Thursday, July 30, 2009


I will try to recount this tale as accurately as possible. I may mix up the order, but the details are what's important.

As you may have heard, Hollis spoke the words, "I love you, Mom." two days ago.
Everywhere I went people were telling me they heard the great news and started crying.
I was so amazed at how many people in my immediate day had connections to Hollis. I was also blown away by the quickness that spread by word of telephone. Mine was shut off, and within hours I was getting facebook messages and people in the streets already knew. Wow!?!

I had to see what all the commotion was about.

I go into the room and it is very bare. All the decorations have been sent home for her transition. But spirits are high and Karen and Diane are catching up.
I'll just get straight to the point.
I get up in her face, show her some photos J.Crush had brought, of us performing at the Roller Derby halftime. I described each scene and what part of the dance we were doing. Sometimes I would count it out the way we do at practice so she would know exactly where in the song the picture was taken. I showed her some of the new Derailleurs. I told her to notice how synchronized we were. The pictures were amazing! She took them in with intent curiosity.

I told her about my life and my woes and what's going on in my life.
Then I got up in her face and went over circular breathing, through the nose and out the mouth. I told her about how the first breath fills the chest, the second down to the diaphragm, and the third one under the belly button. I lead her in some breathing exercises, telling her the benefits of increasing the lung capacity and expelling stored grief (Chinese med.). I told her to bring it to her crown and down into her toes. Down the leg that doesn't move especially. Her right knee twitched with awareness, her toes wiggled just a little. Not even imagining it. I told her I felt it and she did it again.
Then I asked her for a high five and her tense ol' right arm started moving, slowly, in abeyance! In place of the left one. Awesome.
I then proceeded to put pressure on her arm to bring it down to neutral. I let her know the muscles she was tensing and I asked her if it pinched and she said, "Yeah." then "I'm getting better." Yes. She said that! (omg) Diane's eyes bugged out of her head!

Then we got her arm down and I told her to relax it. She was moving her fingers and wrists. A few times of being interrupted with medicine, she tensed up again and I told her that she should relax her arm again. The second time she did it with barely any resistance.
I snuggled up on the bed and put her hands on my stomach to feel me inhale and see how it felt when I breathed into my stomach. Then I put her hands on her belly and showed her where to breathe. I felt her middle wiggle and the muscles contract. She was getting it. I told her about how good it feels to push oxygen into the dark corners of her body, makes it tingle, and she said, "uh huh." Diane and I had our heads right within ear range because shortly she was muttering very differently sounding things all in a row under her breath. We would exchange glances to see if each other got that, but we both mirrored each other. Ok, keep her on the line.
She quieted and Diane went to catch the last call for hospital food. I was talking to her, trying to tell her stuff she might respond to, curled up in her arms on the bed.
She started talking a bunch. Whole sentences. Couldn't get much. Diane came back. Bless her heart, moms can understand the language of their own, before anyone can decipher it. She spends so much time with her, they are intertwined.
I heard, "I don't know..." and her Diane so helpfully asked her, "Did you just say you don't know what happened?"
I then asked her if she remembers going to India and that she had a motorcycle accident. She repeated the word, "Motorcycle." I asked her if she remembers being afraid of the motorcycle before she went. She said, "Yeah."
Diane told her that she had been sleeping for 5 months. Shortly after she began to cry.
This was a new cry. A cry of congniscience and awareness of her situation. It was a deep, meaningful, relief cry. A "Tear-through-the-paper" cry. She was aware of the situation and she was letting the sad parts release into the atmosphere in a cold rip of reality. After she released, I told her about how in Craniosacral therapy, one of the ten signs of release is crying, called a somato-emotional response. I asked her if she remembered me telling her this when I came home from my weekend retreats, learning the stuff. She said, "Yeah." I told her about how that means she is getting better and things will be getting easier. To change the subject, I asked her if she might consider choreographing a marionette dance, relaying and releasing the feelings she had with the wires and tubes connected to her. She said, "yeah." Then I asked her what the first food she would eat will be. Ice cream, salad, coconut milk..." She started crying! I think she is so ready for some coconut water! (Fresh styles.) We let her expell the sadness of not being able to eat. Then assured her that there is so many good things to look forward to. We let her know that whenever she felt sadness, no matter who is in the room, she should let go of it. She started hackin up some mucous, and I told her that this was another one of the ten signs and that she is making more room in her lungs for happiness and expelling grief. She stared saying a few more things that we couldn't catch.
At this point it gets hazy because I am lost in space-time because of a dream I had and wrote about previosly. Time passes and I ask her politely to repeat what she said. Sometimes she would, sometimes she was on to something else.
She brought up the word "dream" in one of her sentences.
You know my ears perked up to that one. I told her that she has not only been communicating with me in dreams, but also more people than just me. She was into the subject. She repeated it again. I can't even imagine what she has been dreaming.

