For the past two years now, my mom and I have been working on a book about my father and his tragic accident that shattered our family to its very core. We struggled for a bit on whose voice it should be in. Both? We looked at books that used two voices and realized that this story would have a much bigger impact in the scheme of things if we kept it to one. We decided to use my mom’s voice as we felt that the book would be even more relatable to others who are dealing with a family member with traumatic brain injury.
For a long time I was embarrassed by my father’s new “kooky” behavior. Living in a small town in east Texas where everyone knows everyone, privacy is almost nonexistent. Luckily I left town to live in Colorado after high school. Before I left, I remember the look on people’s faces as if they could somehow catch it from him or one of us. It was a sad time. Looking back I realize that the majority of the people in that town didn’t stigmatize us, just a few well known ones did which had such an impact that it made me feel as if everyone was doing it. That was 1990 for me. I graduated high school and made plans with a friend to move to Colorado. Then in the summer , working my last few remaining weeks before I was to leave, my father had a major horse riding accident on the side of a mountain in Colorado. He came back all banged up and bruised from the accident. What we did not know at the time was that he had sustained a brain injury. I did not recognize him when he came back. He was a different person. I watched a gifted and extremely successful bank president hit rock bottom. He became another person to me and our relationship became quite strained as the years moved on. He worked to isolate me form the family. I was in the Navy at the time and ended up not coming home to see both of my parents for almost two years. When I did come home it was at my mother’s insistence. Once again my father had stopped taking his medication and was in a manic state of mind. Things had reached a boiling point. My father saw me as a threat. The day I arrived he was tense and nervous and talking a mile a minute. I played it cool, but he knew why I was in town. He knew that I was a threat to his freedom. On the second day I was there, he decided to grab a gun to keep things his way, but he bet wrong and things changed dramatically from that point on. My mom was his rock, but after years of struggle to get him to take his medications, she finally removed herself. His attempt to shoot me was her breaking point. I wrote a blog post about my experience with my dad after leaving the Navy and how I ended up with a wonderful friend who helped me along in the aftermath of it all.