Trust Me Travels
Us, Citadel of Besançon, Besançon, France


A friend recently suggested I listen to Brené Brown’s talk entitled, “The Anatomy of Trust.” I was like,

“Who is Brené Brown? And why do you always refer to her?”

Apparently I am nearly the last people on Earth who has not heard of or listened to Brené Brown, or at least, I am the last of the subset of those who listen of those who watch Oprah, listen to the Ted Radio hour, and/or read transcendent personal essays, such as the ones found in The Atlantic Monthly.  In truth, I was listening to another podcast recently (Amanda Palmer on Design Matters) when Amanda Palmer, formerly of the cabaret-punk duo, “The Dresden Dolls,” quoted Brené Brown. I figured if cabaret-punk can coexist with Dallas mom, then well, I can listen to Brené Brown. Travels
Me and the boys, Liberty Park Salt Lake City, Utah

So, between avoiding my online French class and booking summer travel I decided it was time. Immediately Brené encoded the definition of trust into a most awesome mnemonic device. Yes, awesome, because I still remember the word: BRAVING. I will not break it down for you now. I suggest you listen to her entire podcast.  Right now I want to focus on the “v” in her memory acronym.  No. The “v” is not referring to a 1980’s alien invasion reboot, or to lady parts. The “v” in BRAVING refers to the trust concept of a Vault, which by Brené Brown’s definition means: “what I share with you, you will hold in confidence. And what you share with me, I will hold in confidence.”  Feeling confident with my ability to keep confidences, I almost missed the next crucial advice Brené gave, which is the idea that we are not trustworthy when we participate in salacious behavior. Meaning that “in our relationship I need to see that you acknowledge confidentiality and I need to do the same.” Nevertheless, in an attempt to “hotwire connections,” simply put, we gossip.

Easy E and Me, tonight, Salt Lake City, Utah
Easy E and Me, tonight, Salt Lake City, Utah

As a result, instead of healthy, trusting connections, Brené Brown suggests that “our closeness is built on hating the same people.” She calls this, “Common Enemy Intimacy.”  Ouch! I get it. How many times am I silent, ultimately complicit, as I listen to the rumors. My excuse: I want to feel a part, especially when it comes to the other moms. Why can’t I be brave?

With thoughts simmering, I finished the twenty-four minute podcast (of course I took notes). And I continue to simmer. I am trying to process the concept that an aspect of trust is our ability to keep our mouths shut, or better, “not sharing something that is not mine to share.”  As I think, I want  push further and suggest that Common Enemy Intimacy is a pervasive societal condition. For instance, socially we reject those who do not act like us. Religiously we fear those who do not believe like us. Politically we hate those who do not think like us. Deep breath. I am not going to talk politics or religion. I am going to speak to the social component, specifically regarding parenting as it relates to my relationships with other moms. And here is my conundrum:  How do I quickly engage you without betraying trust? I need help.

First, I could totally rationalize.  I agree.  Gossip does hotwire a connection. Sure, telling you about a bitchy mom may build closeness with you, but at what cost? I would even argue that talking about someone else in an attempt to heal is a form of gossip. In defense of healing, my story includes other people and my opinions of them. I know if you understood the details you would gain greater perspective. As a result, I am sure my full disclosure would allow for better advice. At what cost? What about trust? Where is the line? Is it worth breaking someone’s trust? Ah! What do I do?

Kyle & I, Salt Lake City, Utah
Kyle & I, Salt Lake City, Utah

Here is a thought. I would like to push further on the concept of trust.  In what we share with others, I would like to consider a line of thought, which is that women (in general) are culturally taught to accommodate.  As a result, I would suggest that our society does not enable us to ground ourselves in our own space or our own stories. Because we are taught to tether to our relationships to an exterior world, we become dependent on the opinions of others. And as accommodators, I would argue that gossip is a natural form of this exterior connection (intimacy). Sure, I could also have an entire conversation regarding the idea that patriarchy and how women treat one another is because they feel the only power they have is within their own gender and that creates inequitable trust, but I won’t, at least not right now. Ultimately, women who try to break the societal cycle and who are “grounded” in their own narrative can actually be viewed as self-absorbed or narcissistic. Because we do not want to appear self-centered or self-absorbed, the accommodating feedback loop persists. That is why I push back. I may not like or condone gossip. In fact I pretty much hate gossip in all its mean-girl forms. Nevertheless, I have compassion for the women who do.  And maybe it is because women who gossip are not trying to break trust. Perhaps they gossip because they are not comfortable standing in their own space, or they do not feel they can. (By the way, self trust is half of the equation:  You “can’t ask people to give you something you don’t think you are worthy of receiving.”) In the end, we become more of the wind and less of the tree. And as the wind, it is not about trust, it becomes about fitting in and holding on.


