By Karen Pyros and Damon Szatkowski
I never grow up.
My brain is broken.
My thoughts are sometimes stuck or sometimes pour out so quickly my mouth can’t keep up, and all the words don’t come out right or sound all jumbled as though I don’t have coherent thoughts. But I do. Please have patience.
My limbs aren’t all that limber; some don’t move at all. My brain is broken and affects all that.
But I’m not dumb. My mind is perfect. I can read, I can write, I am probably still smarter than many of you. I was classified as “gifted” once. But you wont see it if you don’t listen. If you don’t take the time to know me. If you think I’m disabled through and through.
I can do advanced math problems in my head and I will let you know when your grammar is off. I play word games on my iPad and there is a good chance I will beat you. I outsmart my mom with my ability to navigate the internet and go places she tries to keep me away from.
My memories are intact. I remember the me I was and the crazy shit I used to do before. I remember you. I remember yesterday. My memory today is actually stronger than it ever was and I will wow you with my ability to recall almost everything.
My brain is broken, but I’m not sad. I’m not bitter. I’m not ungrateful. I’m not frustrated. I’m actually happy all the time.
I watch the way you stare at me if you happen to run in to me and you even bother to stop. I know I make you uncomfortable. I’m not who I was. But I am who I am. And I’m ok with that. I wish you could be ok with that.
Like most of you, I just want love. And friendship. And acceptance. And inclusion.
I don’t know mean. So I don’t think ill of you for no longer visiting me. For no longer calling. It hardly occurs to me that you’re no longer even here. No matter how often I reach out. Your ignoring me hasn’t sunk in. Your blocking me hasn’t sunk in. I have no idea that I may be annoying you. I have no idea that you have grown up and moved on. I haven’t. I’m still 17. And my brain is broken.
I love to make you laugh. I love to laugh. I’m sorry if my jokes are silly or offensive. Sometimes I can’t differentiate between my audiences. But my humor is quick and you will think I’m witty. If you stop to listen.
I have a tight circle surrounding me. It’s woven with love. The love protects me from any perceived threat or hurt. Even your absence.
My brain is broken. But my heart is not. I feel love. I love unconditionally. Please see me.
Karen Pyros-Szatkowski is the mother of 24 year-old son, Damon Szatkowski, who after a car accident in 2011, at 17 years old, lives with a severe TBI (traumatic brain injury.) Damon’s story, as journalized by his mom, is a story of faith, a mother’s healing love, gut instinct, blind hope, and miracles. It is the story of the rippling effects traumatic brain injury has on family and friends. Karen has played the roles of Damon’s nurse, caregiver, cook, chauffer and therapist. She is also the mother of two beautiful daughters who have helped dramatically in Damon’s recovery to date. You can follow Damon’s story or contact Karen through Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org.