My Other Life

Jul 16, 2013

Do I even wear glasses?

*****Guest blogger and big brother Bob Gulian agreed to help me out this week. He’s been doing that (helping me out ) for many, many years. If you read the last blog about my six week stay in a nuthouse, I failed to mention that this guy drove through midtown Manhattan rush-hour traffic every day to visit his sad and mostly silent little sister. He’s held my hand through a lot. But mostly he just makes me laugh. So when I got the call that he “might have” had a stroke, I felt my world start to crumble.  He’s OK as you can tell from this photo taken today. And he also learned to be nice to the nurses. Love you Bob!

My Other Life

My sister said, “Why don’t you write another guest blog?” Okay, last year went fine. I started out thinking this time I’d write about how mean I’ve been. I’m not sure I had a point. Then I actually did write a whole blog entry about how all my children are Buddhists but I made the mistake of telling Laurie – my wife – about it and she, uh, disagreed with my point of view. I hadn’t even told her the controversial part.

So I’m going to write about something that happened to me two and half years ago. It was just before Christmas, December, and I was driving home after work from a job in a small startup in Port Chester, NY. Six p.m. meant it was already dark and very cold and at that time I was behind the wheel of a beat-up old 2000 Mazda. Yes, okay, I’m still driving it today. I was halfway home on Interstate 684 when I heard a bang and the car began to wobble violently. I was aware that a tire had blown out and adrenaline was injected into my bloodstream; I mean it was quite a large shot of the stuff.

Then I was parked on the shoulder…

There were flares in my trunk. I had never used one but I figured it out…

My phone was in my hand. I said something to someone…

I had the tire off. There was a donut in the trunk and then it was on…

I drove off after putting out the flare…

The thought came to me right as got back on the highway that I did not know where my phone was…

I was home.

Then the real fun began, and almost all of this is second hand as the time sequence I was experiencing was very different than those around me. I was confused about what I was doing home.

“Why am I here?” I asked. I think Laurie asked me to read something, I’m not sure why and I got out my glasses and put them on but it didn’t help. I couldn’t read.

I asked, “Do I even wear glasses?” This is the one thing I said that night, that my family has not let me forget. Whenever, now, I can’t find my glasses, I hear “Do you even wear glasses?”

Laurie asked me what year, month, or day it was. I got them all wrong. They – Laurie, my son Robin and my daughter, Nina – asked me a bunch of other questions, all of which should have been answerable by a fifth-grader and all of which I got wrong.

I was in a car going to the hospital. Laurie drove, Robin was in the front and I sat with Nina in the back. I felt pretty good. I was confused about why we were going to the hospital but I could sense the love of my children and my wife, their concern. Time jumped from some event to the next, and we were there. I was glad to see everyone, all the new faces at the ER seemed profoundly interesting. I thought the paramedics and cops and nurses were heroic and great looking. Time jumped again.

They gave me oxygen. It was cool and refreshing. Robin held my hand and was worried. I didn’t want him to worry. But it was all just perfect; it was as though I was sitting on a bank of a stream. The stream was life and it flowed by me so that I couldn’t see the whole thing but just one little patch of water at a time and then it would be gone and suddenly I’d be looking at a new spot. In small increments, I began to feel time tug at me, I began to be aware of its passing and knew I was returning to ‘normal’. I answered the year, month, day thing correctly.

It’s called Transient Global Amnesia. It happens in men and women of a certain age after extreme exertion. It is usually a one-time event and is not indicative of any underlying problems. My family thought I was having a stroke.

My mom is 84, has had at least three major strokes. Physically, she appears fine though confined to a wheelchair due to bad knees and other factors. No one knows what’s going on in her head; she has not been able to form coherent speech in almost three years.

What I fervently hope is going on in that old gray head is similar to what was happening to me on that night. I hope time jumps so much that a day is like a few seconds. I hope that she sits on the bank of that stream and is as delighted and as unconcerned with consequences as I was. I know sometimes this is happening; I see her smile as a new face appears and laugh at a funny expression. She jumps from one moment to the next and they are not connected by history. There is sadness in her at times though so I know there are differences from my experience that night but the time thing could make it so that even the sad parts float away. These are all just my hopes; there is no way to know for sure, none at all.

The experience was a gift, an opportunity to see for myself that my 59-year-long version of reality was, well, not wrong, but very limited. And if my views were not necessarily the real thing then certainly the human experience I project onto everyone else must be pretty distorted too. I want to be careful taking speculation too much further. After all, how many experiences like mine have resulted in books about visits to heaven and abduction by aliens? The element that stands out from that night, what rang out to me and punctuated my time stream was love. In that reality as in the one that I inhabit now, and I’ll go so far as to say probably in all others, human love is a constant. The presence of it, as I saw it, was a warm and pulsing beacon guiding me through strange, unchartered territory.

So, glad I got back. Glad to have some more years in this, the reality that contains these beautiful companions. Then on to the next, I guess…if I can remember where I put my glasses.

Afterward: I had left my iPhone behind, at the side of the road where I fixed the flat. I went back days later but it had snowed and the shoulder had been plowed into a solid bank. There was no sign of the phone. Three months later, I got a Facebook message from a fellow in Long Island who had found my phone on 684. The snow had melted, releasing my iPhone and this Samaritan had broken down at the same place I had. He mailed the phone back to me and would not take a dime, not even shipping charges.

The phone worked perfectly.