Us, Alsace Region, Riquewihr, France
Us, Alsace Region, Riquewihr, France

Alas, all this exposition simply to ask,

“How do I stand in my space and tell my story while holding everyone’s trust, including my own?”


I suck at Christmas and am even worse at gift receiving.

Christmas way back when
Christmas way back when

I think Dave would agree as represented in what he said earlier today:

“Beth, I love Christmas, but each year you make me want to kill myself.”  

I would go as far as to argue that together Dave and I are clearly a gift giving mess.

Kyle and Eli, Christmas 2003, Salt Lake City, Utah
Kyle and Eli, Christmas 2003, Salt Lake City, Utah

It is 2016. Here is where we are at.  According to Dave, I should shut my mouth, open my heart and exude excitement over each gift I am given. I not only think he is on to something, I think he is right.  We should be gracious. We should empathize. We should consider the receiver as much as the giver.

Of course as I consider a bigger reality, I feel compelled to push back and ask, what do you do if you hate the gift? Should you pretend?  Ok. That is too easy. Yes. Of course you should act grateful. Let’s complicate things. What if the gift is between husband and wife? What should you do then? Again Dave is correct when he asserts that one should act excited. And in truth, Dave always and absolutely properly exudes. Let me present another scenario. How deal with the non-grateful actions after the actual present-opening moment?  What if your partner was less than honest about loving (what you believe is) a thoughtful gift? As a result, they leave said unloved gifts in their box, untouched?  What is worse? The unused gifts, gifts your partner surely sees, or your your ungrateful expression, otherwise know as,  A.B.F.? (*By the way, A.B.F. is the active form of R.B.F. [resting bitch face]).

Eli, Kyle & Dave, Christmas, 2004, Salt Lake City, Utah
Eli, Kyle & Dave, Christmas, 2004, Salt Lake City, Utah

To solve the unused gift issue, over that time I found that if l buy Dave exactly what he wants and asks for, he is more likely to take his gift out of the box. It is a process. Well before the holidays, I ask Dave to add his choices into an Amazon Shopping Cart. Then I buy away. It always warms my cold, dark heart when he ups the ante by sending me other links and specific suggestions. Last Christmas was a coup. If Dave had not sent me a link to Traeger’s special Christmas offer, I would have never known he wanted a Traeger Grill. I even think Dave would say his Traeger Grill was the best Christmas gift ever.  We have all benefited from Dave’s perfectly roasted chickens and astutely seasoned brisket. I think it is as much fun for Dave to prepare and grill as it is for him to watch how we receive his heavenly creations.

Kyle and Eli, Park City, Utah, December, 2007
Kyle and Eli, Park City, Utah, December, 2007

Nevertheless something upsets the balance, each year, even last year’s Traeger Grill year. Then panic sets in and misunderstanding runs rampant. And because I think we live in a world of greys not black, I think our issue goes beyond helping me Botox-up my Active Bitch Face and helping Dave be honest about gifts he is less pleased with. And once the shift in the force happens, I know we have entered the dark side. Obviously Dave is General Grievous and I am Count Dooku. Darth Vader would be too easy.

[begin scene]

Picture this: It is Christmas morning. We are on the Death Star.  As Dave, General Grievous, hands me a gift, my hands will break into sweat.  My heart will race,  and my vision will blur.  I sense, because obviously I have the force, albeit dark, that Dave will be waiting in rapt anticipation for my smile to crack. I already know I will disappoint. Likewise, before his gift ever reaches my sweaty hands, I become manic making sure his Amazon cart is full.

[end scene]

I have always been partial to a Charlie-Brown-style tree. We found this one in our backyard, Park City, Utah, December, 2011
I have always been partial to a Charlie-Brown-style tree. We found this one in our backyard, Park City, Utah, December, 2011

Now back in our human reality know that our gift-giving nightmare is always made worse because I vomit honesty. Meaning, I cannot keep my truthy mouth shut. Consequently, acting like I love my new white long underwear is an epic feat. Spoiler Alert: I failed. In fact I am certain those long white underwear are where our selfish hell began. It was twenty years ago.  For Christmas, Dave invited me to his Washington DC home. At that time. I had more money than I had ever had. I had never been asked home to a boy’s house for Christmas. I was touched, enamored and over the moon. Soon I would realize that our expectations were not aligned, yet I did what any good girlfriend would do and bought Dave a crap ton of gifts. By the way, I had so much fun buying those gifts. I even made him a stocking.  I remember my eager anticipation as I handed him gift after gift. Alas, here is when I realized our disconnect. I could see it. I could see Dave’s shock as he opened those gifts. Disappointed, he said, “Why did you give me so much?” (Note* Dave also does not hide his A.B.F. well either).