That reminds me:
If I you have had a dream with Hollis in it: WRITE IT UP!
I want her to have a log as well as I think it is a valuable medicine for her.
As well as a study of parapsychology.

Ok. It's late, I am missing out on some details.
I will fill in more when I remember them. I just thought you would want to know.
Thank you for caring and contiually showing your support for this woman who knows she has power deep inside and when she doesn't have any, she has us.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bring it on home...

Hey everybody it's Harrison. So I know a lot of people have been asking me to write something and my silence may seem inappropriate to some. But now it is time for action so I can not stutter anymore. I've never been an internet person. No myspace or facebook, shudder at twitter and made fun of bloggers. Well boy was I dead wrong and seeing the value that the internet has had, in manifesting actual care and love, was astounding. I have tried to think of what to write just about every day... it plagues me. It drove me to a bad place for a while, well there were a lot of things that drove me there. As to be expected due to the reality of the situation upon our return. The whole time I was trying to stay strong for Hollis I was also crumbling and terribly sick with parasites I brought back. I lost 20 pounds and started generally being wretchedly unhealthy to myself all around. If a part of Hollis may have died, that remains to be seen. But I definitely felt partially dead. At the last minute I went to Venice with the 'Swimming Cities of Serenissima' boat project... there I found life again. I learned to genuinely smile and have fun, things I literally never thought I would do in full again. I have a list of thanks to those who went above and beyond to get us back and dive into Hollis's care and recovery ... and then to revive me. Soon, I want to actually write out and post on this blog and send letters and hugs and art and new found smiles to all who helped and pushed with all their might. The biggest thanks of all goes to Diane. There aren't many people in the world like Diane. I did learn a new found strength that I didn't know I possessed. None of that strength holds a candle to the strength that Diane has shown. That said it is time to get Diane home. There can not be two casualties from this one accident. I myself know that I nearly dodged a bullet and pulled myself out with the amazing help of my loved ones and it is time to show Diane, our loved one, that our hands are far reaching. Let's carry our wounded bird and her mother home to Nashville, Tennessee. What do we need to do to make this happen? All the momentum that was there when we were in India and just getting back is still pulsing in remission and I hope this call out gets passed around on the Facebooks and email lists etc. this is not a call to close this chapter of our lives and move on, we are with Hollis in person and our thoughts and hearts but Diane deserves the shattered remains of her life and love back. It's like a bomb was dropped on her life and it is time to rebuild and get her back to her husband who misses her immensely. This is all so intense and fucked up and the news isn't good and the light at the end of the tunnel is dim. I understand everyone wants updates but the truth is is that she has plateaued in a terrible place with some small steps forward and other steps back. Tragedy is a fact of life. What we have to do now is make the best of it. The best situation is for our beloved friend who is a tragic abbreviated version of herself to go back into her mothers arms and life adjusts. So let's make this happen as quickly and painlessly as possible. The doctors say the tracheotomy could be taken out if needed. We need to get doctors onboard and write and call Nashville politicians and agencies. We need to get her on TennCare and we need to find a caretaking facility that isn't going to let her choke to death on her own vomit. The money is there but we know that this is a long haul we are looking at. I told Diane that when the money runs out we will make more but the step by step of exactly how to get her home and where she will go and who will care for her are things that we need all of our hands on. Now. Start making phone calls, writing e-mails and researching. Producing the magical contacts that poured in when we were trying to get back to the states. St. Lukes has been amazing but Diane can not live in that hospital room anymore. We will see Hollis... she is in the center of the country and Diane has assured me that anyone can go visit her. I am personally trying to save a lot of my energy for when she is doing better and entering a more outward step of her healing, as opposed to the more internal healing that she needs to do right now. I am by no means leaving her side for any of it. I can not begin to explain to you what it is like for me to see a person that I love so much in the state she is in. I'm there, I'm visiting, but it hurts far more than is sustainable and healthy to spend as much time as I thought I would. My update is simple... I'm okay now, Hollis isn't, neither is Diane and we need to get them home. The thought of Hollis going back to Tennessee away from her friends and community that she has built for herself as an artist, lover and a fighter, was once too painful to even mention. Then my second day in Italy, during some deep crying screaming fit therapy with some of my dearest friends on this planet, I realized that she has to go home and it's okay. It doesn't mean I did a bad job, we did the best we could possibly do but her mother needs to start to live again. Sorry for the harsh tone of this post but it reflect the harshness and the reality of the situation.
Love you guys. -Harrison

