Life Topics

The Helmet

At first, her room looks like a normal young lady’s bedroom but look closer and you get the sense its occupant is not a typical salty twenty-something. A small 8 X 10 box with lemon-ice walls and heavy sky blue curtains. On the windowed wall is a small video camera perched on the curtain road, pointed towards her bed and on either side of the windows are two painted portraits of her in the water that I painted several years ago. No Swifty or inspirational posters in sight.

On her dresser is an old friend; Curious George, a large stuffed monkey that she used to drag around, sans helmet, in our old hipster Portland neighborhood headed for the bus stop where she would wait impatiently for her father, practicing a new dance move she wanted to show him. “Mom watch, did you see, did I do it right?”

Her bedroom has evolved over the years depending on her abilities and interests. She has had baskets of toys, stuffed animals, picture books, glow-in-the-dark star stickers and times when it resembles a hospital room with boxes of special formula, iv pole, Hoyer lift, a bedside commode and an extra rolling cot when I add night nurse to my day job.

One constant has been a helmet hanging on her simple wooden bedpost. It is the first thing I put on her in the morning after her full-body stretch and the last thing I take off of her before I boost her sleepy body into her cozy bed and her grandmother and I  take turns smothering her with kisses. The colors have changed and for a brief time the usual soft helmet was replaced with a hard, rather clunky dark blue CCM hockey helmet equipped with a clear plastic face shield. The time she wore this reminds me of when her brain was out of control. Her drop seizures had increased and the sound of the hard hockey helmet thwapping the wooden floor, the drywall, the corner of tables was disturbing, the wretched soundtrack of that time.

The falls happened dozens of times a day. The helmet was worn 24 hours a day coming off only to wash her hair in the bathtub two times a week. So, after two hospital visits and a helmet that looked like it had been worn during a few Bean Pots, I knew it was time for her to have the brain surgery that I had been putting off for over 4 years. Surgery was done and now the beaten and broken helmet is wrapped and hidden in the back of her closet, out of sight.

She has been back to her soft purple helmet for two years now, still falling daily but much less frequently. It is covered in scuffs and scratches like a well – documented history of all of the times I failed her, when I wasn’t able to catch her.   It is  also a road map of her journey of  resilience and her ability to dust herself off and straighten her crown/helmet and move on.  

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VISIT SUSAN ON INSTAGRAM AT  sm_art88
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4 thoughts on “The Helmet”

  1. Love GiGi- Love you, and am awe of all your talents including your ability to write a piece that puts me right in the room with you both. It is a very special place to be.

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