Dave  excitedly handed me one gift. As I unwrapped, I eyed a pair a long underwear. I was flooded with thoughts and a variety of emotion.

“Underwear?” I thought.
“We camp so much and I know you get cold.” he said.
“Underwear?” I thought again.

Ironically the framed picture behind the boys is one of the presents I gave Dave during the Washington DC Christmas, Park City, Utah, December 2013
Ironically the framed picture behind the boys is one of the presents I gave Dave during the Washington DC Christmas, Park City, Utah, December 2013

Faster than I could catch my breath, the Christmas stocking now seemed silly, so did everything else. We were sitting next to his bed and all I wanted to do is hide under the Star Wars-sheets. (Yes. his bed was covered Star Wars sheets. How awesome is that?)  Instead, as I looked at those utilitarian body warmers. I burst into tears. I let my insecurity take over (obviously). I felt a rush of stupid, shame, and neglect. I could not catch my breath. Instead I opted to try to explain. I know, dudes love a lady who explains stuff. Nevertheless, it’s what I do. And I am sure that Dave was delighted to spend the next four hours having me create my very own very of Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol.”

Of course I kept explaining.

“Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, Christmas was the only time of year I did not have to use my own money to pay for something blah blah blah.”

And in that moment our dysfunctional Christmas feedback loop began.  I wish it did not matter, but somehow the moment we exchanged our first Christmas gifts has informed every Christmas ever since. Both of us were brats. Both of us could not see past our own strong wills. As a result, we still struggle and Christmas is not what Christmas should be.

Our loop is simple. I cry, express defeat, and couch my criticism in rationalization. Dave snaps and criticizes.

“I do not know why you gave me so much.”

An interesting side note: Those long underwear were not only thoughtful, they were practical.  Had Dave given me a moment to catch my breath, and had I held my tongue, I think he would have seen that. Yes. I cried, but those long underwear never remained in a box. In fact. I still wear them today.

Us, Play Del Carmen, Mexico, Christmas Day, 2015
Us, Play Del Carmen, Mexico, Christmas Day, 2015

Back to my story: There is some good. It also took me years not to take Dave’s intent as a slight. I learned to appreciate Dave. First, he wants to (a.) Surprise you. Meaning, if I tell him I have a bunch of stuff in an Amazon Shopping cart, I will kill the surprise.  What I need to do is let him surprise me. And (b.) Dave feels compelled to buy you something practical. I get it. I am practical too. That is why I hate seeing those presents sitting in their boxes.

Further, I think it is important to explain my crazy. See, for me half the fun of Christmas has alway been my ability to return presents. Meaning, I don’t get upset when someone is not elated with what I give them. It really is the thinking-of-them that counts. Nevertheless, sometimes in the moment I forget that everyone does not see the world like I do. As a result, I too easily dismiss someone’s need for me to want their gift. I come by this behavior honestly. I clearly remember my mom attaching gift receipts to each and every present. On December 26, I remember gathering all the unwanted pajamas and sweatsuits, driving over to our local Target and standing in a long return line. Once we returned our items, my siblings and I would compare our cash and then go shopping for day-after-Christmas markdowns. It was a special time.  always knew I could get more-for-my-money the day after Christmas. In fact, returning became such a sport that I almost looked forward to the return more than the actual present. (Yes. I just said that). And before you completely hate me or judge me too harshly, I would ask you to consider the following: My family was not wealthy. I began babysitting full time during the summers at age eleven and worked full time hours. I paid for most everything. Christmas was that time of year I could bank on a little more. As such, Christmas for me was always of giving me a financial break. So stretching my gifted-dollar was the gift. And having the ability to return presents allowed me to buy more things I actually needed like underwear.

