One of the best things that ever happened to me is how I started dating my wife Rachel. It is little wonder I don’t remember.
I do remember the beginning of December 1978. I was the co-captain of the Wheaton College (IL) ice hockey team. We were a varsity sport, but no one who tried out for the team got cut — including a guy from Miami, FL who had never skated. It wasn’t because we were compassionate, but because we needed to meet the minimum roster requirement of the league.
To describe us as having a deep bench would be an understatement. Let’s just say, statistically speaking, I was the leading goalie and the team’s second leading scorer. As I played half the games in goal it didn’t speak much for our offense.
I wasn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut. My wrist shot was probably harder than my slap shot and neither would have required a goalie to wear pads to avoid any semblance of a bruise. Let’s just say that because my primary position was goalie, I understood what a goalie couldn’t stop.
The problem with me playing center, was that because my primary position was goalie, I hadn’t learned the fine art of giving and receiving a hockey hit. As a result, just three weeks into the season of 1978/1979, I sustained a concussion.
I don’t really remember what happened except that I was skating with my head down, concentrating on receiving a pass, and what I received was a check that sent me flying head first into the boards of our home rink. Illinois in those days wasn’t known as the hockey capital of the USA. Our boards were made out of cement.
Concussion number 1.
Why no personal injury lawyers attended our games I’ll never know.
I ended up spending the night in the student health service and stayed there until Christmas break when it was time to go home to Minnesota to recuperate. I was instructed in no uncertain terms to play no hockey.
No one said anything about snow football on a frozen lake.
Yet before you jump to conclusions, I had enough intelligence to not actually play snow football. I simply volunteered to be the punter for both teams. No testosterone-filled young man wants to be the punter on a snow football team, so I volunteered to do that, and only that,for both teams.
The fault of this plan lies in the fact that I never was a punter on grass. Hence when it came time to punt I ended up pulling a “Charlie Brown” and while I got off a great kick, my supporting leg went airborne, as I hadn’t calculated the resistance of the ice and I landed on the ice head first.
Concussion number 2.
Personal injury lawyers should have hung out at all Minnesota lakes as well.
I don’t remember anything else about Christmas vacation. I don’t remember returning to school, but dutiful captain that I was, I laced up my skates and was ready to go for the first game after break.
The only thing that I do recall is skating hard one direction down the ice as the puck carrier on the other team was carrying the puck up ice with equal determination and speed. I went to check him off the puck and for some reason, in his attempt to avoid me he turned right into me and we hit each other heads first going full-speed in opposite directions.
I am told it was a spectacular collision by a would-be personal injury lawyer.
Concussion number 3.
Here, my already cloudy memory becomes London fog. Most of what I am about to say I am told by others.
I was committed to become a resident of the school health service for two weeks until it was determined that I needed to drop out of school. I know that I went to a Catholic hospital for a brain scan because I embarrassed my would-be wife about what I said to the nuns and later about the nuns. I couldn’t have said anything too nasty because she still married me.
I have a vague recollection of dropping out of school, and only because Rachel drove me 400 miles home to Minneapolis one January evening. The only reason I have any memory of this is that her Volkswagen bus had no heat and we would stop at rest areas and heat up using the hand-dryers. We ate chocolate Rice Krispy bars to keep warm. Apparently a lot of them. So many that I’ve never craved that childhood favorite since.
I have little memory of anything from February 1 through May 1 of 1999. I know that I spent a lot of time trying to watch TV. I wanted to read, but one of my symptoms was that by the time I read to the bottom of a page I could not remember what I read at the top of that page. It is for that reason that I could not read even one chapter of CS Lewis’s children’s book, “the Chronicles of Narnia,” the entire time.
Unlike others, I don’t recall having headaches. I just had difficulties with concentration, memory and any kind of strenuous activity making me dizzy.
I do recall asking a doctor when I’d be better and his reply was simply, “when you feel better.”
He was right. I began feeling better in May.
I then discovered that during the weekend Rachel drove me home in January we officially became more than just friends.
By July we were engaged.
I know that concussions are no joking matter and that they cause serious debilitation for a lot of people.
Speaking for myself, however, had I been in my right mind, I could not have picked a better wife.
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