3 September

Recovery Journal: The Four Neurologists And Me: People Have Long Wondered How My Brain Works. I’m Getting A Peek. Apologies, Mrs. McCarthy

by Jon Katz

Robin’s Joke Of The Day: A guy asks a girl: “Can You Tell Time?” And She Says: “Tell It What?”

I remember Miss McCarthy., my nasty (and very frustrated) 4th-grade English Teacher, demanding to know “just how your brain is working?” when I couldn’t understand her grammar lessons and expectations or spell a word right.

I’m glad she didn’t live to read my blog.

It would have finished her off. On the other hand, that might have been a good thing, sparing other children her notion of writing.

I’ve never thought much about how my brain works; it seemed a risky place to go, even in meditation.  And it has always done what it is supposed to do until now.

This week brought a new experience: the most severe injury of my life and my first brain injury. So, we are getting to know one another differently, like it or not.

My brain is confused right now after I fell on a tile kitchen floor and ended up with bleeding in the brain.

I enjoyed the neurologists I met, they were a distinct set of geeks and serious people. Five of them came to see me over two days; none seemed to know any others had visited me or what they had to say.

The first was a  young woman who was warm and optimistic. You’ll be fine, she said, at least after a while. All of them asked me to tell them what day it was, who was President, to reach my arms as high as they could go, to raise my feet up, wriggle my toes, what my birthday was, say my name, date of birth and the date that day.

They spoke grimly and rapidly, like cops on the British mysteries in the interrogation room, where the most vicious and crafty criminals break down in tears and confess after two or three loud and rapid fire questions from the detective.

In all the years I’ve watched British mysteries, I’ve never seen a murderer decide to shut up and call their lawyer before admitting the murder and then bursting into tears.

I passed each test quickly, except for the date. I’m a writer; I told the neurologists I don’t have to go anywhere or keep track of the day unless I have a doctor’s appointment.

My guess, I said,  was it’s very close to the end of August; I’m a betting man, I’ll say August 28, I said. “One day off,” growled one young and very humorless doctor, looking successful – no smile. “Well,” I tried to joke, “I hope this doesn’t mean you will open up my head.”

I’m proud to say I knew who I was and where I was 100 percent of the time, and I even threw in Maria’s name for good measure to show how with it I am. I gave my birthdate out ten times an hour. How could I forget it?

The doctor looked at me curiously and said almost indignantly, “I don’t foresee any circumstance where we will be opening your head for this wound.” This was said in a kind of Miss McCarthy way. I half-expected him to ask how my brain was working, but he had read the scans, didn’t he know?

Maria and I were both relieved when he turned and walked out of my room, mostly because he told me in his charming way that I would be all right.

He was not particularly impressed by me, just like Miss McCarthy. And I can’t blame the Dyslexia. I was just not interesting to him; another old man falling on his head in the kitchen in his underpants with a bit of blood on his head. Ho-hum.

I was told it happens often.

Why, I wondered, then, all the testing? Maybe he was hoping for a few stumbles. I feared if I stumbled, I’d be rushed into surgery.

It’s strange, the brain thing now. In case you are new here, it was injured in my fall last Wednesday; there was some bleeding. Finally, I am officially a sore head.

“The brain gets annoyed when there is bleeding,” neurologist three told me, “it doesn’t like it at all and can get nasty.” I am used to having a sometimes dysfunctional brain, but I would hate to have a nasty or annoyed one.

Think of the blog; I could get even worse.

My brain is more confused than angry right now. It doesn’t quite know the familiar commands, which I took for granted, like when I wish to stand up, lie down, or go to the bathroom. It pauses or ignores me altogether.

At odd and unpredictable times, it seems to turn the world upside down or sideways on me for no apparent reason, and I have to be ready to grab something to avoid falling. Neurologist four, a young international student in training, suggested sternly that I not fail again.

He said it wouldn’t be good for my healing brain, which might get angry again. This neurologist was talking to me like I was back in the 4th grade, assuring me falling and hitting my head again wasn’t a good idea, as if I did it regularly or for fun.

It is no fun, I should say,  not as much as outing some obnoxious troll on my website. I am eager to get back to my Mansion Meditation Class on Tuesday. Do I have a meditation idea for them?