Dave and Beth, Park City, Utah, 2009
Dave and Beth, Park City, Utah, 2009

Then one day I married a super cool dude and he gave me the gift of staying home to raise Kyle and Eli. All of a sudden Christmas meant something different. And as much as I want to escape my history, navigating Christmas is filled with two people who literally grew up on opposite sides of the track. Dave did not live with scarcity. It really was about appreciating and finding joy out of both the practical and obscure. We are mostly at cross purposes except for the practical part. As a result, Dave was now in a position to buy me something I did not have to return. Oh, the pressure! So,combined with our new ability to buy the gifts we wanted and our practicality, it never occurred to me that my gift receiving behavior would actually ruin Christmas. I simply assumed Dave would admire my my need to return, or understand why I was not over the moon with say a rape whistle, a pair of long underwear or a Homer gift. In truth, and when it is not Christmas, Dave is actually delighted with my what he calls my “hobby” of buying and returning items and seldom keeping anything.

Ultimately, I know Dave and I fight and disagree  because we deeply care about each other. We are blessed to indulge such selfish considerations. I am humbled and sorry that have spent time worrying about receiving the right gift, or better, the right gift to return [wink wink]. Nevertheless, here we are. Dave wants to kill himself because I kill Christmas. I think we both know we need to get a grip.  We have been talking and being silent for days. We want to move past this. We need to move past this. We need to move past our high expectations, unfair judgements, and resentment of one another. We need step aside and remember that for starters, we have lasted almost twenty-one years. Valentine’s Day 1996 was our first date. We are blessed. I do not have to work. Our boys are healthy. We love each other. Utah is currently bursting with homelessness. I bet if we redirected our gift-giving disconnect to a family in need, they would not care what color of toothbrush we gave them, if the sleeping bag we provide is down-filled or synthetic, if we gave them ten presents or just one.   In the end,  I think instead of giving each other a panic attack each year we should do what Eli suggested and give our money and love to those in need.


December, 2011, a letter to Santa Clause, Park City, Utah
A letter to Santa Clause, Park City, Utah, December, 2011

Post Delay While We Heal Dave’s Big Brain

Thank you Heather S. for the amazing gift basket! Those pears were SO delicious! xo
Thank you Heather S. for the amazing comfort food gift basket! Those pears were SO delicious! xo

Often my writing is filled with angst-y, dark moments. It is true. For me, writing pain sentences comes easier than articulating light happy ones. Maybe it is because darkness literally fills me with pressure-cooker dread. Meaning, for my utter survival, I have to let those painful words out. Obviously, I am sure there is a direct correlation to my dark writing and my Seasonal Affected Disorder. And today would be the perfect day to go dark. See, it is our very first blustery autumn day 2016. It is like 40 degrees outside (actually 50), rainy, cold and grey. In my rearview I see Wednesday’s ninety-degree, sunny, short weather. In front of me I see cold snow covered mountaintops and big, gloomy clouds covering Wednesday’s clear blue sky. I could easily find my way to a warm blanket and a Netflix binge (chill or no chill). In the end, and even though the sky is spooky dark, I am happy. Life is good. Dave is great! We feel blessed!

As far as Dave’s big brain goes, well, Dave is healing well. Dave did what he needed to do to get himself better. He stayed off screens for a week, remained in a dark room, and slept and slept and slept. My guess is Dave’s obedience to the routine is the reason Dave is doing so well. And believe me, the last thing Dave is is compliant.

Dave sewing on Kyle's missing button. Homecoming 2016
Dave sewing on Kyle’s missing button. Homecoming 2016

The other day I talked to a psychiatrist friend. According to him, Dave is a classic textbook example of someone who has sustained a head injury. In fact, as far as T.B.I’s (terminal brain injuries) go, Dave’s injury is most likely low grade. And to me, a low grade T.B.I. is a lot easier to digest than the diagnosis Dave received of a high-grade concussion — even though low grad T.B.I. and high-grade concussion are pretty much the same thing (don’t quote me on that).

As a result, lack of self-awareness, better, self-monitoring and short-term memory anomalies are the crazy consequences of Dave’s concussion. I am not talking the typical lose-track-of time Dave or lack-of-volume-control Dave, or even completely-focused-on-his-iPhone Dave; I am talking about the Dave whose short-term memory is a little bonkers. Dave does not remember much about last week (completely understandable). For instance, I asked him if he remembers how upset he was when I grabbed his sore thumb?

“I was never upset!” He proclaimed.

After hearing Dave’s I-was-not-upset proclamation, I needed backup. I asked Kyle to come into the room.

“Kyle, remember when we were helping Dad out of bed and I grabbed his sore thumb?” I asked.

Kyle smiled and responded, “Yep.”

