Beyond Party Planning: 1, 16, 85
One way to fight fatigue is to distract oneself, if possible, with whatever makes your heart glow. For some, that means making memories with family and/or friends. One of the worst problems brain injury survivors and their families experience is the victim’s interrupted role in the family (the same could be said for friendships). Add to that how comparatively little one’s family (or friends) understands about such changes, and you get the making of a nightmare that can continue for years to come.
As a mother, daughter, wife, aunt, sister, friend, neighbor and teacher, the pressures on me after suffering severe head trauma were various and widespread. At times, nothing felt worse than the misunderstanding of those I knew best. At the same time, nothing felt better than the long-awaited return to some semblance of myself…particularly after a long stretch where that seemed increasingly doubtful (never give up hope).
While I have yet to enjoy a full return in terms of complexity and expediency, my enthusiasm, motivation, interest and creativity have returned. In truth, I move and process slower, and cannot multi-task anywhere to the extent that I once could. Where once I could do it all plus stay abreast of the housekeeping, now I can generally do one thing but not the other. Thankfully, no one seems as disappointed by my challenges as I am; at least no one says anything about these sorts of things to me. My kids are grown, and my husband is tolerant and understanding. Such challenges remain a work in progress for me even eight years post injury, yet I continue to grow stronger, however slowly.
Fortunately, this past year has been my best so far. Cherished renewal arrived just in time for me to participate in some big events, as this year we celebrated in our family three milestone birthdays: our grand baby’s first birthday, her sister–our granddaughter’s–16th birthday, and my father’s 85th. After so much suffering and missing so many birthdays and events, I was determined and eager to do my part to make each celebration special.
It all started one year ago when our daughter-in-law decided to have a nice party for her baby, our grand baby’s 1st birthday. At that party, we felt the 15 year old might feel neglected, so we pledged there to make it up to her by throwing a big Sweet 16 party in her honor, once her birthday rolled around. The idea for my father’s birthday originated when he complained that he wasn’t looking forward to Christmas this year. I thought how every holiday he is sad now that we’ve lost my mother and brother. I wanted to find a way to create a new memory to replace the old ones that left him sad. I know how he values family, so I decided to have a party with his remaining siblings and nieces and nephews–celebrate while he is still here and cognizant, instead of having only the sad memories of grief and sorrow.
All three parties turned out perfect.
For the grand baby’s party, I had these cookies made:
I created this mantle garland out of photographs of her first year, and covered letters to spell out “One”:
As has become trendy for first birthday photo ops, we had a smash cake for the birthday girl:
For our granddaughter’s Sweet 16 party, she chose a “neon” theme.
I wasn’t sure how that was going to go, but I was amazed at how well it went. Our daughter-in-law had a friend who created this billboard welcome:
They had a band, and the kids had good, clean fun…well, neon-painted fun, that is! Everyone was so well behaved and so polite. I kept thinking what a great contribution this party was to the entire school class–everyone knew where their children were, and there was plenty of adult supervision.
Our daughter-in-law made this ceiling piece for the center of the dance floor, using a hula hoop and surveyor’s tape :
She also provided neon paints, bracelets and necklaces, all of which the kids enjoyed:
The high school kids came prepared with the right sort of clothing, then got creative and had fun with the neon paints.
There was a band!
And for my contribution, I brought a candy table–didn’t realize it would be set out in the dark of ultraviolet lighting, but it was still a big hit….Perhaps best of all, all gone by the end of the night!:
My father’s 85th party, believe it or not, was just as fun, if not a bit less raucous…
I tried to keep things simple. Some festive balloon bouquets at a casual family restaurant with great food…I made my dad, ever the poet and never at a loss for being able to laugh at himself, a hat that said, “85 and Still Alive,” which he loved, and a button to bring out the kid in him that said, “Kiss me, I’m the Birthday Boy.” We told stories and gave toasts; I think it was very nearly the best birthday party my dad ever had…
They brought out a heart-shaped pizza with our salads, because my dad is, really, such a big-hearted guy:
And of course, when it came time to sing “Happy Birthday,” there was a BIG cake!:
What blessings these occasions were, even though all three parties ended in two-to-three day bouts of fatigue for me. I was especially ill after the girls’ parties, because we had to travel quite a distance to attend them in another state.
The important thing is that I was able to help plan them, shop for them, participate in them, be present.
These were moments I missed when I was in worse condition, and they are now moments I never take for granted…no griping, no resentment whatsoever. I sometimes wish my family understood what I was suffering during my recovery from acquired brain injury, but maybe it’s best they were focused on other things, imagining I was just in some weird and annoying funk. As long as I can contribute something now, despite the fatigue that follows, I can continue to work toward regaining the strength and energy that once made me seem completely competent in everyone’s eyes, even my own. I still miss those days…but I am enjoying these days to the very best of my ability. In some ways more so. After all, I have been to the other side. I am a grateful survivor.
This is Day 24 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue
© debra valentino, all rights reserved, www.firstlightofevening.com