Sunday, July 15, 2018



[This chapter remained in here though this relationship has ended. My ex-boyfriend, “Aiden,” heard this chapter (and the various other stories I’ve also told about him elsewhere in my book), and he’s approved of it all verbally. Sadly, before Aiden was an ex, my editor said I should get it in writing that he approved of it all. Since our break-up was very abrupt, that never took place, so his name has been changed, and some stories have been deleted.]

          This is one more difficult chapter to write. I really don’t even know where to begin. I do know that I met him, and fell in love with him, when I was very ill – though we didn’t know the exact illness until two years into our relationship.

I met Aiden on a Thursday night in September 2007 at a karaoke night at our local Holiday Inn. Late that afternoon, my boyfriend-at-the-time, Jim, had taken me for a nature walk at the Ashokan Reservoir. But, as usual, I had to leave earlier than we expected in case I needed to use a restroom. See, in those days, I had wetting accidents often. Again, that was blamed on the meds I was on for the mysophobia, when actually, I found out later, the brain tumor caused those large messes. I know urinary incontinence is a problem when we age, but this example was when I was only 46.

To digress from that nature walk for a bit, those wetting mishaps even took place at the last school I taught in. I had a bag next to my desk with a second outfit (right down to socks and underwear), just in case I needed to change at work. I did have to change clothes a few times because of these accidents, and some co-workers noticed the different clothes on the same day.

But let’s get back to that nature walk. As Jim was driving me home, I had the sudden urge to tinkle. Jim was a very sweet man, and he layered his passenger seat with towels during this phase of our lives. These towels were because I had occasionally wet his car seat accidentally. He never got upset or mad about that. He took care of me very well. So, as we were about to pass the Holiday Inn, I told him, “Hurry! I have to go to the bathroom right now.” Jim sped down the ramp to the parking lot, and I went running to the restroom.

And then, when I emerged happily relieved that I made it in the nick of time, he told me about the karaoke that was going on in the bar. We went in together. I enjoyed taking this all in, but knew that I would probably never touch that hand-held microphone to sing anything (too many dirty hands touched it, and I was grossed out by “germies”).

As I was listening to others try their best to read and sing the words that Larry the DJ put on the screen, I noticed Aiden for the first time, over at the bar area with what looked like friends of his. I found out in later weeks that they were just that – his friends.

Of course, I was there with Jim, so I just sat and took it all in. A few visits later to that establishment, I introduced myself to Aiden and his buddies.

At first, Aiden, Jim, and I were all part of a friendly little group. Soon, I found myself even more attracted to Aiden than to Jim. After quite a while trying to decide whom I wanted to date, I broke up with Jim and started a relationship with Aiden. Of all the relationships I’ve had in my life, this one with Aiden was the biggest roller-coaster, because we were polar opposites. Because of that, we had seen three relationship counselors. The last one told us that in her 30 years of couples counseling, she had never had a more dissimilar pair.

We both did love one another, but our 14-year age difference is just one difference on a very long list of differences. However, we tried to stick by one another through ten tumultuous years, though we were not good together for at least half of them. But, let me focus on the positive right now….

Aiden was a great cook. He did his fair share of cooking when he was on his job. After he retired, he prepared a large portion of whatever he was into, and I got containers of his leftovers after we were done eating some of it together. Because of my memory problems, I don’t use my stove or oven. I live in a condo and my starting a fire would affect other families too.

Let me digress one more time. After my brain surgery, I flooded my kitchen once when I turned the kitchen sink on to wash some dishes. Because I forget what I’m doing sometimes, I left the room, went to use my bathroom, listened to my messages on my answering machine in my bedroom. When I remembered, I ran back to the kitchen and water was everywhere…all over the counters, the floor, etc.  I had a lot of cleanup work to do!

I started three small fires in that same kitchen before I made the decision (with help from my doctors) to only eat p. b. and j. sandwiches, microwavable foods, leftovers from Aiden or from dining out. This is safer for all involved! So, Aiden’s extras were a big help. I have friends that bake for me, too. The Voughts bake an apple pie that I purchase frozen from them for a fundraiser they participate in. Yummy!

Another way Aiden was helpful was with my dog, Happy. I was extremely busy with writing this book, attending meetings with politicians in Albany about brain injury, joining support groups to help me cope with my new life, and so much more. If I couldn’t make it home in time to walk my doggie, Aiden did it for me. Sometimes he was even Happy’s sitter. I drove the 15 minutes to deliver Happy to Aiden’s home, and they shared some quality time together over there. That always made me feel less guilty about not being around all the time, for the dog.

Aiden called me a few times most days to “check-in” and see how I was doing. If I needed anything, he was usually eager to assist. I called him “Mr. Fix-it,” because he repaired the things I accidentally dropped and broke. [I counted how many times I dropped something the day I wrote this chapter. I stopped at 10. This is one more “life difference” since my brain surgery. Luckily, my friend Sandy has turned into “Ms. Fix-it” for me.]

Aiden was also my chauffeur. My doctors have stated that I should only drive myself to destinations one hour or less. So, that means for my appointments with my editor, Dr. Cooper, Aiden drove me some weeks. On the days that he was unable to, I left an hour early so I would have extra time if I got lost. All those GPS voices get on my nerves, so I don’t use it. Aiden drove me to too many places to list. I am grateful for all of those trips.

I do believe that God brought us together, so that is why we had worked so hard to stay together, despite our very different personalities. Sometimes, I wished I was more laid back, as he is. But, I also wished at the same time that he was more scheduled, as I am. He thought nothing of it if we traveled to some far-away appointment he had made and when we arrived, got told he was not supposed to be there until the next day. I fumed over the wasted time. He saw it as an adventure to do something else while we were there. Of course, I found a restaurant or store I’d like to visit instead of fuming too long. These kinds of mistakes he laughed about at himself. I wish I could be so jovial.

