Losing one’s place in the world

“Love is a many splendored thing” a poet or philosopher once said. It could have also been “life is a many splendid thing”. So much to discover, learn, share, explore and do. Every day has its surprises if we’re open to watching for them. But not all the surprises are really splendid. When things are going well, one hopes and makes plans for them to continue. As if man has control over these things. So it was with me this summer.

Some of the highlights were sailing off the coast of Mattapoisett the day after July 4 with a couple of other guys. After that, I biked with other friends on one of the rail trails in Massachusetts.

My wife and I joined some Maine cousins at Moosehead Lake in Maine and enjoyed them and the quiet calm waters. A long weekend was planned in August to go to York, Maine with some other friends I’ve known for over forty years. Next, after that, later in the month of August, I had plans to visit with my brother who lives on the Shenandoah River in rural Virginia.

A couple of beautiful summer months, June and July were filled with sports and athletic activities like biking, skiing, hiking and nice long walks on my own and with others. I’ve recently started playing pickleball, a new sport for me, easy to learn and enjoy. It is not intense like tennis; it’s more like ping pong, social and easy to enjoy. Some people drink wine while playing.

But then came July 29. On a really hot, humid morning, I drove to the next town over to play an hour’s worth of pickleball. It was wicked hot even at 8:30 in the morning. In the blink of an eye, somehow I lost my footing and fell, hitting my head on hard pavement in a parking lot. The joy of being physically active came to a sudden catastrophic end.

Fortunately for me, a bystander saw me slumped down near my car, called “911” and I was picked up, transported to the ER of a local hospital. But upon seeing the extent of the damage I suffered, the hospital personnel sent me by ambulance to one of Boston’s premiere hospitals where their ER and Neuro ICU staff took me in and saved me.

And then, all I know is I woke up …. and was surprised to be in a hospital. After some time I opened my eyes and saw my wife and brother staring at me a few feet away. What were they doing here?

It was a totally unreal feeling to find myself in a hospital bed staring at them, unable to do much of anything or know much of anything. I didn’t know what happened or how I got there. I didn’t really know which hospital I was at, or know how much time had passed or much of anything else.

It’s really no comfort to lose one’s place in the world. I had plans to play tennis, travel and see some good friends who were staying on the east coast during the summer, returning to Arizona at the beginning of fall. I hAd my routines that I practice every day and that was nowhere in sight.

Life is full of wondrous events for sure. But accidents happen too. Things don’t alway go according to plan. I don’t believe that G-d has a “plan for me”. I believe life is just full of incidents, some random, some not, but all together it just happens. On July 29 I somehow fell, hit my skull on the hard parking lot pavement and suffered a brain bleed, a very serious traumatic brain injury (TBI). At the hospital I didn’t know what happened but I slowly came to realize my joyful summer had come to an end. The only good part was I was in an air conditioned room and I didn’t have to suffer through the August humidity nor watch or listen to corrupt narcissistic Donald Trump.

Instead, I was very fortunate to hear from numerous friends who reached out to me, to check on my situation and recovery. I didn’t feel much like talking at first but as time wore on I engaged with them all.

I learned that a brain bleed is a major medical emergency; I was lucky to be treated by a medical treatment team that knew what to do and how to treat me.

And now it’s wonderful to be home and just do the simple things: walk, cook, read, watch Netflix and talk on the phone. It is comforting to not being woken up at 4 am to measure my vitals. It’s wonderful to be home and not to have to ask for assistance to go to the bathroom or ask permission to go. Being in two hospitals was necessary at the time, but that was then and now it’s a different time. I’m working on strengthening myself and returning to sports/activities. These things will hopefully return soon to my life as I recuperate. That’s the plan I’m working on. Check in with me in a couple of months, or I’ll check in with you as I’m still off the hook.

Published by Richard Halpern

Retired (but busy) after a lengthy career in business marketing, communications and research. Worked at four start-ups and one turnaround. Now volunteer doing prospect research for a climate activity and social advocacy non profit, amongst other things.

One thought on “Losing one’s place in the world

  1. Richard,

    That was wonderful! You have such a wonderful ability to express yourself.

    We all heard what you went through, but reading your own words gives a better understanding about what you went through.

    I feel privileged to know you and to count you as a friend.



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