Leaving My Home After My TBI: Escape From New York
I planned a going away/birthday party on October 1, 2011. I decided to throw it at Ali’s (Bar 280) near my old apartment. I was to leave the following morning on the 2nd. I planned to stay at my old apartment with friends and see my dog for one last time before I left. I walked with a cane, and made my way in to see Ali, who welcomed us and was more than gracious. It’s absolutely amazing what is done good people. Despite my inabilities, Ali helped to make this an incredible last night in NY.
I couldn’t believe how many of my friends showed up! My old drummer, Johnny Alexander, flew in from Miami, FL just to see me off. My other very good friend, Marisa, did the same from Atlanta, GA. Close friends, old coworkers, and bar regulars (I bar tended for 6 years), and even bosses came to wish me well. It was so amazing to have so many good people come to see me off and finish the last few paragraphs of this 8 year chapter in my life in New York City. I am forever grateful for the people in my life. It was the end of an era in a lot of our lives, and deserved celebration.
At some point I left the party to visit my old neighbor, Mishelle Meow, who had recently helped me find Leroy a trainer and a home. We had still not found Leroy a home, and I had asked both Jenn my roommate to take care of him for a month or two while I continued to search for a home for him. Thanking Mishelle was important to me.
Mishelle was tending bar nearby, and I wanted to express my gratitude to her personally. Meanwhile, another very good friend, Lindsay, had hustled out to see me off before she had to be at work that night. When she got to Ali’s, though, I wasn’t there. She found out where I was and hurried to find me, in the limited time she had, and we met in the street briefly. This and many other actions meant so much to me. None of it goes unnoticed.
I am not only aware, but I feel unbelievably lucky to have gotten the love and support that was shown to me that night and throughout my entire life. I’m not trying to breed resentment from any readers, but to express my appreciation and to vow on the reciprocation of such selfless, caring, and loving actions when one of my friends is in need. The fact that they showed up directly and positively effected my mental health… And my mind was what was injured, so they all played a big part in my recovery.
Jenn had to run home to walk the dog and I told her to bring him by. She now lived only a few blocks away, so she did just that. Early that day we had been talking to a fairly new, yet awesome friend, Jeremy Yokum, who told Jenn and I a sad story about how his old dog had been taken from him and he began to tear up. He understood what Leroy meant to me. I even amazingly felt more able in my feeble state, with Leroy around. I was able to bend down and pet him, and despite my lack of volume, he would listen to the commands I would softly assert. He was my boy. Jenn took him back home, and hurried back to the party.
Johnny, my old drummer, has a birthday one day before mine. We celebrated them together for years. Johnny insisted that tonight was not his birthday celebration and that it was a celebration about me, so I said “it’s about me, right? So we do what I want?” To which Johnny replied “Absolutely” and I said “Then I want US to celebrate OUR birthdays together.”
Jenn went to a bodega nearby and picked up two $4 Entenmann’s cakes which had kinda become a traditional, cheap, and ghetto cake for our birthdays since a few years prior. Jenn also picked up a tube of icing and had a friend, Isobel, write my name with icing on one cake, and Johnny’s on the other. Jenn had also gotten a pack of candles and arranged them on both cakes.
With the candles lit an everyone gathered, Johnny delivered a speech about how this day marked the end of an era for me, and how all of the lovely people that were there that night were a testament to the incredible era it was. He said a few things to make me blush and a few things to make me tear up. It really was beautiful. I mustered up some strength to speak loud enough to be heard and followed that killer speech with a short expression of my gratitude to everyone who was there, and how it meant so much to me and that I will never forget. Johnny and I hugged and it was time to blow out the candles.
I remember seeing the insignificant random number of pink candles on the $4 cheap, chocolate, bodega bought cake and thinking about how amazing it was that I had lived to see my next birthday. I remember feeling lucky and blessed. I also remember being concerned that I didn’t have the lung capacity anymore to blow out however many arbitrary candles there were. I remember closing my eyes and knowing exactly what I was going to wish for this birthday.
I wished that Leroy would find a good home and live a happy life. That I would have the strength, patience, and time to work from Texas to find him a loving and responsible home; and that Jenn would likewise have the strength, patience, and time to care for Leroy in the meantime. I was scared that he wouldn’t be cared for; or worse, that he’d be put to sleep.
Despite my fears, this night was the night where the most amazing thing that anyone has ever done for me, besides my parents, was done: Jenn told me that she would watch Leroy for at least a year! This gave me time to heal enough to take Leroy back or to find him a home! She seemed to be confident in my ability to recover, and this was the ideal scenario for Leroy, who was found tied to a tree and abandoned back in 2005 and had now lost his father in May.
Although Leroy had to experience a lot of change since I had to leave, this scenario minimized that change. He got to stay in the same apartment where he had been for years and live with people that he knew and had already accepted into his “pack.” I was absolutely speechless at this news. It felt like so much weight had been lifted from my feeble shoulders, and I could focus my energy towards recovering. I couldn’t even say anything beyond “Thank you! Thank you so much!” I knew how much work he was and I am so incredibly grateful.
My wish had been granted within minutes. If I knew that there was a genie that was really granting my birthday wishes I probably would have asked to be magically all better and to be rich and able to fly… why not?
When I say that this was the most amazing thing that anyone has ever done for me, I mean that it was the most unbelievable and gracious thing that a person could do for me at that point. It absolutely went way beyond saving the day, and actually saved Leroy’s future and mine. I would help in any way that I could from my future home in Texas until I could take him back. It was the most selfless act of kindness and compassion towards both me and Leroy, and I will eternally be grateful for that.
The night was an avalanche of stories and tales that spoke to the connections that were held between me and those who showed up. There was a great amount of history that was not coming to an end, but changing forms and growing in its own separate ways until a day came when I would be reunited with these fine people.
The faces that I saw reminded me who I was and who I had a bond with in this city. In retrospect, the most valuable thing about this night is quite a toss up, but for my mental health, it was how this night reminded me of my identity which I had been searching for and slowly discovering since the accident. It was like a search light on the dark and cloudy night that was cast over the ocean of my memory and understanding of myself. It left a strong impression of who I was and who I am, and it gave me the hope to work through my brain injury. I didn’t know it, but the reminder of my identity gave me the will and I was ready to fight for my life.