The first week of each new year gets me thinking of what the future holds. And, it also gets me thinking of what’s taken place in the past, specifically during the first week of January in 1991.
The next part of my encephalitis illness story fits perfectly right now. *1
Why? Because it was during the first week of January in 1991 that I left my eighteen-day stay at Highline Community Hospital. *2
I was fine physically, but my brain was dealing with remembering a majority of what things were for, or what they were called, and what many words meant. I didn’t have to re-learn so many facts. They were all still in there, but had to be pulled out over and over again in order for me to happily say, “I know that!” Thankfully, though, it would be getting better.
Leaving the hospital on that day, I was nervous, excited, and scared at the same time. Keep in mind how that hospital—because of my illness which caused me to not retain most of what took place in the past—was the only place I could ever recall living in. Leaving that place was starting, for me, one major adventure. My thoughts were filled with questions about everything I saw outside the hospital. I had no idea what life was like on that road ahead.
My husband, Chris, was chaperoning me to our car. As he opened the passenger door, I looked in as if I had never even been in a car. After looking all around inside, I eventually sat down next to Chris.
“We have this here to keep us safe in the car,” he said. “It’s called a seat belt.”
That was just one of many facts he was warned he’d need to tell me. For Chris, it was all a bit funny, but sad as well, with him wondering if I would be this way from then on.
My head was constantly turning back and forth, looking out the windows while the car was going down that first street. I’ll never forget thinking how all the cars looked so different from one another. It wasn’t long before Chris’s ears were drowning with my repeated three words: What is that? He knew it was best to keep the answers simple, so he tried to explain things in such a way that I could understand. One of the tougher examples was why some streets had weird lights that made you stop, while other streets, called freeways, didn’t make you stop nearly as much.
On one of those freeways I was feeling a bit down, because it started hitting me just how little I knew. That is, however, until I noticed something ahead. A sign off to the side began getting bigger as we drove closer. A smile on my face began to form. That smile began getting bigger the closer we got to that sign.
“What… what is that up there? It looks… it looks like I know what it is!” I still can remember how I felt, feeling a sense of hope was found!
“What do you see?” asked Chris. “What looks familiar?”
“The big picture thing over that building. Isn’t that some letter?” I said while pointing, feeling a spark growing inside. “Isn’t that some place where you can get these little, weird, long-shaped things? And then you put this… this liquid stuff on it. It’s a certain color. And isn’t it something people eat?”
My excitement could be heard and seen, as my smile extended from ear to ear.
Chris must have felt like I was some little girl who just thought she saw Santa.
“What are they called, those things with runny stuff on them?” I asked.
“Marianne, that building is a place everyone goes to eat, called McDonald’s. And what you are thinking about is called a french frie, with this red runny stuff you put on it is called ketchup.
My brain was soaking in all he was saying.
“That makes a lot of sense to me now. I sort of remember I loved eating that! Right? Do you think…”
“I’m taking the exit right now to go there.”
Happy as could be, I learned what a drive-through was as we got closer to that big sign which was now right in front of me. And a minute or two later those fries were also right in front of me on my lap. That first bite instantly had me remembered why I remembered that sign. Yum!
To this day, whenever I’m at McDonald’s, I feel this little piece of kid still in me, enjoying that weird red runny stuff on those fries.