Someone once explained my brain to me as a big room with filing cabinets. This person said that everything that has ever happened to me is in there somewhere. Learning is filing things away, or creating new drawers. The synapses are what tell me where to find the thing I am looking for. Memory is knowing where to keep it.
My roommate and I went to the hospital to visit our student
. She has had two surgeries since her brain aneurysm two weeks ago. Part of her skull is still off, since the swelling has not gone down. Neither has her fever, and the other women in the room--all moms--joked about wanting her cooling blanket to help with their menopause.
The room is decorated with posters, cards and well wishes from her many, many friends and admirers. This was a sweet and vivacious girl; my roommate coached her as a cheerleader until she decided that she would rather pursue her talents in singing and acting. She was a student in my Advanced literature class.
She curls her arm; her leg twitches. The Internet has helpfully explained to me that her condition cannot be considered a coma, since her eyes are open. She is still too dependent upon medications to be moved to a rehabilitation facility. I realize that we were there for her mother, not for her.
Her friends have been told only very basic information, in a very encouraging way. They do not know what is happening. They are not allowed to visit her.
I hope she regains consciousness. But what if she doesn't? Which category will her friends use to describe their relationship to her? In which file does she go? And what has happened to her files? Are they all still there, inaccessible? What has happened to the person she was? Will she exist only in our files now?
What a terrible way to be reminded that anything can happen, anytime. There's something in there about saying what's important to say, and appreciating the little things. I'm struggling for the peace described in this poem, but it's on my mind.
by Wendy Cope
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange--
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave--
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It's new.
The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I'm glad I exist.