Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: DIARY (05/16/19)
TITLE: Up In Flames
By Leah Nichols
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I stare at the words, pondering their significance, but they don’t make sense.
Magnesium? Ask Mom? When did I even write this?
I quickly scribble underneath, “Make sure to date and time all entries.”
Recently, I hit my head in a car accident, which scrambled my long-term and short-term memory. The doctors call it “traumatic brain injury” and say it’s possible that it can heal, but I’ll probably have lingering effects for the rest of my life. They didn’t say how HARD it is to recover. Even with occupational and speech therapy every other day, I can’t seem to keep anything straight.
This notebook is my lifeline.
I wouldn’t call it a “diary,” but I write everything down I want to remember. Unfortunately, I seem to have grown a bit lazy, thus the enigmatic note about magnesium.
I guess I’ll have to ask Mom. I hate being vulnerable. Twenty-four years old, and I’m back living with my parents. Like my college degree makes any difference now; everything I learned is garbled with the rest of my memories. I know I still have time to recover, but I’m worried I won’t be able to work or live on my own again.
I clutch the notebook in my hand and drag myself into the kitchen. My physical coordination wasn’t affected by the brain injury, but I really think I would have preferred to not walk again versus all the mental problems. At least a physical disability is visible.
Mom looks up as she stirs a pot on the stove. “What’s the matter, Jeannie?”
I sigh, frustrated. “I can’t figure out why I wrote this. Of course I don’t remember, just like everything else.” I shove the open notebook onto the counter next to her and point.
“You were at the doctor’s office this morning, and I stepped out for a minute to answer a phone call. You said you’d write down anything I missed. I got back just after the doctor finished explaining the importance of a magnesium supplement. We already discussed this with him. I guess you forgot to note that it was done.” She smiles. I can’t believe how patient she remains throughout the explanation.
I grab the notebook back and cross out the sentence, jotting “DONE” above it.
“I can’t do this, Mom.” No, no - not tears. I must cry 500 times a day.
“It’s okay, dear.” Her arms encircle me now; her lips press against my forehead. “One thing at a time.”
“I just want to be better, right now. I don’t want it to take a year or longer, I don’t want to have therapy three times a week, and I don’t want to write everything down in this stupid notebook!” I fling the offending item away, not observing its trajectory with the tears blurring my vision.
That thoughtless action proves ill-timed, as my parents have a gas stove. Or, you might consider it a one-in-a-million shot, as a loud “whoosh” sound draws our immediate attention to the notebook which is engulfed in flames on the counter.
Thankfully, Mom thinks fast. Before my brain can even register the situation, she lets go of me and unties her apron, whipping it off and smothering the flaming papers.
She glances at me and laughs at my expression, a cross between shock and disbelief. “Well, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”
I honestly have no idea. Considering how much I forget from one hour to the next, there’s no way of knowing if I would do the same thing tomorrow.
“I’ll write a reminder to myself in the next notebook-dairy,” I reply. “But all the same, maybe we should get one that’s flame-resistant.”
We burst into laughter, and the ridiculousness of it all keeps my attention the rest of the night.
In the morning, I see the singed notebook, and I remember the flames, the laughing, and writing down instructions to not chuck my diary when Mom is cooking.
Laughter IS the best medicine. I guess I’ve been so serious through this whole ordeal that I’ve forgotten to laugh. Maybe laughter won’t work for every problem, but I’m tired of frustration and sorrow. If I can laugh through the absurdity, maybe my brain will heal.
If anything, a more lighthearted view of the problem might make me a little easier to live with from one day to the next.
But I’m still going to date and time my entries.
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