This is an excerpt from my in-progress work on becoming the parent of a disabled child: My 15 year old son was hit by a car while he was riding a bicycle. No helmet protected his head and he suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was placed into a medically-induced coma for a week. During that time, we were forced to look at potential quality of life issues as well as adjust to unknown scales of impairment. He/we are 19 months post-accident and we all continue to rehabilitate. He had been home, post-accident, one month when I wrote this.
I cannot talk about how much I dislike this kid. He does not know how to take a joke and he is a real jerk when it comes to doing what he is asked. Telling him to go to bed elicits from him a look of scorn. I know that this is in part due to his current lack of a social censor. But he digs his heels in like a mule and I find myself exasperated in a flash of a second. He wheedles and whines like a 9 year old. He begins playing the guitar at midnight after I have asked him to go to bed and others in the household are already asleep. When asked to do something, he does the opposite. He is simultaneously 3, 6, 11 and 16.
Other times he is a cuddly 4 year old, an engaging 8 or a self-conscious but trying hard 12. He is all of these, these things that he was and yet still is. It is sometimes hard to make sense of this nuttiness for all of us. At times he looks confused but runs on verbally to cover his confusion. He will make things up and then stick to them resolutely. When this happens, I do not know if he really believes it, or if he has to stick to it because it has left his mind and is now exposed to public space where his confusion could be found if he lets it. It creates a struggle between us.
Occasionally he talks of his accident or as he calls it, this strange thing that happened to my brain. Today he promotes the idea that he did not know what really happened to his head because there were no broken bones or other indications that a car hit him. Due to the lack of these things, he suggests, it could have been someone just messing with my head. He shakes his head. I don’t know why anyone would do that, or what they did when they opened this up. He runs his finger along the question-mark shaped scar that begins midline just above his forehead, curving gracefully around towards the back of his skull, and then zooms back down, ending in front of his ear. Once his hair has grown back, only the part of the scar in front of his ear will be visible, and only then if his hair is not hanging in front of it.
In my eyes, this scar is not the only one. We all wear scars. The one on his head is the only obvious and visible one but it is far from the only scar created by this accident. I feel the welt of wounds many days when he talks to me and it is apparent that there are gaps in what he knows or how he presents himself. I suspect this child of playing my son. I wonder if he suspects me of playing his Mom. I love this child but I miss my son.