Widow Brain is as good a term as any for why I'm so disconnected, often disoriented and forget what I'm supposed to be doing, what I'm supposed to care about.
You see my mind is not present all the time. I can't say exactly where it is, but most of the time it's in the past.
A simple thing, making a turn while I'm driving, will trigger a memory and suddenly I'm there, back in the day, another day, another time, another trip.
There is a turn I make almost every time I drive home from the city. Invariably each time I make it I am drawn into a memory.
We moved up here on the hill, snow country, The Tug Hill Plateau, in August of 1991. It was the most isolated area we'd ever lived in, but we loved it. Things were good. Life was good. Then Bill got sick.
That November he was diagnosed with Aortic Stenosis. Without surgery he would have two years to live, and they wouldn't be good ones.
I was terrified, he was too, although he hid his fears from me. We did everything we were supposed to and made arrangements for his surgery. It was scheduled for February 3rd 1992 in Syracuse, one of the best heart hospitals in the area. The surgery was serious. It wasn't a by-pass. He did not have coronary artery disease. It was a genetic defect and his Aortic Valve would have to be replaced by a mechanical one. He would tick, like a watch.
A week before the surgery we were involved in a head-on crash. Bill was driving, but it was not his fault. The kid who swerved into our lane left him little choice on icy roads. Take the hit or hit a stand of huge old Maple trees that likely would have killed us all. Bill took the hit. Two of our children were in the back seat.
The kids and I were taken to the hospital by ambulance with injuries. Bill would not go. He insisted he was all right. I think he didn't want to enter a hospital any sooner than he had too. I hit the windshield.( In case you didn't know, your body always, always goes in the direction of impact. If you're hit head on, your body will go forward, if you're hit from the side, that is the way your body will be tossed. A crash at 30 miles an hours has the same impact as jumping from a third story building and so on. The faster the speed at the time of the crash, the higher the jump.)
Our kids sustained knee and back injuries, as well as trauma.
The young man who hit us had no insurance. Our vehicle was a total loss, in fact I don't know how we all walked away. Could things get any worse?
Thankfully our insurance agent was fabulous. She badgered until she got us a rental car. It was a small wagon of some kind, I don't remember what, but I never drove it.
On the day he was to be admitted Bill drove to the hospital and parked the car in the garage. It sat there for 7 days. I never touched it, never left the hospital.
The surgery went well. They expected the valve to last for twenty years. He did tick. I could hear him from across the room and for a while it drove me a bit crazy. Later I learned it was a lovely sound. It meant he was still alive.
I drove home the day he was released. Bill was strapped into the passenger seat with his heart pillow clutched to his chest. In those days they sawed your entire chest opened, pried it apart, put it back together with metal clamps, then stitched the skin. While is surgeon was excellent, a seamstress he was not. His scars were horrific. Neither of us cared. He'd survived.
The weather was brutal. One lane of the Thruway was completely closed. A good deal of the time I was plowing snow in a car I'd never driven that wasn't 4WD. I was terrified. All I could think of was after all this, the crash, the surgery, I was going to kill us on the way home.
The hour drive took three, at least. I came to the part of the road I mentioned earlier. This was my turn. This meant we only had six more miles to go and even thought the back roads would be worse I could creep along. Well, I missed it! Slid right by it barely able to keep the car on the road. I could not stop.
I don't know how far the car traveled on the icy road before it did stop. Visibility was nil and I had to back up blind praying we didn't get hit by a plow.
Obviously, I did get back to the turn and we got home, but I guess my point is that each and every time I make that turn, even now, more than twenty-six years later, my mind goes back to that day.
This is Widow Brain for me. Random things, a view, a song, a comment will trigger something inside me and I'm lost in a memory. I become distant, distracted. The conversation goes on around me, but I don't hear it. I try to play catch-up when I snap out of it. Most times I can't, so I nod and smile as though I know what's going on, but I don't.
People probably think I'm rude, inattentive, but I don't mean to be. I'm just thinking of Bill and my life for the past forty-five years. There are so many things I want to tell him, discuss with him, but I can't.
I want to be held and kissed. I want him to make me laugh again. I want him to hold me and promise everything will be all right, even if he's lying, which he did to make me feel better.
I'd like to forget the bad memories and remember only the good, but I'm afraid if I push them out of my mind, stuff them deeper I will forget more than I want to. I will forget the times we laughed and danced, the times we made love, the special days like this one on his fiftieth birthday with our oldest grandchild.
So, with that being said, how do you go on? I guess Widow Brain is not such a bad thing. It provides a bit of insulation from the world around you, the world you don't want to face alone.