The clinking of wine filled goblets floated upwards like glass bubbles. This group of high school friends met every year around the holidays to catch up, gossip and secretly checking each other’s aging processes.
Lisa Waite took great pride in her looks. She ate well, exercised religiously, and spent a small fortune at the beauty salon with a standing weekly appointment. She made mental notes, especially of the women - who had gained weight, whose arms were flapping, whose foreheads were getting crinkly.
Lisa Waite freely admits she was shallow. “Before the ‘incident’ the most important thing to me was getting myself looking great before stepping out the door. Even if just going to mail a letter or pick up some milk, I had to look good. It was like I couldn’t function without lipstick and a matching bag.”
Still beautiful, Lisa has a natural look that makes it difficult to see the vain person she used to be.
Always trying to keep her youth, Lisa was up for any adventure at any time. When some acquaintances from the gym mentioned going rock-climbing, Lisa was first to sign up.
The group went to a local rock climbing wall place, and Lisa took a quick lesson while the others suited up as they were experienced climbers. Wanting to show off her prowess, she challenged one of the younger men to a race to the top. He accepted and away they went.
“When you wall climb, the rule is that you get your footing before moving. I was so eager to prove myself that I did stupid moves, almost jumping upwards and using my arms to pull myself up instead of my legs to push my body weight.”
Lisa’s attempts to show off came to an abrupt end when reaching too far, she suddenly fell backwards and caught by the rope, she desperately grabbed at the wall. The momentum though flipped her body sideways and she caught her foot in a tiny lip of the “rock” in the wall. She jerked backwards, her head hitting the cement with a THUNK that was loud enough to jolt everyone’s attention.
The spotter lowered her down gently, and made her sit on the ground where she promptly passed out. The next thing she knew, she woke up in the hospital, very confused as to where she was. A man sat next to her, looking exhausted. Noticing that she was awake, he stood up quickly and kissed her. On the mouth. Startled, she pulled away, eyes wide with fear.
The man began sighing with relief and tried to hug her but she pushed him away. She didn’t know this man - who did he think he was? She looked at the room but didn’t recognize anything in the sterile grey space. Flowers filled the room. An efficient looking nurse appeared and exclaimed when she saw Lisa awake.
“What happened?” Lisa asked the nurse.
The man took her hand, and resisting the urge to pull away, she soon learned that she’d gotten a severe concussion from hitting the wall during rock climbing, and when they brought her to the hospital unconscious, they did PET scans and MRI’s on her brain to assess any damage, and told her husband, the man standing beside her bed, that she had a tumor that was pressing on her brain and needed to be removed immediately. Facing an agonizing decision and having to decide the course of medical action for his wife, he gave the consent to go ahead with the surgery.
“Friends stopped by to wish her a speedy recover. Some she vaguely recognized, some she couldn’t place for the life of her. Most of the time they were understanding but she could see the hurt in their eyes.”
Lisa was amazed. She didn’t remember any of it. She didn’t remember this loving man who was standing by her side. She didn’t remember much of her recent life, although she could recall her childhood with perfect clarity. Vague memories flitted in and out but she couldn’t trust which ones were real.
Lisa stayed in the hospital a few weeks while they monitored her progress. The doctors warned her that her short term memory may always be compromised, and also that the tumor could return at any time.
During this hospital stay, many friends stopped by to wish her a speedy recover. Some she vaguely recognized, some she couldn’t place for the life of her. Most of the time these friends were understanding but she could see the hurt in their eyes. The majority of them stayed as short as they could, because speaking to basically a stranger didn’t leave much in the room for conversation.
Her husband was an angel during the entire process. He was in the hospital every day, reading to her, bringing her photo books of their life together, sneaking in her favorite foods from the many restaurants they’d visited together. None of it mattered to Lisa; it was as if a switch just shut off in her brain and she wondered about her life.
When she came home, she wandered through the house. It seemed familiar, but more like an old dream than her home. She picked up and smelled her potions and perfumes, checked her closet full of cute clothes and matching shoes, and wondered who she was.
Slowly her memory returned. And just as slowly the old friends with whom Lisa used to spend time with stopped coming around. Lisa just couldn’t get interested in the old way of life - beauty salons, shopping, and what she felt like was an incredibly narcissistic life. She found her mind drifting when her old friends would stop by and although she attributed it to her memory loss, she found moreso that she found the conversations vapid and boring.
Suddenly she was adrift. When the holidays rolled around again, nine months after her accident, Lisa’s husband asked her what she was planning to wear. Normally this had been a process that began weeks prior, searching for the perfect outfit and accessories. When Lisa shrugged, her husband looked at her askance.
A week later he served her with divorce papers. He insisted that it wasn’t because she was sick, but because she had lost her joie de vries and wouldn’t let him in. They agreed to a trail separation and he moved out the following day.
Walking through her gorgeous home, she touched the familiar yet unfriendly objects in her house, but it still felt like being in a stranger’s house. She called her husband and told him that he could have the house. She was going to move away.
And she did just that. Lisa and her husband divorced amicably, even regretfully, but Lisa’s overwhelming feeling was one of relief. Moving to a small town north of San Francisco, Lisa works as a vase designer and lives in a small cottage where she is close to the bay, a small artisan group and a lifestyle far removed from her vapid life in Texas.
Thank you Lisa, for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2009 by Kristen Kuhns and Story of My Life®