I gently (for real) laughed and continued, “Dave, not only were you upset, you scolded me. You said, ‘Beth, how many times do I have to tell you NOT to GRAB my sore thumb?’”

To which Kyle responded, “Dad, you did.”

“I never said any such thing.” Dave insisted.

Us, Giant's Causeway, Northern, Ireland
Us, Giant’s Causeway, Northern, Ireland

I imagine Dave is frustrated. He knows I am telling him that things are off, but he is not sure how things are off. He does not feel different, but knows I am telling him things are different, that is. Do you trust your wife or your big brain? Because Dave leans towards my interpretation of reality, my guess is he is a little scared (or is just indulging me). I imagine it is no fun to have your wife persistently say,

“Remember this? Remember that? Dude, you are blanking again. Dave. Sweetie, you said the same thing ten minutes ago.” Consequently, you might conclude that Dave he is a little annoyed with me. I am sure he is. Still, Dave takes it. Dave has done what he needs to do.

Dave and I at Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland
Dave and I at Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland

The pay off: Dave went to work this morning (and has for more than a week now). I drove him. He is still a little slow and disconnected.   If he tires or feels weird, I made him promise to text me. I know he won’t. I know Dave (pre and post-concussed). And because I do, I checked in with him instead. He says he is, “pretty good,” whatever that means? Truth be told, I am not sure he would notice anyway. I am crossing my fingers that he does not go all blank face or repeat himself repeatedly (perseverate). I also hope he finds a way to use the correct noun, or at least cleverly brushes off the gaffe (anomic aphasia), if he doesn’t [wink wink]. It was hilarious (fascinating) the other day when he demanded I hand him the “trash can” when he meant, “shopping bag.” Alas, I am reassured with his ability to talk around the word (a sort of circumlocution) until he is able to produce it. Meaning, I think Dave will find a way to make today work. It is now Wednesday – actually Friday, September, 23. I began this post on September 12. Sure, he is still circumlocution-ing his way to words like, vesting. And at this point I find it sort of amusing that he has discovered (three times over) that I found his black shirt. My mom says Dave reminds her of what it is like to get old, “you are getting a little taste of it now.” She told me.

This morning Dave told me his thumb is still pretty sore. His side still aches, but is so much better.  He can finally get out of bed without feeling significant pain.Most of his cuts and scrapes are healed. He tried to tell our neighbor that he would be mountain biking in a week. Of course we put a stop to that.  Some days I look at his blank stare and think he has paused or even drifted backward. He really likes to play a game on his phone. I remember getting addicted to a video game after my concussion. The game is called, “Peggle,” and yes, I share my worry with Dave.  I am sure I am being overly cautious, but I only have one of him. Mostly,Dave is good. Each day he is better. I know he is moving forward. Progress.

Go Dave!

Dave, Giant's Causeway, Northern, Ireland
Dave, Giant’s Causeway, Northern, Ireland

High Anxiety

Dave, September 8, 2016
Dave, September 8, 2016

At 1:47 AM I walked into our bedroom. As you can imagine, I have not been sleeping much this week.

Dave exclaimed, “My head hurts. I cannot sleep!”
“Where does it hurt?” I asked.
“Behind my eyes. It hurts behind my eyes!” Dave proclaimed.
“Dude, you need to stay off screens.” I responded.
“It’s not the screens. It’s all of this sleep. I am sleeping too much!” He protested.
“Um, that’s not true!” I said.

Maybe he is right about all of that sleep. I am certain he is wrong.

Dave was now out of bed looking for the Advil. I found him some Benadryl. He took both, and we climbed into bed.

His words played like a warning:

“Behind my eyes. It hurts behind my eyes!”

Dave, September 8, 2016
Dave, September 8, 2016

Consequently, as Dave tossed and turned, I worked through the aneurism I was certain he would have. Would I call an ambulance? Of course I would. What about the boys? I would take them with me?

Tossing still, I took the next step and began to plan what we would do at the hospital.

“I really need a shower. “ I thought and almost got up and took one.

I know. I know I am dark. I also know that when I am spinning out of control, instead of ignoring them, processing those dark and dramatic thoughts helps. And last night I worked through Dave’s death. As I felt his warm and restless body next to mine, I quietly cried. I moved closer to him and could not imagine life without him. I held my breath. Obituaries, funeral talks & potatoes were finally the counting-sheep that I needed.

I fell asleep. Dave did too. When the boys were getting ready for school, Kyle came into our room. Dave was still breathing, snoring, in fact. I was now up with the boys. We talked about their day. With their arms filled with backpacks, school sweaters, and a big red bag filled with blankets for the Cross Country meet, we hugged and said goodbye.

