Wednesday, December 3, 2014

But First, a Little Backstory

Pardon me while I throw in a little background on this trip to Denver.  If you're just here for car stuff you might want to skip to the next entry - this one is gonna get kinda long and has pretty much nothing to do with Crosleys.

But it's important, just the same.


Though we had been inseparable for years, Tim White and I haven't been all that close for quite a while.  No real reason, just changing interests, both of us getting married, work - the normal stuff.  He'd gotten deeper into playing music and way deep into exploring the Nevada desert and its innumerable ghost towns.  We often went months without talking, and hadn't spent any significant time together in probably 10 years.  And then, all that changed, just over a year ago.

It started with a cryptic call from Suzy, asking if I was OK - she'd heard there had been an accident.  I was fine, but it soon became clear that she'd misunderstood a message from a mutual friend.  It wasn't long before we found out what the message had been about: Tim White had been in an accident.  A bad accident.

He'd been in Arkansas visiting a high school buddy who had just bought a farm there.  No one seemed to know the exact details, but Tim had gone out of the back of a pickup truck at about 40 miles an hour.  He was in a coma with a traumatic brain injury, lucky to be alive at all.
That first week was excruciating.  Tim's wife Gerri and the friends who were with him in Arkansas did their best to keep us updated, but there was no way to really know what the situation was.  He came out of the coma, but from the sound of it he was in bad shape - confused, barely able to walk, and quick to anger.  That last was particularly disturbing; we'd been friends for nearly 25 years and I'd seen him lose his temper less than a dozen times.

After a week it became clear that Gerri and company were breaking down as they all ran on less and less sleep - because of his condition, they had been staying with him 24 hours a day since the accident.   I offered to come out if it would help, and, 16 hours later I was on a flight to Arkansas, not sure at all what I was getting into.  To be honest, I was pretty scared of what I'd find.
Happily, he was better than I'd expected.  He could barely walk and had no idea where he was, but could carry on complex conversations about restoring vintage guitars, people we'd known in college and construction projects he was working on for clients.  The past was all there, but he was forming no new memories at all.  None.  We could tell him that he was in a hospital in Arkansas, and a half hour later he would be sure that he was backstage, getting ready to play a gig in London.  It would have been funny except that we weren't sure how much was going to come back.

Tim was making progress each day, although it was clear that he was going to have a long road ahead.  I never experienced the anger that he'd exhibited earlier (brought on, it turns out, by a temporary saline imbalance that is apparently common in head injuries). We just talked about old friends, music, projects, and where to get good made-in-the-USA work pants.   The doctors hesitated to make firm predictions, but one nurse finally told me that he was likely to make a more or less complete recovery - but that it would take 18 months.  Tim had no comprehension of that - he was convinced that he'd be back at work in a few days.  The whole goal now was to get him stabilized enough that they'd OK him for a flight back home.
Finally, after about 15 days in the hospital, he was cleared to go.  They gave Gerri a few hours notice to get packed and then an ambulance took her and Tim to a medical transport jet, and off they went.  Tim's friends Tony and Becky coordinated a flight back home for the three of us, and amazingly, we were able to get a flight to Sacramento the same afternoon.

I was there four days - I think.  The whole experience is a haze, and my total experience covered about one square mile: the hospital, the hotel and the Panera Bread store in the parking lot between the two.  My Crosley buddy Cutworm lives in Arkansas and I'd thought I might get a chance to call him, but there was never any time at all.  I was either at the hospital, asleep, or trying to catch up on the work emails that were piling up.  It was pretty intense.


Cut to a year later.  Tim is largely recovered, although he obsessively watches himself for signs that he's still not quite there.  The saline imbalance has almost disappeared, but he still has to be careful how much water he drinks - too much and his levels can start to drop again.  He's playing music just as well as before, painting like usual, and working just like always.

One thing that has changed is that we spend a lot more time together these days - like this trip to Denver.  This was our first road trip together in well over a decade, and the first time Tim had spent a night away from Gerri since the accident. Funny how an experience like Arkansas makes you realize how important some people are in your life - and how easy it is to let good friends slip away.  Tim and I both had that same realization, and it's been great to rediscover why we became such good friends in the first place.

Anyone that follows this blog with any regularity will notice that my posts about this trip have taken a lot longer to go up than usual.  In short, there was a more to this trip than just picking up a Crosley -
quite a bit more freight, if you will.

Now that we've got that out of the way the next post will get back to our regularly scheduled Crosleying...


Chris Harvey said...

Great article, Tim. I will always be grateful to you for being there for our friend when he needed help. There were a lot of us here at home that were wondering what was going on out there in Arkansas and unable to help. You put everything aside and went where you were needed most. My thanks to you.

Dave Smith said...

Good ol' traumatic brain injuries. Tim, Matt McCord and I should start a band called TBI.

It really changes your life to see how fragile life is. Every 12 hours I have to take anti-seizure medication from mine. Every 12 hours is another reminder how short life really is.

Sandi Fodi said...

Tim - can you email me or call?