"Yeah, I was there," my Dad's cousin said to me when I asked him if he was with my parents the day Mom fell from her horse, "I was 15. It was just me, your Dad, and your Mom. She rounded a barrel and as she did, her saddle slipped and her head bounced off the ground."
And that's the moment my mother's brain broke.
She sat in the hospital, in and out of conscious. Mostly out -her coma lasting 2 weeks. They tied her hands down so she'd quit pulling at the tubes and cords attached to her body. Eventually, they had to tie her legs down.
Mom has talented toes that can grip hospital tubing as well as any hand.
She used sign language, even with her arms tied down she could make her fingers communicate, "scissor cut." She begged her brother using sign language, please... cut.
When she was able to talk, they asked her where she was.
"The church," she said.
Do hospitals look like a church?
She was wrong, of course, but she wasn't wrong. In her own mind, it made sense.
On Thursday, my young cousin was late for football practice. In his rush, he plowed through stop signs on his 4-wheeler. He had to make it to practice -he was a star player. There's never anyone AT our 4-way or 2-way stops in this little hick town. Only on Thursday, there was.
And it was a bus.
And my daughter was on it.
Luckily, none of the children were hurt.
My cousin, on the other hand, was curled up on the pavement, aspirating on his own blood. The local EMT crew is highly trained and have saved many precious lives in our town.
True story: my son was almost delivered by the boy I used to chase at recess in first grade. I might have been embarrassed had I not been in horrible pain.
That same boy (*ahem* MAN now) worked tirelessly on my cousin. He was taken by chopper to the nearest hospital equipped to care for him.
"It isn't looking good," my husband's co-workers said.
They lost him twice on the chopper.
But he clawed his way back. Twice. At the hospital, they did scans and x-rays and found multiple skull fractures, bleeding on the brain, broken bones all over his face...
His brain was broken.
Tears were shed, prayers were said. The next day, our town decked out in blue to honor my cousin and his friend who was riding with him. We fasted and prayed.
More scans were done after the fast... all of the broken bones were in the right place. No long-term brain damage was found.
They downgraded his diagnosis to "severe concussion." They stitched up a cut on his head and stitched up his ear, and then talked about his coming home in a few days.
It's a downright miracle, though he'll never play contact sports again.
Right now he's tugging on his oxygen, swearing and frustrated.
"Do you know where you are?" his mom asks him.
"At home," he says.
My mom smiles. She understands.
"I was sure I was wherever I decided I was... I made it make sense to me in my mind, and everyone else thought I was wrong, but I wasn't wrong to me."
My husband didn't hit a bus. His damage wasn't instantaneous. He's never so lost as to WHERE he physically is, but I've come to appreciate the fact that he isn't wrong.
Even when he is to me.
As my mom's brain healed, no one told her she was crazy. No one told her there weren't spies surrounding the house (she knew there was). No one told her there weren't snakes coiled up on her head. No one told her she wasn't going to fall through the floor while she bathed.
Everyone understood that Mom was sick, and they let her BE where she WAS.
"There's a snake on my head," she whispered to my Grandpa as she held absolutely still and sat up tense and straight.
"Don't you hate it when that happens?" Grandpa sighed and changed the channel.
Grandpa let Mom's brain BE where it WAS.
When my husband is wrong, it hurts. I want to show him how wrong he is.
But do you see anyone running around trying to prove to my cousin that he's NOT at home? That he IS in a hospital?
No. He'll figure that out later as his brain heals.
Sexual addiction is a different kind of brain breakage, but the similarities lie in simply letting my husband be where he is while keeping myself safe using boundaries, love, common sense, and self-respect.
It's not about being right or being wrong.
Because -to him -he ISN'T wrong. I hear my mom's sweet voice, "I wasn't wrong to me."
Yes, Mom was broken. But none of us were her doctor.
And I am no Master Healer.
It's hard to let my husband be. But it's much harder to play Savior.
I can only follow Grandpa's example of acknowledging.
"I'm sorry you feel that way."
It's my own "Don't you hate it when that happens?"
Tonight, we will go visit my cousin. And if he tells us he's at home, we will nod.
He's working hard to make it make sense in his own mind, and he isn't wrong to himself.