I watched as they walked to the car. I yelled, “make good choices,” as I always do, happily laughed to myself, and shut the door.

The Boys At our Front Door on the First Day of School, 2016
The Boys At our Front Door on the First Day of School, 2016

…I will say it. This week has scared me more than I think it should. I keep reminding myself to breathe. I keep acknowledging that it could have been worse. A man died mountain biking the day before Dave. He was a similar age and had a similar type crash. We are lucky. I feel selfish. I feel grateful.

As the week progresses, each day Dave the boys and I joke about how long I have consistently been nice to Dave.

“You have been nice for four days straight.” Eli jokes.

This morning I came close to losing it. Kyle sent me a text from school. He couldn’t find his paper. Google Docs is awesome, except when you write your paper in say your Dad’s account instead of your own. I woke Dave up.

“Will you help me get into Kyle’s account?” I frantically said.

The anxiety was building. I knew Dave and I needed to leave soon. I knew Kyle needed his paper. I was on the phone with Kyle as Dave sat at the computer. He searched for Kyle’s paper. My memory caught up with me so as I watched Dave, I exclaimed,

“Dave. Dave. Wait. I need to be doing that. You can’t be on screens.”

(Ok. I know a few minutes on screens probably won’t hurt him, but then again..)

“I am sorry. Please move. I will look for the paper.” I said.

Dave, Day 1
Dave, Day 1

I could tell Dave was annoyed. I could feel me stripping his control. I hated it. I felt guilty making him look and stressed that I might be causing him more damage. I also know I was probably overreacting. This brain stuff is new to all of us. We found Kyle’s paper. It was indeed in Dave’s account. I emailed it to him and Dave and I were on our way.

Right now I am sitting at a local Starbucks. Did I mention that Tuesday Dave was supposed to start a new job? I know, great timing, right? Today Dave needed to meet the team. Some folks are here from out of town. He showered, shaved and put on nice clothes. Seeing him in his business casual made me feel safe and normal.

I drove him to his new office. He was very quiet. We arrived. I pulled into a spot and told him I would wait nearby. I started looking at Google Maps. I expected Dave to get out of the car. Before his crash if I were dropping him somewhere, he would have already been out the door, and up the stairs. Instead he sat in the car – still quiet.

“Is everything ok?” I asked.
“I want to know which Starbucks you will be at?” He replied.
“Let’s look at the map and find the closest one.” I replied.

We did.

Us, The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland, July 24, 2016
Us, The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland, July 24, 2016

Once he knew where I would be, he left. I am now waiting. I texted him. He says things are going, “pretty well.” I am going to get him soon.

…The meetings went well. Dave was there for two and a half hours.  He is wiped out and home now sleeping. Three hours later and he is still sawing logs. Go Dave! Heal that brain!

PS Thank you everyone for your love and support. Thank you for caring about Dave. He is pretty awesome! xo

My Big Brain Dave, an Update

Big Daddy and Me
Big Daddy and Me

The brain is fascinating, subtle and nuanced. I love Dave’s big brain. As you know, right now Dave needs to recalibrate his.

We are grateful he fell on his face (the head’s crumple zone). And we are even happier for those facial fractures. Supposedly they took the brunt of the force. At this point, I think Dave is out of the woods (crossing our fingers, but pretty optimistic). I do not think Dave will remember much. As you might imagine, he remains sore, scabbed and bruised. His face still looks weird, and his brain is still a little wobbly slow.

He tires quickly and sleeps between twenty  — twenty-three hours a day. Dave says one of the reasons he sleeps so much is because he is completely bored. The boys and I take Dave’s acknowledgement of boredom (which began yesterday) as an excellent sign. Of course connecting that he is bored indicates that his synapses are firing. It also means Dave is respecting the healing process. Go Dave!

Big Daddy
Big Daddy

Additionally, if you catch Dave when he is awake, he is clear, lucid and pretty much Dave, albeit a sluggish (runs out of energy quickly) version of himself. Yesterday, after waking up at about 2:00PM, he decided he really wanted to go to the boys’ Cross Country meet. I relented. He ate something. Then rested. He was literally up for about 30 minutes before he needed a rest. I woke him up and we left around 3:30 PM. We parked close, walked our camping chairs to the finish line. Dave put his ear buds in, sat in the shade. He was quiet and docile. He seemed totally normal – if you don’t know him (he did not look at his phone once — so weird). As you can imagine, the finish line was full of lots of screaming and loud cheers. I could tell the noise was bugging him, even though he never said a word. I stood by the finish. When he heard their names, Dave got up to watch Kyle and Eli cross the finish line. As soon as the boys were finished, Dave and I went home. That was about 4:30PM. Dave rested for a bit. Then randomly decided he needed to work on our sprinklers (6:00PM and for about ten minutes). He rested, ate some dinner and was down for the night.

