As I pulled away from my work, I felt a pang of loneliness. Not for leaving work – never that – but for knowing that I wasn’t going home to anything. Knowing that I was alone from this moment until tomorrow morning. My lady is out working late, or maybe visiting with a friend, four nights this week – including tonight.
My cats are at home. I love them. Here’s a picture of my 15 year old cat, Eleanor, because I am a cat lady.
Cats, however, don’t make conversation. They don’t share what their day has been, nor ask after mine. Their mental competence is about the level of a three year old, so the chance of a fulfilling conversation (other than a one-sided one) is nil.
My home, my house, is waiting for me when I pull into the driveway. It is solid, never-changing, here for 140 years. It has been waiting patiently for me every day since Mary and I bought it. A nice space, a pleasing yard, a good investment.
By now, the good side of being home alone has dawned on me. Unrestricted activity throughout the house. I enjoy a good putter. The worm bin needs to be filled with a new food source, and our two 5 gallon compost buckets are filling up. The putrid smell of partially decomposed wet food makes it an excellent task to complete when I am home alone. Mary often complains of mild stinks, so this one would be (rightly) the source of much complaint. But it’s important – it’s good stuff – feeding old fruits and veggies to my worms and ending up with compost for the garden.
Over the past year or so, it has surprised and amazed me what Mary can smell. She complains of the litter boxes when I don’t even catch a whiff of odor. She tells me with certainty of a dead thing somewhere… somewhere nearby. She’ll take off sniffing in the hopes of locating the offensive odor near our couch. She tells me when Eleanor doesn’t smell healthy long before I notice.
Over the last few weeks, my brain has been working more. Or, perhaps, more like a work horse and less like a pony. Heavier loads, longer pulls, less fussiness. It hasn’t made me feel more happy. No. Not at all. It has, however, allowed me to think much more than I have in the past 21 months about random shit… a horse unfettered by fences. Or, perhaps, the fence has become much larger than it has been. Regardless, more thinking has been happening.
A thought has slowly clawed its way up through my consciousness. I use to really smell the litter boxes. I use to catch a scent and wander all over the house trying to find the foul odor (usually a mouse part of some kind). I remember doing this quite distinctly.
Yet, now, I don’t smell much. Scent does not shout at me the way it once did. There is no assault on my nose as I wander through life.
When did this change? I am not sure. I suspect it might be related to my head injury. It didn’t happen abruptly – I expect I probably (maybe?) would have noticed an abrupt change, but perhaps it happened sometime later. Is it just a result of aging? I’m not sure.
The most abrupt change – and therefore the most noticeable – has been my sense of taste. Our sense of taste is, of course, deeply intertwined with our sense of smell.
I had reason to notice the change a few weeks ago when I took Mary out to a fancy restaurant to celebrate the fact that I get to keep my job (yay!). I ordered an appetizer of calamari as my own celebration, since I rarely get the dish now because my lady doesn’t like squid.
It arrived promptly, drizzled with a balsamic reduction with a horseradish dipping sauce. I tried the calamari alone, first. Good. Some burning in the mouth. Almost unnoticeable. Then, I tried the calamari dipped in the horseradish dipping sauce. Better. And now some noticeable fire in the mouth. Instead of being appalled, though, and fleeing quickly, perhaps having a coughing fit or steam coming out of my ears, as I said – it was pleasant.
Mary tried some calamari just to see how it was, and couldn’t eat it. It was too spicy for her liking. Too spicy for her liking. She, who loves spicy things. And I sat there, happily eating almost the entire plate of calamari with a serving of horseradish for added pleasure. A serious disconnect between who I was a few years ago and who I am now!
Something is different. Yes. Definitely. Something is different. Why? Perhaps I will never know. Perhaps my head injury effected my sense of smell, and hence my sense of taste. Perhaps I should add this to the long list of things I have lost due to this head injury. Or. Perhaps the abrupt change in my tastes are simply the random changes caused by age.
Regardless, I am playing to win. I plan to not only survive, but to thrive. How to frame this significant sensory alteration to my advantage?
Well, the change in my sense of smell means that I am less bothered by imperfections in my surroundings. Unfortunately, I am even more sensitive to chemicals than I was pre-injury, so loss of smell hasn’t made my job with hazardous materials and oils any easier. Must find a plus, though… must find a plus. Hmmm… well, now I am less likely to be drawn to make poor choices when I drive by a McDonalds because I don’t notice the smell of their fries quite as much. There. That is one thing. Anyone have additional suggestions?
In comparison, a positive spin on the change in my sense of taste is easy. Now, since I have more tolerance of spices, I will be able to enjoy and experience a wider swath of food than I ever imagined would be available to me. The taste change is a zero sum – some loss, some win, and it pretty much balances out.
If I could manage to make this head injury recovery a zero sum game… damn, that would be pretty fucking amazing. Perhaps, with time, it will happen.