Sunday, July 5, 2009


The three Derailleurs show up to Hollis' room and she's calmer than usual.
Her neck is straighter, not drooping down, but the first semblance of upright I have seen yet.
We say hello and start showing her other bike dance teams' videos on YouTube. She watches them all, very intent. We talk about moves that have been recycled and the politics of making up dances in a new genre of movement.
Hollis remembered the high five as soon as I got up on her bed. It was great. Then I showed her some of my drawings in a sketchbook. I showed her some of the drawings we had made together when we lived at the Willow street house. I busted out a pink highlighter and put it in her right hand. This is the hand that is curled to her body. She had no problem holding it. She wouldn't look at the page though. I tried waving my fingers to draw her down to it, but it seemed like she was hesitant. We moved the pen along the blank paper, my hand guiding hers. She would move her hand ever so slightly, decimeters at a time. I decided to try the left hand. The one that has had it's fingers extended for a week now. The day before we were working on "grabbing" and I asked her if she remembered that lesson yesterday. The back of her hand is very sensitive. Whenever I touch that area, her hand jumps. It takes a minute to show her the mechanics of wrapping her fingers around the pen. She holds it for a minute and we draw. The left side has larger movements. She moved the pen around in centimeters on this side. We didn't play for very long because she wouldn't look at the paper. She seemed to get tired when it got hard. I think she was also hesitant because of the amount of people in the room, staring hopefully at the page, expecting a miracle. She dozed off purposefully and we started gathering our things. She had been very quiet the whole visit. When she would utter sounds, her voice sounded hoarse. I guess earlier that day she had been pretty talkative.
Her mother said that while she was getting her nurse attention that morning, her right leg started to kick about. This was perhaps the first time this had happened since they were giving her ritalin. This is a sign of her bi-lateral symmetry working itself out. Yay!

We said goodbye, and I stuck my head in her face and gave her a huge smile. It's a genuine smile because I see her brainy icecaps melting. Coming out of an ice age. I see she is more and more herself and her old sassy attitude was apparent in the scowl she was matching with my grin. We stared at each other, our yin-yang expressions, in a facial battle. After a moment, I copied the look she was giving me, being her mirror. She instantly shut her eyes.
"Oh BUSTED!" I say. "Girl, I am just being your mirror and it looks like you don't like the way you are staring at me. Can't handle the taste of your own medicine, eh?"
I told her that they haven't outlawed smiling yet, and that is something she should work on. "I want to see a smile on our face next time I visit. And I want you to start saying 'wifey'. I am not going to give up, babe." I had a feeling she was feigning tired when we all came into the room, and the slamming shut of her eyes when she saw something she didn't like solidified it. I called her out on it. That sassy girl knows more than she lets on.
I have been spending quite a bit of time with her this week because she might be leaving us soon to go back home to Nashville. Her mother deserves to be in her husband's arms again, resume her life after this tragedy, reconnect with her strong southern support network.

I feel like I have a lot of work to do with her before she leaves. I have some guilt for not being there every week, sometimes not coming for a few weeks. I have to keep doing exercises and activities so I can see for myself what a little involvement will yield. It looks like the high fives have stuck. Now on to singing, dancing, and drawing. Ron Turner, one of the thousands of amazing beneficiaries and also the sponsor of sending her stuff to Nashville, related to me the tale of his friend with a brain injury. He said that while they have a hard time talking, singing is easier. The tones are set and in the subconscious and easier to release than pure expression. It's a maze in there and whatever you can coax out will help show the exit. It reminds me of the first few weeks after she awoke that I was singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow and she was matching my tones, awkwardly mumbling, finding the notes. In those chaotic times, my singing to her seemed to speak to her more clearly than my sentences.
I wonder about the perfect song.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hollis and High-5's

Yesterday I went in to say hello to Hollis and we worked on high fives for a while.
It's slow reaction, but she does raise her left hand for the magic of the palm slap. One time she really gave it her all with some force.
This is a great sign and one that can hopefully turn into communication. She understands what I say and responds. We still don't have the "yes" "no" communications, but this is a good step.

After the high5's I gave her a dancing lesson on proper body mechanics. We held both hands wide and danced a bit to some music. I introduced her two hands to themselves and told her about bi-lateral symmetry and advised her to work on her right hands range of motion.
It was truly fun.
I am on my way to the hospital right now with some Derailleurs for a drawing experiment.