Kyle and Eli at their Cross Country Meet, Sugarhouse Park, Salt Lake City, Utah
Kyle and Eli at their Cross Country Meet, Sugarhouse Park, Salt Lake City, Utah

Dave describes his present state of mind as “groggy,” or, “cloudy.” He says he doesn’t feel any different mentally, aside from the fatigue. Earlier this week, he described it as fog. I don’t think he remembers he felt this way. He is starting to miss his phone. Moments ago I made a deal with him to stay off of it until Saturday. Earlier today he snuck onto Facebook (on his iPhone, of course). Busted, brain-boy. Hey Dave, did you forget that I am on Facebook too? Possibly. Sure enough, as I was scanning my Facebook feed, I noticed Dave had responded to our friend, Cam’s, post. Dave’s words were clear, thoughtful and articulate. I was elated as I read what he had to say. I also replied and asked Cam to remind Dave that he needs to stay off of screens.

Dave, Day 4
Dave, Day 4

“Promise him it is only for a few more days.”

Of course I also know our behind-the-scenes reality. For his Facebook response, Dave had time to articulate his thoughtful words. I also know that Dave has not worked this week. Instead of anticipating more short-circuits once he is back to full speed work life (I am sure there will be hiccups), we are trying to take one moment to the next.

Nevertheless, Dave’s intellect and sense of humor remains in tact. We are grateful.

Then there is this what I would call the nuance-of-the-concussed: Dave and I were sitting on the couch a little while ago. He started telling me why he was awake during the night,

“There were all of these little cartoon creatures surrounding me feet and arms. I needed to move my legs so I could get into the right spot I could disrupt their connections. Every time I shut my eyes I saw them moving around shooting their little zapping ray. I just couldn’t get them into the right spot to disrupt them.”

I laughed. Dave paused. I could see him make a connection. The he said,

“Maybe I was just dreaming.” (Let’s be clear. He wasn’t dreaming. Dave was awake and was hallucinating.  The good news is that he recognized his “dream” was a little off kilter.)




It is Thursday.

Today I am Both of Us

Us, 9.5.16
Us, 9.5.16

Just after noon on Sunday I heard a knock on our front door.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw Dave and his friend standing outside. I thought to myself, “Doesn’t’ he have a key?” I heard a knock again as I made my way. I opened the door and saw their terrified faces.  Dave’s friend was bracing Dave.  Dave was scraped, bloodied, and completely covered in dirt. I only wish I had had the wherewithal to take a picture.  Instead I believe I did the right then and desperately asked,

“What happened?”

“Dave crashed. He needs a CT scan.” His friend said.

“What?” I said followed by a few expletives as I firmly placed my worried hand on Dave’s wavering shoulder. Now I was terrified.

Dave, Day 1
Dave, Day 1

It could have been much worse. I know that a million times over.  Dave and his friend were near the end of their ride. Dave’s friend was riding behind Dave and watched as Dave went over his handlebars, and landed on his helmeted head, right eye and cheek.  Dave was immediately knocked unconscious. In the words of his friend:

“Then his body went limp. His arms hung straight at his side – lifeless.”

Like a rag doll, Dave continued to slide face-first down the path. He was unconscious for approximately 2 minutes.  His friend, who happens to be a doctor, also told me it took effort to wake Dave:

“I had to shake him and really work to wake him.”

Once Dave was alert, it took another 10 minutes or so for Dave to know who he was or where he was.

We knew that the next 24 – 48 hours should let us know if Dave’s big brain is ok. And yes, that is what they said when they reviewed his CT scan:

“He has a big brain.”  

Those of you who know Dave, and know his insatiable curiosity and need to learn, are probably not shocked to hear that yes, Dave’s actual brain is large.  What we also learned is that Dave has two facial fractures, a ligament thumb injury, a large mystery bruise/pain on his side (probably a bruised hip bone), a big blood blister on his pinky finger (listed here for levity), road rash everywhere and a high-grade concussion (because he was knocked unconscious – and for more than a few seconds). Of course, only time will tell if there will be any long-term effects.

