My Homework at the Mall

Or maybe it was a Cub Scout merit badge or something. This week I was given a homework assignment by one of my therapists. She asked me to simply go to a mall and try to do some Christmas shopping for my wife. Only it had to be on my own. It just sounds plain silly to think about that as a 50-year-old but it was quite an undertaking. Driving to the mall on a dark, rainy evening – Check. Eventually finding a parking spot – Check. Walking around amidst people holiday shopping – uh, Check.  Finding a gift idea for my wife that wasn’t going to require playing the brain injury card as an excuse – Check. Completely unintended and serendipitous discovery – Check. It happened because I needed to duck out of the moving crowd that I stopped into the Victorinox store to look at the pocket knives they had on display. Once my sister got me one of these some 25 years ago I’ve rarely been without one. I’d already made my wife a believer in these gadgets so they were out as a gift. I just needed a time out from the Koyaanisqatsi movie my world becomes when there are more than 50 people nearby.

So this nice young salesperson comes over and pleasantly strikes up a conversation about the knives. I like the little Midnite Manager model so we were mutually extolling the geeky little niceties of those things. I’m not sure why but I noticed the luggage they had on display and that gave me the idea to get a good piece for my wife to use on her business trips. They get beaten up when she has to travel all the time so I thought it made sense to buy a good one once instead of cheap ones multiple times.

The whole point of this post was to mention this very nice young lady. I forgot her name (of course) and it isn’t printed on the receipt but I wish I remembered it because I’d give her her own personal commercial right here.  She made the shopping experience very nice. If we had children, she could have been one of their much younger sisters. I don’t know why but I get a kick out of saying that for some reason. Anyway, she was very patient with me as I texted back and forth with my wife about this prospective sale – yeah, I’m not one for those Christmas morning surprise gifts. If you’re ever in that Victorinox store in the Mall at Short Hills, she is somewhere in her mid-20’s, medium height with straight-ish brown hair, glasses (maybe?) and a very easy and cheerful conversational manner. She actually wasn’t trying to ‘sell’ me even though it was her job. She made it feel more like I was chatting with her about luggage in an airport lounge. It was just a better approach for me anyway.

The other reason I’m mentioning her is that she noticed the prism decal I need on my left eye-glass lens. Lately I’ve begun shifting over from immediately referring to my brain injury to trying not to talk about it if I don’t have to. She said something about it that actually didn’t strike me as odd and annoying so while we were waiting for text messages to come back from my wife I told her about why I needed it. I think she may have been the first total stranger to have a comfortable brain injury conversation with me. I showed her the note to myself about my homework assignment written on my phone’s scratch pad app. Sure, I got the “You don’t look like you had an accident…” sort of comments but it wasn’t weird with her. I didn’t even mind showing her the text from my wife that said “And I am very impressed with how long you’ve been there!” like she was proud of her big boy going to the mall all by himself for the first time. All growed up! I’m so proud of you! I can’t wait to call Aunt Rita…

Yes. Yes. Yes. I know that disclosing such personal information like that to a stranger poses some risk. I’m not going to close by saying you should all go out and do that. It just seemed comfortable in that moment. I mean, it’s not like I’m being all that secretive when I write this stuff here either. I showed her this site in the course of showing her the crashed bike helmet so who knows? Maybe she’ll see this and message me or something. I hope she does ’cause I know my wife would steal her away from that store if she could. Interactions like that are few and far between for me these days and it was worth staying up late to write about her.

::Tangent Warning:: As I was driving over there I was listening to the CD my wife had been playing in the car. Again I was reminded of how lucky I was that my appreciation of music wasn’t messed up by the TBI. I always liked Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U  and this was the first time I’d heard it in a long long time. There’s an incredible moment, to me at least, at about the 3:10 mark on the words another try and it hit me just like it usually did. It’s like the whole song before it is merely a set up for that one chord change. Prince really wrote some great stuff right there.

About peterwick

I was a long-time jack of all trades. Until suddenly I was different.
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9 Responses to My Homework at the Mall

  1. Marcia says:

    Congratulations on your successful shopping trip! I am not really sure what to say other than I think you are doing an amazing job with your rehab. I know we have not talked a lot since your accident but I think of you all the time. Keep it up bro!


