|Mrs. B walking Johnny to the door.|
|This photo of Johnny and I hangs on |
their fridge. It was taken in my basement
playing hot potato at my birthday party circa
'75 or '76. My mom holding Mike in
the background rocking the polyester.
I got choked up describing the day we moved away:
|Mrs. B is a very talented artist. |
She carved this in walnut over
40 years ago. It's beautiful.
was the bees-knees. My happiest childhood memories happened in Davenport, Iowa. At the new house in the Chicago suburbs in the middle of the night, I used to wake up crying to go back to Davenport.
Johnny's accident happened when he was 11 and I was 10. He suffered a traumatic brain injury during a competitive biking race. He was in a coma for 9 months. When we got the news that he'd woken up, I thought that meant he was back to perfect health. Back then, no one really explained stuff, and if they did - it wasn't clear, or I corrected it in my head to make it acceptable and easier to grasp. My parents rushed the 5 of us back to Davenport to see him.
|Mrs. B paints mugs for|
her friends' birthdays.
They pick the flower and the bird.
She paints their name on the handle.
The mugs hang up in the church kitchen
for their coffee mornings.
My mom started using what we called her 'teacher voice', loudly telling Johnny that we were so happy to see him. Then she nodded at me, like OK, you're up.
I didn't know what to say.
Johnny put one of his legs that was in a big white cast on the bed rail. He slid it over towards where I had been directed to sit.I smiled at him and said, "HEY, WHAT'S THAT FOR. IF YOU'RE GONNA KICK SOMEONE, KICK PAT. HE DESERVES IT, NOT ME." Johnny laughed.
It's been over 40 years since the accident. Johnny remembers things before the accident, but struggles with short term memories. The women from Mrs. B's group wondered if he remembered me. Yep, he remembers. On this trip, I spend a lot of time reminding him of stuff, like how I'd gotten my nickname. "HOW BOUT MY DAD AND HIS BAD HANDWRITING? AND HE THOUGHT IT WAS SO FUNNY WHEN THE WAITRESS AT THE PIZZA PLACE SANG HAPPY B-DAY TO ERNIE." (insert JB dying laughing). When we played pretend and picked a new name for ourselves, he always chose Johnny Bench, who was a famous baseball player.
He sometimes forgets that Joe passed away, partly because he wasn't seeing Joe daily. When he isn't at his program, he pours over the newspaper studying the stock prices. One arm is curled up and not really usable. The other is spastic, but usable. He understands what's going on and enjoys joking around.
Mrs. B asked me about celiac disease. I told her a lot of Irish people get it. Johnny said something like "SWEE" - in his loud, garbled way.
Mrs. B: YEAH, WE KNOW. YOU'RE SWEEDISH. THAT'S YOUR BIGGEST PROBLEM.
Johnny cracks up laughing, shaking his head, and waving his good arm in the air with a thumbs up.
The day they drove me back to the airport, Mrs. B said: IT'S GONNA BE BORING AGAIN, WITH JUST ME (Mr. B passed away just shy of his 91 birthday in Jan '21). The middle brother moved to Colorado from Tampa in '20 when Mr. B started becoming forgetful.
|She also sews. Their home is full|
of beautiful quilts.
Mrs. B: YEAH, WELL JOHNNY'S ALREADY EXPERIENCED A LIFETIME OF NOT FAIR.
Truer words never spoken.
In order to get to their town in Colorado, I had to stop in Dallas first. Can you say out of the way? Where do you go that requires a stop in an out of the way airport? I wish it was easier to get there. I'd go more often.