Blood Blister on Dave's pinky finger
Blood Blister on Dave’s pinky finger

It is 2:51 PM.

Dave is still in bed. He does not want to eat. I can barely get him to drink water.  His right eye, cheek and chin are more swollen.  He looks like he was punched in the face. His road rash looks worse, but I have also seen worse.

I, on the other hand, feel anxious, lonely, lost, and very lucky. When something goes wrong or is just not right, Dave is my constant.  He really is my best friend. He gets me. He laughs at my crazy humor. He knows I worry. He knows I over analyze. He knows I feel more than any person probably should.  I can talk to him – always. Even during those times when I literally want to throw him head first off of say his mountain bike, Dave does not run. He engages said moment and fights back.  Sure, while we fight, Dave will most likely be looking at his iPhone. That is what makes Dave, Dave.

Dave today
Dave,  today, 9.6.16

Earlier, but after 2:51 PM (it is now 7:52 PM), Kyle and I helped Dave get out of bed. He can hardly move. It takes two of us to finagle him up. While we were moving him, I touched his very painful and swollen thumb. He shrieked,

“Beth, YOU KEEP TOUCHING IT! How many times do I have to tell you not to touch my sore thumb?”

Kyle and I looked at each other and smiled.  We knew Dave was wrong. I wanted to fight back and say,

“Dave, I have not touched your stupid thumb. Seriously, this is the first time.”

Dave, Today, 9.6.16
Dave, today, 9.6.16

And then I remembered the persistent medical advice we have been given:

“He will seem to make so much sense, but actually makes no sense. Concussions are hard on the concussed and hard on the family. Be patient with him and yourselves. Cut him a lot of slack…”

Somehow in that moment, I was able to I take a deep breath, shut my defensive mouth, and help Dave. I promise I won’t always be this patient. In truth it only took an hour for me to lose my cool.   Dave needed to send an email. He is supposed to be off screens right now. He was stubborn, so was I.

“Dude, just let me write the email.” He insisted.

I backed down. We compromised. He wrote the email and promised to rest stay of screens. I edited it. Thank God. In those few sentences, I could no longer deny the fact that Dave’s head is bonked. Then I felt afraid. I wanted to run to my best friend (Dave) and say,

“Dude, what are we going to do with Dave? Is he even going to be ok? Can you believe how strange he is acting? Did you read that email? Some of it was so well written and then… It is really freaking me out!”  

But today, Dave lies injured in a dark room.

I know concussions are a mystery. I know their results are often unpredictable. Kyle had a friend, who was very seriously concussed. His friend seemed just fine and then wasn’t. It was awful and profound.

Our family is also no stranger mystery and mystery illness. Ate age seven Kyle was bitten by a Copperhead snake. Immediately we were told he would lose his right arm.  Together, standing in Maryland’s Suburban Hospital, Dave and I looked at each other as tears streamed down our faces. Kyle overheard the news. He was elated and exclaimed:

“Mom, Dad, this means I will have a bionic arm!”

“So not cool.” Dave and I said to each other.  And together we told Kyle, “dude, I promise your real arm will always be better.” Thank god the doctors were wrong.

Road Rash
Road Rash
More Road Rash
More Road Rash

A few minutes ago Kyle and I returned from a walk.  We left Eli home with Dave. At some point Kyle stressed,

“Mom, I need to get home. I need to finish my homework.”

I shot back and said,

“Fine.  Let’s go.”

I turned in the direction of home and quickly began walking. I was frustrated and wanted to talk to Kyle like I talk I can talk Dave. I wanted him to comprehend how overwhelmed and scared I feel. Kyle does get it. Kyle is my son and it is not fair for me to impose that kind of worry on him. I am the parent.  As I calmed my insides, my pace evened out. I knew I needed to apologize for being a boob. I did. Then Kyle apologized for being impatient.  This is hard on all of us.

Just two days ago Dave and I were walking, talking and connecting. Dave said,

“Hey Beth. You know what? Our life is really good. It is funny because it is definitely not easy. And it never turns out exactly how we hope it will. But in the end, our life is good.”  

Dave is right. Our life is good. Yes, it is very unpredictable, but whose isn’t? Right now I am grateful. Dave is alive. Dave is not in a coma. Sure, I wish I could have my best friend here to hold my hand, tell me that everything will be ok, and walk me through this tough moment.

But today, I need to be both of us.

Dave, yesterday, 9.5.16
Dave, yesterday, 9.5.16