  2. peterwick says:

    You’re so sweet, Marcia. Thanks. I think about Mom and Dad and the troubles they are dealing with – and how I probably leapt about 20 years into my biological future if the stats are right.


    • Anonymous says:

      At least you can drive! I had a stroke 3 years+ 2 months ago and still am not allowed to drive, but i’m not like some of those old people trapped out in the suburbs with no other way of getting around. Nevertheless it cuts into my recreational options. When I was in hospital for my stroke many of my fellow patients had TBI. Seems like you’re doing great! Keep it up.


      • peterwick says:

        Thanks. I’ve said it here before. I am very fortunate in that I appear to have had a mild brain injury. I still have some definite problems to keep working on but my coordination has come back quite well. I’m now trying to overcome some of the emotional and cognitive problems that still cause me some trouble. Still, it has been less than a year and I’m this far. Again, a mild TBI.

        Is your driving restriction due to cognitive or physical deficits? Are vehicle modifications available to accommodate your needs? Or are they just too expensive?


  3. Andrew Lenton says:

    What stats about biological age are you referring to? I was 55 when I had my stroke and then suddenly I was back to four, or whatever age goes with diapers and total dependency. Upon recovery I felt older than 55, but when I turn 60 next year, I intend to be 40 again, as the saying goes

    Liked by 1 person

    • peterwick says:

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for reading. I’m not sure what you mean by stats about biological age. I don’t recall any stats that I spoke about in this post. I did mention that I’m 50 years old and am having a hard time accepting that there are things that used to be easy for me but now are not. I remarked that this young woman was im her early 20’s, mid 20’s tops and so would have been a younger child of mine if my wife and I had had any kids. Heh. Over the summer I joked a lot about how my crash rendered me what I felt was a geriatric toddler for a while. That sounds like what you said you felt like after your stroke, right? It has taken me a while to move up in my estimation. I got to ‘adolescent who wasn’t too good in gym class’ by September. Now I’d say that I’m kind close to where I was before I started training for triathlons. Except, that is, for the cycling part. I can ride on my stationary trainer but my eyesight still isn’t quite good enough for me to ride safely on the road yet. Maybe I should get one of those new ‘fat bikes’ with tires almost as big as motorcycle tires.


  4. rockstar says:

    First let me tell you how happy I am for you when I read your blog and see the progress your making. Second I want to thank you for writing this blog, using your own misfortune to bring light to what thousands of us deal with EVERYDAY in silence. My own first solo shopping trip was similar to yours in many ways, and very different in others. I drove to a town where everyone knew me and did my best to not feel lost as I did the 2 or 3 things I was sent to do. Fielded questions about my recovery going soooo well. And scrapped off compliments about how wonderful I looked! Please my face was rearranged! I had a TBI I wasn’t stupid! When I got home my husband greeted me happy I got everything done and was home again. I too was praised for making the trip and was told how proud of me he was. Like I just figured out how to use a flush toilet or something. What he didn’t tell me until I was “sleeping” was that I forgot our kids! I was suppose to take 3 small children with me to town. I had gotten them dressed and left the house to start my truck, and I just left! I didn’t go back in the house. The kids were ok, because my husband was watching from the machine shop. He used to lay awake at night and talk out the day when he thought I was asleep. Most of the time I was. But in that moment, I never felt so completely useless in my life! I wondered why I was even here. Its a long time ago now. And for the most part I have gotten past it. Your doing a good thing Peter. A really good thing. Thank You for having the courage to do it.


    • Anonymous says:

      Oh. My. God! Yeah, I know that feeling, but only on a much smaller scale. Thank goodness you left them at home instead of leaving them at a store.

      I had a similar experience last night. I went out to get something in the garage and I let Keegan come along with me. I completely lost track of him as I was rooting around in there. Later on that evening (not too long thank goodness) I was wondering where my fuzzy little shadow was. I couldn’t find him in the house and none of the sounds guaranteed to make him come running to me worked. Aaaaaagh!!!!! I opened the back door to find the little dude sitting there, waiting so patiently and shivering in the single digit cold.


  5. peterwick says:

    Not that it’s critical to point this out but the anonymous post just above this one was from me. I cannot figure out how to get admin access to my own blog while looking at it on my phone. Dang it. I used to be good at this stuff.


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