Even I got the warning and was listening. So I haven’t fallen again.

But that’s only been two days.

When I stand up, I have to put my hands on Maria’s shoulders to steady myself for a minute or two, and then I can walk on my own. Unless I get dizzy, which can happen at any moment. I am told this will go on for a few weeks at least.

My smartass daughter (no surprise) tells me I’m going to have to learn to sit down and be quiet every time I blog or have something to say.

Maria will not always be in front of me with her strong shoulders. When I get wobbly in the head, I just repeat my name and birthdate address and wiggle my toes (one is missing).

Then I know I’m OK. Maria and my daughter have suggested that I don’t have the longest attention span in the world and must stay focused and pay attention.

And take it easy, they say. I have no idea what means.

The brain, Emma says, will need a rest.

I can dress myself with help.

But my dependable brain seems to have forgotten who he works for, and is confused about many of life’s ordinary commands and tasks. I’ll skip the details. I fell on my back and head, which is very sore and painful when I stand or sit down. I have to sleep downstairs in a soft reading chair, and after a few hours, getting up is agony.

(Maria was kind enough to water my flowers.)

Maria hasn’t reached the tipping point yet where she freaks about her art and rushes to her studio. That will come sometime this coming week. For now, she is sweet as a freshly baked apple pie; we love one another a lot.  Nearly dying can do that for a relationship, I suspect. But I really wouldn’t know; I’ve never nearly died before that I know of.

I don’t recall going anywhere or seeing anything during my blackout. Perhaps something will come back to me.

I think my brain is a little miffed at me, though. Perhaps an apology is in order.

I fall asleep at odd times and throughout the day.

Before writing this, I slept for four hours. It took me ten minutes to stand up. I’ve got one of those pain patches on my back, but my rebellious brain (perhaps it is still also annoyed that I fell on him), is not impressed.

I also had visits from four cardiologists in the hospital, each with a different idea about what happened to me. My cardiologist checked in this morning on the phone and explained that the problem was a new medication that rejected some of the carbs I was eating.

Finally, we knew. And she wasn’t even there to make me wiggle my toes.

I’m brighter than in the 4th grade, but not by that much. I know this is a severe injury, and I take it seriously. The odd thing is that when I sit down to write, my brain is very much his old self, my fingers rushing, the words coming faster than I can write them, or my Dyslexic self can progress them. In this chair, writing, I feel no pain or confusion, I’m 25 years old.

It’s as if a Dybuk was awakened by the fall and stepped up and into my brain to handle my writing. Sorry, it is not impaired in any way beyond what it sometimes is naturally.

I’m suddenly exhausted, though, as in right now and the Dybuk is ordering me to get back in my chair and try to watch a mystery with Maria without falling asleep. So far, in the past few days, that hasn’t happened. Good night, thanks for listening, and I wish you a meaningful Labor Day.

I’ll be here in the morning, I promise. At least three people I know have asked Jesus to care for me. I am grateful for that. I trust him to do the right thing.







18 August

Robin’s Joke Of The Day : From San Diego: What’s The Oldest Fruit?

by Jon Katz

Answer: An elderberry.

Robin has agreed to send me a joke daily, if they can, from wherever she is. She and her parents are visiting San Diego.

She called me earlier with the trick, but I was busy and couldn’t take the call. Emma sent me the joke tonight; Robin was playing with a cousin.

Robin says she has a hundred jokes to tell me. I believe her and look forward to hearing more. I laugh every time.

She’s very into hermit crabs out there. Photo by Emma Span.

17 August

Emma And Robin Are In California. Emma Sent Me Two Wonderful Photographs That She Took There

by Jon Katz


Emma and Jay, and Robin are in San Diego this week. Emma sent me these two images that she took yesterday. One is of Robin, my granddaughter, and the other is one of the very first black and white photos that Emma has taken.

Both of them are creative, but Emma has emerged as a gifted photographer with a beautiful eye for composition.

In the first photo, Robin is fascinated with Hermit Crabs; the image captures the wonder of youth. The second is just a tremendous and imagined shot of a pier and a seabird. Beautiful stuff; I’m pretty proud of her.

I can’t take any credit for Emma’s photography, she picked it up all by herself. But it does seem that creativity runs in the family.

