I feel like yesterday was more like a social media post than a story. Maybe you don’t feel that way, but I think I’d like to get back into telling a story today and the story I would like to tell is about how I lost my sense of smell.
It was Labor Day weekend, 1985, and I had just moved back into my dad’s house after a summer at my mom’s apartment on 28th Street and Osborn. I had been working at Taco Bell on 31st street and Thomas all summer so I had money in my pocket, the confidence of someone who was entering his junior year in high school, a girlfriend I really liked, and everything lining up to be a great start to a school year.
Things were tense at my dad’s as we were really struggling to get along. I pushed him a lot in those days and my stepmom and I had a relationship that I struggled to understand. I really liked her in many ways and was genuinely happy my dad had found someone he loved, but our communication was always on the up and up. I would share things with her that I thought were in confidence and then my dad would end up pissed about it.
It was really dumb stuff, in hindsight, and I’m sure my dad probably feels the same, but I was becoming someone that I don’t think he could wrap his brain around and the way I dressed and did my hair and God forbid, eye makeup, he just couldn’t figure out. Things had come to a head during the end of my sophomore year, and we had figured a summer with my mom and me working would be a good thing. I was 15 and thought I knew everything.
But I was back and ready for school to start and really excited about it, too. I had a group of friends I really liked and as previously mentioned, a girlfriend I was excited about, and things seemed good. School would start on the Tuesday after Labor Day, which was September 3.
Since we had Labor Day off, I was over at my friend Mark E’s house and our other friend Danny S. was there, too. I have no idea what we were up to that day, probably just talking about our expectations for school and getting high. We did a lot of that in those days. I’ll have to share the story about when Mark E. decided he wanted to move to Berkeley and be my roommate in 1991 another day, but I’m sure each of these guys will show up in future stories.
Mark had one of those Honda Sprit scooters that topped out at 35mph, I think, and when it was time for us all to go home, he and Danny hopped on that, and I was on my ten-speed bike. We decided to race, which was really dumb, but what do 15- and 16-year-olds do? I stayed with them as long as I could, but they lost me as we weaved through the neighborhood.
The last thing I remember prior to the accident is pedaling as fast as I could.
The next thing I remember is that I was on the porch of someone’s house, and they were asking me who I was. I have a fleeting memory of my dad getting there and us driving to the hospital on 43rd and Thunderbird. I don’t remember the ride at all, but I do remember the moments before they took me in to get my head scanned.
After that, I don’t remember anything until September 4th. It’s weird but when I try to think of those days now and anytime before this, I can’t come up with anything. If you’ve had a head injury, you might understand, but it’s really hard to explain.
When you hear about concussions now and head injuries, it is quite obvious that the medical profession is still pretty much in the dark about things. It was worse in 1985. The doctor told my dad that I could probably go to school on Wednesday, the 4th of September, so I did. A factor in my dad’s decision to let me go to school that I’ve never considered until now is that during my freshman and sophomore years, I had a propensity for ditching.
I will go into more detail about this at another time, but in his eyes, I’m sure he thought there might be a chance that I would use my injury to avoid school. Maybe not…I could be wrong about that, and he could have just been going with the doctor’s advice. I do remember wanting to go to school, though, and was excited to see my friends.
That morning, I got to school and couldn’t remember where my locker was or what my first period class was, so I just wandered around during the first hour trying to find my locker where my schedule was located at with all my books and such. No luck but I knew I had newspaper class second hour and I remembered where the classroom was located so I made my way there and waited for the first hour to end.
When I got into the classroom, I sat down and promptly passed out.
Apparently, the newspaper teacher, one Diane Houpt (may she rot for never apologizing to me for this, even though I asked her to when I returned from school), thought I was on drugs and expressed this to the class. They got me to the nurse and called my dad and I was taken back to the hospital or maybe to a doctor’s office, this is fuzzy, and they told me that I had a serious concussion and would need to stay home and in bed for two weeks.
To be quite honest, I don’t remember much for a couple of days there, but on the fourth or fifth day of being in bed, I felt well enough to get up and make myself some blueberry pop tarts (my fave) in the morning. As I waited for them to heat up, I realized that I could not smell them, and it freaked me out. After all I had been through in that week, I kind of panicked and did not want to have to go back to the doctor and get poked and prodded all over again.
I kept my mouth shut about not being able to smell for a few months hoping it would come back, but it never did. The only thing that would happen, occasionally, would be that a smell would kind of get stuck in my nose, if that makes sense and it would be all I smelled for a while. This stopped, though, after the first ten years or so.
The condition I have is called anosmia and at some point, it may be more broadly recognized as a disability, although receiving any monetary benefits is unlikely. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does consider it to be a disability as it is an impairment that impacts a person’s quality of life.
I have never smelled my children. I have never smelled my wife. My favorite smells are gone forever, it seems, and if I am ever somewhere with a major gas leak, I am a goner. I don't even know what teen spirit smells like, for God's sake, so I missed out on a good portion of the early 90s.
Undoubtedly, this will come up in future stories.
See you tomorrow.
I bet this smelled like heaven. My wife is a wonderful cook. At least I can taste.