Home > Columns > Going It Alone

My Life, Chapter Five
February 2, 2017
---------------------------------

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Past

Life is difficult[1]

This may sound like an odd, even disturbing way to introduce the Team Alles Christmas 2016 letter. Yet, I argue, it represents one of the best ways me and my “mafia” have learned how to overcome the challenges life brings in a way that is helping us to move forward with an increasingly optimistic view of life - like rejoining life already in progress.

To briefly wrap up events prior to 2016:

§  In 2012, I completed my Ph.D.

§  In 2013, Danette took a mission to travel to München[2] (pronounced “M’yoon chin” for you Texas types), Germany. I stayed at home for a year while she helped her sister’s family return to the US (I went there three different times to make a week-long visit with the soon to be “mafia”).

§  In 2014, her sister and two kids came home and lived with us. With them I played baseball, soccer, basketball, and went for bike rides. We dug for hidden fossils in the back yard. We also went on a summer vacation to Manistee, MI prior to the kids’ start of school.

Chapter 2: “The Worst Day”

On August 1, 2014, while finishing the vacation with a brief visit to Danette’s aunt’s house, I had an event that is reported as “fainting” which caused me to fall and hit my head on concrete. (Lesson 1: don’t let your cranium hit the concrete). I was sent by helicopter to a hospital in Grand Rapids. I stayed there for four weeks (which included a medically induced COMA), and then transported back to Indianapolis for a stay at a specialty hospital and then at a rehabilitation hospital. I was finally taken home by mafia leader “Tenacious D” (uh, yeah, Danette) on Sept 19. Fifty-one days. I have some memory of about the last 20 of the 51 days. After leaving, I have had out-patient therapy, new kinds of medication I’ve never heard of, and even drivers training to prove “I still got it”. August 1st included an emergency surgery that HAD to be followed up by a second surgery in November.

Given my perspective at the time, I reported to the doctors and my boss that I was ready to return to work. Before the year 2014 was over, I had started back half-time and progressed back to full time. The day I started full-time was a day before I could have selected long-term disability. I chose work instead.

Chapter 3: “Saga Continues”

After three weeks of being back to work full-time, I had the first of three seizures (“CZ’s” in my parlance). I believe this was referred to as “Grand Mal” (“pretty bad” in my lingua franca). I was at work. The colleague two doors down had the capacity to handle the situation given his son has lived with seizures for years. Immediately, medication restarted and no driving for 90 days. About two months later was a second “event” so I had to restart my no driving “prison”. Given the difficulty of returning to a high level position after a traumatic brain injury meant I had to stop working and continue the road to recovery (I was told that in no uncertain terms). Today, I’m officially on long-term disability, but it is rewarding as I am earnestly working hard on recovering from an injury I hope to never have again. I own five helmets.

Chapter 4: “How to Brew Coffee”

Given the challenges the early chapters in this book present, I have taken a break from writing to embark on a different perspective. I have pursued a lot of dreams and desires in my life such as: becoming a professor, visiting Paris, running the NYC Marathon, climbing Mt. Everest, and achieving world peace. Being a professor, visiting Paris, and six times being a 26.2 mile completer have been accomplished – more than once – and I am working on the remaining two. Until then I am making sure I take the medicine I’ve been ordered to take daily, continue running as far as I can, and continue to plan another trip to Paris. I’ll give up Mt. Everest if I can achieve world peace across the planet (the continuing fight between Ohio State and Michigan State may be unsolvable for eternity).

Chapter 5: Learn to Take a Chance Again

I realize it was futile to refer to this change in life as a burden. Having any changes and events that seem unfair in life may strike you as a reason to yell at God regardless of whether you also howl at the moon. I don’t want new drugs, I don’t want a roster of doctors to visit, and I hope I’m done with hospitals. Yet, these are not setbacks, but rather a transforming way to experience and grow from a change in life. I love life. I love my family, my friends, my cat, Nike (my running shoes), and I especially love coffee. Most importantly, I love Danette. In the 26 years we’ve been married (anniversary about the time you’re reading this letter), I do not recall a single day, hour, minute, second, or nanosecond or anything in life we don’t see the same way (possible exception - “Red Wings hockey”). Eh hem, I apologize for the distraction.

Changes. Having been born before we humans set foot on the moon, I have learned that life is involved with mistakes, accidents, bad choices, good choices (known as love), and laughter (also known as love). For everyone, changes in life are regular, consistent, and almost always unexpected events. They also happen to everyone, so everyone reading this should take it to heart. Let everyone you know learn that life is full of changes - expect them - but know that it is not – should not – be your role alone to decide the best path to Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. these changes. Use them to make life for you and those who love you a better place to exist.

Prior to the injury, I was serving on the president’s cabinet of a small university here in Indy. Danette had finished her Fine Arts degree in ceramics and was developing her expertise and building her own creative art empire for sale and display at art shows (also, while in Germany, she spent time as a volunteer for a ceramic fine art production company). That has changed. It had to change for reasons highlighted above. I now work from home as an apprentice in the “domestic engineer” industry while Danette recently joined the Indiana Repertory Theatre as the Assistant Controller. She’s enjoying the job that combines her degree and experience in Accounting with her love and passion in art.

Namaste


[1] The opening line to the enduring favorite book by M. Scott Peck “The Road Less Traveled” (1978). A book I read early in college and have read it several times since. 

[2] München is also home to a plant that was the location for the filming of the Gene Wilder classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”.