BRAIN DAMAGE VIGNETTE
It's about six months after my wife Carrie returned home to Athens Ohio from her final round of rehab at TIRR in Houston. Carrie had been with her parents on their 20 acre "farm" on the outskirts of Huntsville, Texas while I finished my dissertation. Her brain is still mending, still sorting out reality from whatever construct her neural pathways were improvising. We "neurotypicals" all do this. It's a matter of degree. Brain injured folk do more of what is called in the rehab profession, "confabulation," a term that conjures associations with postmodern fiction and childhood story spinning. A part of the healing process of brain rewiring, confabulation diminishes over time, as it does when growing up.
One feature often trying to companions, friends and caregivers is the strong conviction that what they are thinking is real—absolutely true. When Carrie fully emerged from an induced coma in the hospital in Columbus, she could see the Ohio State gridiron from her 11th floor room, but was utterly convinced she was in Austin, Texas and would not believe otherwise.
She couldn't say my name no matter how many times I repeated it.
Carrie does not drive any more, so I am driving us home from somewhere and cresting the freeway hill, we get a good view of the planet that hangs kind of low every fall in the southwestern sky. An effect of the angle, it appears uncannily nearby.
Carrie: [pointing] "That's a really tall tower."
Me: "You mean a radio tower?"
Me: "Mmm, K-Ron, that's not a radio tower; that point of light is a planet. I think it's Venus."
K-Ron: "It's a radio tower."
Me: "There's never been one there before and it's too high to be a tower."
It's clear she believes it to be a very tall tower and it does look plausible, if towers could rise for miles in the air. By fall of the following year she could witness that scene—the planet brightly poised—and not think it's a tower.
Me: "You see that planet? Last year you insisted it's a radio tower."
Carrie: "I did?"
Me: "Yes. I couldn't talk you out of it."
Carrie: "That's weird. I don't remember that. You sure?"
Me: "Yeah, I'm sure."
We drive home. Thinking she doesn't believe me, I imagine her pondering the strange country she'd inhabited the year before. The borders of consensual reality more or less re-established, she made small strides for another year.
Born in New Orleans, raised in W-S, NC, Albert Rouzie has lived in Portland, OR. and Austin, TX and teaches in the English department at Ohio University.