Not Just a Reading: Melissa at Westwinds Bookshop in Duxbury, Massachusetts

When it’s a cold, rainy day what better place is there to be than in a bookstore, slouching back in a cushy couch, nibbling on delicate pastries, and letting someone read to you? That’s how fifteen individuals, who were mutually interested in learning more about traumatic brain injuries, spent their Saturday afternoon this past weekend. As the hard rain tapped against the windows of Westwinds Bookshop in Duxbury, Massachusetts I spoke to them about TBIs, then read from my essay, “Invisible Bruise,” published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries. Though I relayed a dump truck full of statistics, and read my story, my wish was to engage the audience in an honest discussion of the broader issues related to TBIs, inspiring them to pass on to others their new knowledge of this often misunderstood injury. And that’s exactly what evolved from my talk and reading: a couple, whose daughter sustained a TBI in a car accident last spring, shared their concerns about her suffering from depression. Another woman, with a granddaughter who is recovering from a TBI, asked about how one qualifies for disability insurance. The actor Chris Cooper, and his wife Marianne Leone, who has written a memoir about their disabled son Jesse who suffered a brain hemorrhage related to prematurity, spoke about the roadblocks they encountered when advocating for him to be included in classrooms with able-bodied students. The discussion continued for several more minutes, some vocalizing their thoughts about we view individuals with disabilities, even in the context of those who have not suffered a TBI, followed by others asking how TBI survivors cope with the loss of their careers.

And so my wish was granted: the event was not only to acknowledge my writing, and my TBI; it was for everyone in that room, and for those beyond the room who could not make it.

I came away from the reading with more than the sunny feeling that others benefited from it. Most of the people who attended I had never met before, but by the end of the event, I sensed each individual’s unique energy. As one after another thanked me, they reached out to shake my hand, but I refused. Instead, I reached out and hugged each one of them. They hugged me back.


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