My children were anxious for their first day of classes. Elementary school has been a wonderful experience in their eyes. They talked fast and walked quickly as we headed for the playground, so they could line up next to their new teachers. They gave me a kiss on the cheek. Both girls told me I did not need to stand in their lines, but asked if I could stay in the school yard. They took off with their shining eyes filled with excitement searching for friends. I stood in the back lonely and worried. I wished someone were there to hold my hand. The schoolyard and playground are two of the scariest, most intimidating places for me to be standing alone.
I am a very social person by nature. I am excited to talk to you about my weekend. I want to hear the stories you are ready to share. I have met many great parents while waiting for the dismissal bell to ring. I never see them again due to the lack of facial recognition prosopagnosia has caused. I lost friends I never had the chance to get to know. How do I make someone aware I will not recognize them if we see each other a few minutes later especially if we meet again at the end of the day? If you are standing right next to me on my blind side, I will not always know you are there. How do I get them to accept this without the long story of epilepsy surgery in which a small piece of my brain was taken out leading to a brain injury developed from a stroke? I talk with parents. I laugh with parents. At the end of the day, I will walk right past these same parents because they changed their clothes.
My kids have been invited to birthday parties. Epilepsy has taken away my privilege to drive. My children point out the birthday child’s parents. “Go ask them if I can get a ride,” my daughters urge. I would do this. I have done this. Inevitably the conversation evolves to questions of why I cannot drive. I have seizures. My children are happy to add that I can’t see well either. Oh, and they further add, you have to say hi to her because she can’t recognize anyone. Most parents are kind about this. Then it comes to my daughters inviting these friends to our place. Would you let your kids go to someone’s house that has seizures and suffered from brain damage? I hope you would, but I would not fault you for not allowing this. Brain injuries, epilepsy, having no ability to recognize people – all of these are hard enough to comprehend when they are part of your life. I can only imagine the misunderstanding that comes when you have never met a mom with any of these conditions let alone all of them. Ignorance can lead to fear.
I am that mom standing alone waiting in the schoolyard or sitting off to the side in the playground. I am not antisocial. Actually, I am quite the opposite. I want connections with people I see every day. I want to know the parents of my daughters’ friends. I want to know you. I am apprehensive to say hello because I may have just asked how your day is going once or twice already. I don’t want you to judge my repeated, well-meant question as odd behavior. I don’t want you to focus on my injured brain before you get to know my healthy spirit.
I am that mom standing alone quietly waiting in the schoolyard. I just happen to be waiting not only for my children but also for a new friend to hold my hand and reintroduce me to others. If you see me, or any other frightened mom like me, please walk over and say hello. It is not always the young children that fear the strangers and the newness of school. Sometimes it is us adults, too.