How did humor get you through those early days
right after Bob was injured?
We laughed. We had lots of jokes and we
called him “half head.” He would struggle
for words and at certain times we would laugh
about some of those words. Towels were “cuddles”
and thumbs were “dunkles” and he just had a
whole host of things when he couldn’t come up
with the word in the early days. He would make
the word up himself and we just learned to laugh
about that. It was cute and it was funny
and it was endearing and we all learned that if
we laughed, it just sort of felt better. We used
humor in lots of different ways as families do,
because I think all families have their own
brands of humor, and it was very cathartic.
When we host our Fearless Caregiver
conferences, we talk about humor. There might be
10 or 15 really funny stories that only
caregivers will understand, like your story
about Bob with “cuddles” and some things my
grandfather would say to my mom.
Right, and it is interesting, too. Bob was
roasted the other night down in Washington for
the annual spina bifida event and everybody was
so afraid to roast him. Here is a guy with a
brain injury who was doing a service to his
country in Iraq and how are we going to roast
this guy? Everybody sort of touched him
with kid gloves until I got up there and said,
“Okay, you guys are weak.” I just started
telling some of the funny stories and the things
that we called him, the jokes that we had, and
you could see people at first be a little
nervous like, Should I laugh at this? Of
course, you should laugh and, ultimately, you
get the whole room howling. But it is kind of a
journey for people who haven’t necessarily been
there to understand that you have to keep
laughing through life. You have to keep
laughing through the absolute worst of life
because, otherwise, what will you have to spur
you on to keep surviving?
You recently held your first major fundraiser,
The Standup for Heroes Gala. How did that
We raised $2.5 million and then another almost
$5 million in an online auction. It was a chance
to show the human cost of the war, because you
don’t run into the wounded on the streets of New
York the way you might in Washington, for
example. I think it made everybody feel
pride in their country and a sense of rallying
around the wounded and wanting to support them;
and people got a chance to talk to them.
It was just an all-around fabulous night.
You, Bob and your family really put
a spotlight on the subject of brain injury.
Because of your dedication, I am seeing more and
more information, support and conversation about
people with traumatic brain injury.