This September is a big anniversary month for me. Tomorrow is my tenth wedding anniversary and in one week I turn 50. I was looking forward to this for awhile. A couple years ago I imagined quite the celebration. In addition to being 5 years post-surgery, 2012 was the year I was to earn my master's degree.
I have been coming to terms with the fact that I did not begin my 24th year of teaching this fall, I do not have a master's degree, and that I will never teach again because I have a brain injury. I have actually been celebrating my small triumphs and feeling pretty good.
For my birthday, my dear friend L. offered to host an art exhibit in her home. I cannot tell you how moved I was by this gesture. I do not think I could have asked for a nicer gift. She has a large, gorgeous apartment in the West Village, filled with beautiful art, a full-length terrace, and tons of streaming light.
I have been excitedly gathering pieces of my art, finishing some projects, and inspired to make some new fantastic pieces. Little by little I have schlepped stuff down to her home. Yesterday we bought some wine. It is so much more of an inconvenience for her than either of us previously envisioned. I hired people to help move her art and to help keep things neat during her party but, there is so much more to do. Her house is crowded with my pieces.
During the planning stages I knew I wanted a big party. I had a lot of friends at the school where I taught. Only a couple have kept in touch since I left. Would I invite some friends with whom I have not had contact? I received cautionary lectures from my daughter, my husband, and my cognitive therapist not to be devastated if they do not come. My TBI doctor asked me how I would feel if they said no. If it was going to upset me, maybe I should not invite them. I answered that in some ways it would be a relief. At least I would know for sure that they did not consider me friends anymore. The wondering and speculation bothered me more, I thought. It's not like I call them either.
In the end, I invited over 50 people. Saturday, we will have 22 guests. They are family, friends from the brain injury community, my daughter's friends, and a couple of pre-injury friends. In response to my "save the date" email, a few people I have not seen since I left school replied yes and said how excited they would be to see me. Gradually these turned up as no in the official RSVP to my friend's invitation. I got the final changed response today.
I am so lucky to have met friends through the Brain Injury Association of New York. I am also so lucky that my family and a couple friends stuck with me. It took a lot of work on their part to understand brain injury. Ten years ago, over 150 people came to our wedding. So many teachers and parents. In the next five years I made more friends at school. Then in 2007, blood seeped into my brain and gradually friends slipped away. "Like trying to hold water. Trying to hold sand," Bill Morrissey sang in These Cold Fingers.
The bottom line is I do not have to wonder anymore. I cannot blame myself for the loss of these friendships. The two-way street was approached and met with a DO NOT ENTER sign.
When I left that school my former assistant's parting words to me, following a tirade of my many offenses, were that my husband should be worshipped as a saint. The implication being... I think you can fill in the rest. Nasty words. I do worship my husband but it is terrifying to constantly feel like it is a great sacrifice for him to be with me. Last week I teased with my husband about his marrying an older woman and all the drawbacks. I jokingly asked why didn't you pick a younger bride. He answered seriously, "Because I love you." For all my doubts, these words woke in me a realization. I shared the story with my TBI doctor yesterday. I realized that I am not unlovable but in the last few years I have made it very difficult for him to love me. Dr. Silver said, "And it is not your fault."
I am going to be okay. No, I am going to be more than okay. I used to be quite popular but it came so easy that I hardly cared. Now, the people in my life are treasures. Popularity is like a soap bubble so shiny and appealing but gone, pop, just like that. My husband, my daughter, my mom, sister, brother, and my true friends are diamonds. Thank you so much for sticking with me. I love you and look forward to being with you on Saturday.
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