nursing home and some orderly will be doing this shit?”  Okay: sit closer to the window, tip the clock back, jam the pen in ‘one of the two indents’, flip it back, crank the wheel, what.ev.er.  But once I finally found a new battery that actually had some juice in it (the third one from the package, mind you), I finally saw that the hand (singular) had actually noticeably advanced.  Goooaaaaaal!  Ha!  That sucker was finally edging toward Saturday when I decided I’d hang it up in the morning, and reckoned I’d found just the right spot near the bed.

The next day was a long one, and I blessedly slept late.  At 5:10 that morning, I whispered to Mr. wd, “It’s time to get up; do you want to use the bathroom first?”

“No,” he said.  It’s Saturday, and I (ahem) don’t have to go to work.”

I hung the clock before I even ate my toast.  : )  Here it is.  Thank you, Mr. wd, thank you, Dana B.  Maybe, just maybe, I’ll know that tomorrow is Sunday, and not a workday.  If I can see the clock in the day’s first light, of course.  Winter?  No way; sorry, dear… it’ll suck to be you again.

(cross-posted at caucus99percent.com)

15 responses to “the gift (a vignette)

  1. Wonderful writing, fun narrative, and poignant. Keep up the memoir-eque style.

    Oh, the brain fog, the brain damage, all of it, tied to western medicine and industrialized society, including the gift that keeps on giving in our cereal and bread — ROund-up.

    I’ve done a few pieces over at Hormones Matter, on my own travails as a social worker being fired, but check it out EVERYONE who has been not only misdiagnosed by Western Quacks, but lambasted as loony for any number of issues.

    Dirty genes (MTHFR gene) and vaccine injury and antibiotic sickness . . . from allergies to autism, IBS to thyroid issues. And more.

    https://www.hormonesmatter.com/traumatic-brain-injury-oxygen-understanding-free-radicals/

    https://www.hormonesmatter.com/search/anesthesia+injury

    Again, we can heal, as you stated early on. For now, though, happy SUnday!

    Here on the Oregon Coast, Paul Haeder,

    https://paulhaeder.com/2019/08/24/925/

  2. hey, paul; thanks for reading, liking, and for your links. i’ve been the victim of medical and dental malpractice more than anyone i’ve ever heard of, save for my parents. something genetic? ;- )

    mr. wd knows never to send for an ambulance, unless i’m already dead. never.again.

    you might get a kick out of ertwhile-amazon wd in albert the blacksmith:
    https://cafe-babylon.net/2018/12/24/albert-the-blacksmith/
    or
    salt-of-the-earth neighbors margaret and charlie (a reprise):
    https://cafe-babylon.net/2019/08/11/margaret-and-charlie-a-vignette/

  3. Brilliantly told, wde! I know it’s not quite the same, but I will soon need to write a note before I leave one room to get something in another so I remember what I went in there for.

  4. glad you enjoyed it, mein freund. lol on the coming of the note-time, but it’s not fool-proof. you have to remember to look at the note (if it’s in your hand, not hiding in your pocket), and make sure you go to the right room. aha!

    srsly, on a different thread over yonder, a dude told me he liked the vignette, but had no comment. then told me diet could heal me, esp. a low carb diet that wouldn’t spike my insulin levels. i did push back a bit, said what i do consume to try to help, etc., but said i was sure glad he hadn’t said all that mess on the comment thread… what.a.buzz.killer. that would have been!

    i closed the diary with this, of course; the last thing santee sioux john trudell ever recorded before ‘his ride came for him’, as he’d put it so well. warning: do not operate heavy machinery while listening to this:

  5. Ah, yes the proselytizing of the low-carb crowd whose casual exposure to the ideology behind the keto diet and all its precursors “makes sense when you think about it”. If they thought about it deep enough, what’d make sense is the force for the agenda. But I do digress, as I begrudge no-one their dietary deliberations, yet recognize in the preachers thereof a need to have others back them up on their beliefs. It’s lonely at the bottom of the feed pit.

    I cannot remember where it was I read it (the Internet), but something I found interesting enough that I received it as enlightening was an article/essay on why we, generally speaking, forget so easily. The gist was that each subsequent action amounted to a paradigm shift, the result of which was what took us out of our intentions. Going upstairs to get a basket of laundry? The climbing of the stairs requires enough of our concentration to utterly destroy contact with the reason we are climbing them.
    What would be hilarious would be if you had written, or written about, said essay. Of course, if you did, how would you know? Let’s just say you did and I did, we all did, and leave it at that.
    At any rate, the Internet is another step in the direction of, potentially and probably necessarily, outsourcing our memory. Peace.

    • the internet as the out-sourcing of memory; i ♥ it! as well as the notion of paradigm shifts after concentrating. except for the fact that in general, we’re thought to be on auto-pilot going up the stairs, but i do notice mr. wd’s mind being ahead of his body at times…and it might turn a corner before his body actually does. oooof!

      i did attempt to tell the well-intentioned man that diet can’t heal all, but it is his predilection to believe it’s so. but after my 35 years of practicing min/body/soul work, i’d learned that there are many other ingredients to healing (i could have named about twenty off the top of my head), but forgot to say that some things can’t be healed, but can be mitigated to various extents.

      then last night i’d pinged that as far as i understand it, navajo healing ceremonies (they usually last for several days, apparently) aren’t so much about a cure, but for reaching a state of inner harmony (remember tony hillerman spelling it variously, but always close to hozhro?)

      in the end i dunno what’s really up with my memory’s downhill slide, but both for its sake and my whacked knees and faltering mobility, i use lots of east indian spices, eat high cbd cannabis, eat probiotic yogurt, psyllium seeds for gut cleansing, and those nasty ground shiitake mushrooms…when i can remember to get them out and sprinkle them about. ;-)

      and peace to you as well, von davidly.

