N was 5. Born in the Heartland of America, a Bicentennial Baby, in The Year of the Dragon. He was fortunate to have been born healthy with loving parents, an older sister and brother. It is said that this is the age in which a typical human would have developed memory, thus it is the first memory he has ever had. As any young mammal, he was playing with his brother. Playing catch is an instinctual form of play, and playing is a way to prepare the body, to develop the complex nervous system that is necessary to survive. N was experiencing the joy of this play, and was challenging his abilities by climbing up a reclining single-person sofa. The sofa lost balance and his head dropped into a sharp corner of a dining table. The last mini movie he sees as he falls to the ground: his parents at a ninety-degree angle, praying together as they always did, suddenly turning their heads. Shocked faces as they run to him.
N was in pain, it was a long cut that was bleeding.
The next memory would be in the car to the hospital. Laying on his mother’s lap in the passenger seat. His mother lovingly petting his hair, trying to comfort him.
At the hospital on the bed the doctors and nurses have a square holed paper with four flaps to cover his head. It wasn’t long before the pain starts. A searing deep pain into his head. He could not comprehend what was happening. Why were these people doing this. He was able to look around, pleading for the pain to stop, and saw the doctor and nurses looking back at him. Instead of stopping, they hold his arms and legs down. The pain continues, many times over. Screaming and crying, desperately trying to find someone for help. He could not move. Through blurred teary eyes, he saw two people near a door looking on, witnessing what was happening. Begging for help, he only sees one of the people unable to look, cover their eyes, and turn away.
There were too many emotions for a five year old to handle, too much pain. An amount of pain that forces one to truly think about what options there are other than feeling this pain. Types of questions a five year old brain had no way of tackling. At the same time, there were different types of pain. The pain of betrayal, who are these strangers looking at me and why are they causing this pain? And a deeper pain, the betrayal of family, the people who would protect from this pain. The young brain took a strategy to handle the situation: focus on other things that provide joy, but memorize what happened for storage later. This experience came so suddenly and at such a young age, the nervous system would use this as a benchmark forever. It was taught a lesson. Life is brutally severe, and so memorization is a tool to prevent these terrible experiences, or relive them.
It wasn’t until thirty-eight years later a year ago on this day do I realize that N had died. He was a form of me that would be forever changed. If the accident did not happen, N would be completely different than who I am now.