She has invited me to visit Brooklyn so we can go out together and take some pictures. I would very much love to do that. Maybe with my foot and new brace, I can do it. Getting to and around Brooklyn might be difficult for me.

6 April

Legend: Robin, Maria And The Raft Of Straws

by Jon Katz

When Robin was visiting, she and I engaged in savage straw-blowing battles, in which we blew the paper in straws at one another until the floor was littered with bits of paper. Robin claimed victory, but I think it was a draw.

Yesterday, Emma texted me that Robin assaulted her with straws at dinner last night. She was not pleased.  I said I was glad I had taught her something important.

My descendants will be blowing straws at one another as long as there are straws. It’s something to be proud of as long as it lasts.

Maria, ever the artist, collected the straws used in the battle and crafted a raft out of them for reasons known only to her—something about sailing away on one.

Robin saw Maria sewing the raft and asked to help.Maria was impressed, she said Robin was a natural.

Maria topped the raft off by drawing a frog on it and shipping it off to Brooklyn. Robin says she loved it and planned to cruise it one day.  Two creatives speaking the same language. She loved the frog also.

Robin is a fiercely competitive granddaughter; you can see in her eyes. She refused to hug me as she left but promised to return. “With straws,” she added.

21 March

Aftermath: Ways To Communicate. Robin Loves Ada Twist, Emma Tried To Connect With A Chickadee.

by Jon Katz

As I wrote several times, I struggled for a while to figure out how to communicate with Robin, she lives hours away, and I’m no good on Facetime when it comes to a situation like that. Maria says getting close to people is difficult for me.

I know I’m also not the traditional smitten grandfather (I’m not the conventional anything, I guess) either.

Emma has done a great job of helping me to figure this out.

She took on this issue positively and effectively. She and I are different, but we also share many traits. We know each other well.

She has come up here a couple of times, and navigating New York, and a long train ride with a six-year-old is no small thing. My foot issues and Covid have made travel challenging, but I believe they will improve shortly.

Through phones, visits, photography, books, and art supplies, she has shown me how to stay in touch with Robin, who is intensely communicative and in no way shy. I think I intimidate here, but some straw fights are moving things along.

Emma texted me this morning to tell me Robin is hooked on an Ada Twist chapter book I gave her when she came. I see that chapter books differ from picture books, and Robin is ready for chapter books. Four more are in the mail.

Even if we can’t often see one another, communicating is possible; it just takes some focus and will. Emma says Robin often talks about the farm now, especially the chickens and the sheep and me and Maria (Emma does not like sheep, she thinks they have spooky eyes).

She has memories of us now, which she didn’t really have before.

She and Maria have bonded, and she is enjoying the freedom to range around an ample space like a farm; she can’t do that in Brooklyn. She loves throwing rocks around and building a snowman. And several times a day, she headed outside to feed the chickens.

She loves trying to figure me out. Nobody is going to push her around. I asked her if she wanted to hug me Saturday after dinner, and she said she didn’t want to. I held her hand as she got on the train and offered a handshake. She had no trouble doing that.

We shook hands goodbye. I’m not that touch-me-feely either.

It was a good thing that she could say no to a hug, it stung a little bit, but I appreciated its significance.

Feeding animals empowers children, massive ones like donkeys, and (to a child) she is getting more comfortable around them.

Emma and I are very close; we understand one another uniquely. Our dark days during the divorce have brightened up. I am very proud of her; she loves her husband, daughter, work, and life in  Brooklyn.

That is an accomplishment, and I am very proud of her. She is a remarkable mother, and she is raising a particular child.

She has little interest in nature, spiritual pursuits, rocks or crystals, or the animals here. It’s just doesn’t draw her; she is a tough, appropriately snooty Brookynite and proud of it. She isn’t interested in the animals here but is a great dog lover.

She is very drawn to Fate, a fellow oddball.

Emma did soften up once while here; Emma talked about how chickadees are not afraid of people, they will eat off your hand,  and she was eager to try it. We filled her hands full of birdseed and held them out near the feeder.

Emma loves taking photos but not being in them, so I respect that and don’t want to make her uncomfortable. She said taking a picture of her holding a hand out for the chickadees was fine.

No luck this time with the chickadees. Zinnia ate all the seeds she could find on the ground.

Bedlam Farm