Thursday, 2 August 2012

On helmets

Once upon a time there was a girl with a mum.

The girl loved her mum very much. As she grew up she realised there was something slightly different about her mum, but she didn't mind because occasionally her mum hugged her and occasionally she sat and podded peas with her, and occasionally baked bread with her. They rode bikes together too. Lots of bikes. And they didn't wear helmets because helmets cost money and getting second hand helmets was less easy than getting second hand bikes which is what they rode.

Quiet friendship and quiet conversation happened on those rides and they happened in sunshine, winter or summer. Vivid memories of frozen fingers, wool ill suited to the speed attained whizzing down the gentle hills of Somerset.

More time passed. Mum left dad and life quietened and distance became closeness again. Trust gained and trust received and friendship reforged. A daughter understanding that in some things, protecting mother instead of seeking mothers protection is the way the world turns. No more hand holding across roads, no more assurance to be sought. Striking out in the world and making mistakes, always honest about the mistakes, and always accepted as simply being herself.

The girl left home and went to university. Moved a lot. Her mum moved a lot too. Time and energies focused on a sister with ME and a quiet backing away by the girl, independence compounded by distance and focus and more than all of this, simply life.

Time passed.

And then, one day, the girl received a phone call.

Mum had been riding her bike to work as she did every single day. She'd mostly always been a utility rider rather than a leisure rider. 3 speeds, and a basket on the front type of girl. She'd rode out of the flat and down the hill and some construction work had left some mud on the road. So mum, going downhill at the speed she usually did, skidded and went head first straight into a lamp post.

She wasn't wearing a helmet.

She had to call the ambulance herself from her mobile phone through the sheets of blood falling.

The girl went to see her mum. The phone call came 2 weeks after the accident. Mum hadn't wanted to worry the girl, conscious of being a mother, of protecting from the worst. Sister was given as next of kin to the hospital. The girl found her mother with a partly shaved head, and staples all across her scalp, huge staples, the biggest staples she'd ever seen, all the way across from ear to ear. The staples were so big she couldn't see past them, or maybe she simply didn't want to see what might be below.

The mum can't use her middle finger properly any more and she can't wriggle her eyebrows any more in the way  that used to make the girl giggle hysterically when she was a child. Mum can't move her left eyebrow very much at all. The nerve was severed. The finger is slightly confusing.

What is less confusing, and yet more confusing for the girl, is the way her mother isn't quite her mother any more. She can't quite put her finger on it and if you pushed and pushed she'd have to sit down and really really think about it. But she's avoided doing that the last few years because it's too painful. She talks like her mum but she doesn't laugh like her mum. The look in her eyes isn't quite that of her mum either. The cadence of her speech is off, she's slightly not quite right.

And she knows it.


I love my mum. And because I love my mum, don't ever, ever, ever talk to me about helmets. I will simply turn my back and walk away from you. It is not a subject that is up for discussion. I do not want to talk about it. But what I do want to say, very much, is that brain damage cannot be fixed, not with all the money in the entire world.

A decent helmet can be had for £20. It makes you sweaty and gives you helmet hair?

Try the shaved and stapled look.

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