Brain Dead

When I was a child, I ate porridge for breakfast during the winter. It was such a traditional meal that it took years for me to connect my vacant stare, occasional drooling and noxious gas problems with such a wholesome, heart friendly grain. I’m sure my teachers didn’t realize that that the neutron bomb in the classroom was set off by the small girl in the front row who often had trouble paying attention. 

Many years later, I had to give up wheat, oats and other fun grains. If you could make something light and wonderful with it, my stomach said, I don’t think so. The side benefit of the sacrifice was having a clear head. I hadn’t realized the power of brain fog until it disappeared along with bread and porridge. Lately, I haven’t been doing too badly with small amounts of both. Perhaps I’ve served my time, or maybe the Creator has decided that sixteen years of denial is enough. 

When juggling an allergy, it’s impossible to keep all the balls in the air at once. The questions I’m supposed to ask myself are these:

1. Will my stomach feel nauseous and/or bloat like I’m about to give birth?

2. Does my skin look like I live in the Sahara desert?

3. Will I be able to walk and chew gum at the same time?

4. Should I try to pretend that hives are mosquito bites?

Apparently, I am very comfortable living in denial. Which is a river on the same continent as the Sahara. 

When my kids traveled home a few weeks ago, I decided to bake them some granola bars. I’m constantly fussing over their diets, even though they’re grown ups and in charge of themselves. But God knows we were eating enough potato and corn chips to feed a village. I figured we could all use a healthy snack. To my delight, the oats didn’t seem to bother my stomach at all. As the weeks went by, I had more than a few pieces every day, including today. My day of reckoning. 

After countless  bags of chips, some drinking and much Olympics viewing, my company went home. I stared at my neglected yard and went to find my gardening outfit, including a pair of ancient dress pants with comfy, worn out Lycra. I couldn’t find them anywhere. 

I sat down on the bed, puzzled. That’s when I realized I was already wearing them. I had put them on twenty minutes before. Oh no, I thought. Clasping my hands together like an overwrought opera singer, I headed for the bathroom. 

When I’m upset, I like to gargle. The strong Listerine flavors seem to calm me down. I reached into the cupboard and grabbed my blue bottle of mouthwash. After a mere five seconds, it became clear to me that I’d grabbed the nail polish remover (in my defense, same size bottle, identical colour) and spent the next few minutes spitting and rinsing. (And then, yes, gargling. If ever there was a time…) 

Struggling to rub two brain cells together, I finally made a connection regarding my serious lack of focus. It was the oats. ‘Aha!’ I yelled, feeling powerful and relieved, like Dr. Frankenstein when he finally brings his monster to life. ‘I have brain fog!’ I shouted. (Shouting while alone in my house is a regular activity of mine.) 

Knowing the truth was such a relief. Because the alternative was not going to be pleasant. And now I wouldn’t have to lie to my kids about having trouble finding my way home from the store. There’d be no episodes of spotting my phone in the fridge (that’s oatmeal behavior) or searching for glasses perched on my head. No. Because as soon as I’m finished this last container of granola bars, I will cease and desist. And then I will talk like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.  

“The sum of the square root of two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the third side.” 

But not really. I’ve never been very good at math. Although I really rocked the slide rule in the tenth grade. Which is amazing when you consider I was still eating oats. 

Published by Judith Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

2 thoughts on “Brain Dead

  1. Hi Judy …. what a great saga …… nice intro and it all ties together at the end like a bowl of steel cut oats. Which is far superior to ordinary oatmeal ….. fine tunes an aging brain like a Formula One engine ….. or something along those lines. A guy can dream …… Happy story telling!


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