  6. i’d meant to add yesterday, but hadn’t found the time, was that a commenter over yonder on this thread had offered that it seem as though a box or roxx (or close) had written it. i did try to explain what post-whatever-brain injury, i could still see images, hear sounds, scents, even tastes afterward, and even now in my decline.

    what i’d failed to note as a downside, is that now i may have to read something, picture images to grab onto, then try to translate them into words. as in: i engage in so much silent rehearsal, most esp. when commenting, that as a full-time blogger: it’s nigh onto impossible to shut off my internal dialogue, which is seriously bad for one’s psyche.

    i do some cross-hemispheric brain exercises, and even try EFT to shut the fuck up my internal dialogue/narrative, but lately i’ve been using that technique just to survive epic depression.

  7. Well, you know, wendye, that thing about blind folk having extraordinary other senses to compensate – this is an explanation of your brilliance in other areas, such as this blog. Not knowing what day it is – yes, I have totally been there. And still do get there. Plus, I have to rely on a calendar my sister sends every year to recall the ages of my children and my grandchildren – fortunately the last was actually born on my birthday — let’s see, when was that now??

    All kidding aside, the total loss you describe was experienced briefly a few years ago by my youngest daughter. She’s a teacher, teaches Chinese, and what happened to her was no laughing matter either. She was just sorting through her closet, did a deep knee bend, and kapow! It was all gone. She couldn’t remember any of it. All the years as a student in China, and then learning to write the language back in the USof A as she’d only learned to speak it abroad. It could have been panic time, and the doctors couldn’t (of course) say what had happened. Fortunately it was summer and school was out; she got it back eventually — but it was scary, scary!

    You are, in fact, brilliant here, and I’m so happy you got responses on this post. Take good care; we’re all getting older and this heat is the pits. But still a lot of writing for you to do! Blessings!

    • luckily, mr. wd has a few pages of notes he can almost always find (/s) that has our grandchirren’s birth dates. this week, darling elijah turned into a bleeping teenager, at 13 yrs this week! what a trip that was to realize.

      thanks for your story about your daughter; how difficult that must have been, and how strange no docs could define what had happened. a kapow! that fast sure does sound like a mini stroke or series of them, i.e.: transient ischemic attacks. bless her heart for having overcome them/it eventually.

      and how kind of you to say i’ve got a lot of writing to do yet, even if most of it’s copy/paste. so good to see you. i’d seen mary m (still in IL) at naked capitalism (i’m pretty sure on a demented biden post by petal), and emailed her. she said she’d seen you there on a post about health care costs; was this about your son and their new babby? or..in general? is that impolite to ask on the boards? emails are so hard for me to remember to write, then respond when i get an answer….

  8. No worries, wendye, I can’t even remember what exactly it would have been, as I fire off stuff occasionally that I am much surprised to come across later. Can only suppose the spirit seizes me when something triggers an emotional response to personal difficulties. Ah well. Most times I read and simply feel helpless, shoot off a prayer that somewhere out in the beyond forces mightier than I will look kindly on us foolish mortals.

    Well, you have an Elijah and I a Theodore. That’s a pretty powerful combination right there! ( Dear Lord, be with Julian Assange in his hour of need, I pray. Let him find health and strength in solitude, and in suffering. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.)

    • your new grand-babby is theodore? ooooh, i hope they call him teddy! yes, we have our jah-bird, at least in spirit and love.

      thank you for the prayer for julian; sadly, in his isolation he’s wasting away and almost unable to talk as the solitary confinement reduces cognitive abilities. oddly, in amerika, it was the quakers who’d avocated for solitary confinement early on.

      at a rally for julian in sydney on the 24th, these bagpipers played for him. oly enough, a new neighbor…plays the bagpipes. bet to you, juliania.

    • lol! what, no moon phases? a fellow over yonder at c99%had said he and his wife have a combo e-thermometer and clock that broadcasts the time on the ceiling, too! how fun, though:

      you were on the 2018 thread that louis proyect was objecting to two comments down from yours. hope you’re doing well, or at least well enough. and thank you for the clock tip, as well. i dunno, maybe i’ll just keep livin’ in my time dream…

  9. Absolutely amazing what we can learn to live with and adapt to. So far at 73, I lost my last tooth at about 40, broke the falsies sticking them out at a child in the grocery store, could not afford a new set, so super-glued the uppers and have been wearing them ever since, worn down to a nub, but I can still eat a meal, but I sure miss the bite of a fresh apple or carrot. Then I had a knee blow out, had a good mechanic doctor fix that, then got a hernia, almost waited too long to have that repaired, then got prostrate cancer, so that’s gone, last thing was a herniated disc in my spine, and yet I get up every morning and do my work, mostly physical, The thing I miss the most, I guess is my old brain, I just, for the life of cannot figure out where I put the damned thing down. Maybe your magical Mr. WD can locate it? My lady insists that I cannot lose what I never had!

    • dayum, dude. hope ya had a few good months amongst all those miseries! it might take sherlock holmes rather than mr. wd to help you find that brain you’d put somewhere. but hey: lightbulb (even a dim bulb lights now and again): is it in the freezer part of your refrigerator? the oddest things can end up there, i’ve found…but then again, maybe miz alaskaman’s got it right. (just kiddin’, as are you.)

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