Aiden had two cars. Only one car was used for trips with my dog, Happy, and so it got covered with dog hair. The other car was “reserved” for just us, or if Aiden was driving someone somewhere.

The “Happy-Mobile” was also used when either my car or his nice car was in the shop for repairs. His having this extra car had helped me time and time again (especially when my yellow Mickey Mobile was dying).

In the spring, summer, and fall, we took Happy on scenic rides. Actually – the two of them took me for a ride. For some strange reason that I can’t fully explain, a calmness came over me, as we drove quiet, back roads. God’s beautiful nature is very soothing (and the milkshakes we used to stop for were also helpful).

We went on roads that didn’t have a lot of traffic on them, and Aiden pointed out favorite spots of his or places he once installed satellite dishes. I still can’t believe how much Aiden used to do before he retired.

So, I just enjoyed the scenery while he drove, and once in a while, Happy loved to bark at a cow or squirrel we passed. I missed those relaxing trips when the weather was dangerous in the winter. As soon as the snow melted, I started asking if we could take a ride. Aiden also sometimes cleaned my car, which I appreciated.

Another way Aiden was helpful to me was how he sometimes helped me stay calm when I became easily agitated. He would tell me to breathe, “Change the channel,” (an expression not meant literally as if we were watching television but instead to think about something else that is not upsetting). Aiden would sometimes change the subject entirely if he observed my stress level rising.

He did not want me taking my prescribed medicine (a controlled substance) because he knew how addicting that can become. He witnessed firsthand how I overdo that and how I’d been lucky nothing dangerous had taken place. My impulsivity causes me to want to “shut down” when someone has hurt me or triggered me. But – taking pills only makes the problem worse. So – I have to work on calming down by talking to God first and foremost. Sarah, a lovely mother of two children I help with at my church told me, “Let children be your medicine.” How sweet a thought, because whenever I volunteer with kiddies, I am not ever triggered. Children bring me much comfort.

A perfect example of Aiden’s ability to help me calm down (when someone other than he triggered me), happened as I was preparing part of this chapter.

I almost had a meltdown at a publicity function I had been invited to participate in. I got dressed up (an unusual occurrence for me), rearranged many other plans that day to arrive early (since it was far from home and Aiden and I had never been there before), and I was excited to be included.

However, the person in charge forgot that she had asked me a few days prior to be part of the picture-taking event, and so, when others were called up by name for the photo-shoot, I just stood there. I waited for her to signal me to come up. Instead, she told others to join in. So – I just stood there, hurt and feeling that way we did as children when we weren’t picked for a team in gym class. Remember that?

I started to shake, and here’s where Aiden came to my rescue. He put his arm around me and said, “Everything is going to be okay.” He knew I was upset. I wondered whether I was left out on purpose or inadvertently. Having been triggered, I decided to leave rather than do something embarrassing. I left in tears and didn’t even join in the festivities. (You know I’m upset when I walk away from free food!) So – Aiden drove me to a nearby Cracker Barrel restaurant, because he knew that after we order, I’d go outside and rock and rock and rock in the rocking chairs. This movement brings me to a calmer place (and their gift shop and delicious food help also).

As I was wrapping up this book, I attended a Judy Collins concert in Bearsville, NY. Two men came in wearing funny reindeer antlers (since it was the holidays).

When they sat down, one of them took his antlers off for the show so the couple behind them could see the stage. The other guy left them on until his partner overheard the people behind them discussing it. The guy who knew to remove his antlers had to take them off the other guy’s head. Really? You don’t think enough of other people that it’s okay with you that someone’s view is blocked so you can wear a silly costume?

I wanted to “butt my nose” into this, since I was sitting near all four of these people. Aiden rubbed my arm and said, “Janet, this is none of your business. Just enjoy the show.” That was helpful because I did just that!

I know Aiden had rescued me many times. When a car I was driving died on some road, he was the one who dropped what he was doing and came to my aid. Silly but true – one time I locked myself INSIDE my own new-for-me car. Over the phone, he had to slowly, very slowly, tell me which buttons to push so I could get out. (I guess this is a contraption in newer cars so kiddies cannot get out by accident?). Since my brain injury, I get very flustered with tasks that appear simple to others.

Once, my mother came to help celebrate my 55th birthday. As I wrote here when I penned my family chapter, my mother and I had “lost touch” for quite a while. She initiated the conversation about coming to New York from her home in Florida so we could celebrate my birthday together.

When she first contacted me, I was nervous about her coming north, because I couldn’t have one more disagreement with her. I’m way too fragile emotionally to take that anymore. But, I prayed about it, and God spoke to me and helped me arrange for a visit. She stayed at a local Hampton Inn because that was less pressure for me. My condo is just not “user-friendly” right now, as it looks so messy due to all my piles of research for book-writing. The dog and I are okay with it, but my mother’s Parkinson’s means she could fall easily. I wanted for her to be safe and for me to stay as calm as possible.

When she arrived, she needed a trip to a hair salon while she was here. I had practically every minute she was here pre-planned, so I had no time to take her, since I still needed time to write and do my everyday chores. See – another effect of brain injury is that I don’t do well with schedule changes. So – Aiden volunteered, and off to the mall they went. I thought that was very sweet of him.

I know a lot of partners wouldn’t be as accommodating as he was sometimes with my peculiar behaviors. He pretty much “goes with the flow” and didn’t get upset when I was asking for help. [Until the end, when he got VERY upset.]

Another way he tried to help me is with my impulsivity. If I was stopping at a store with him to pick up something I needed, he reminded me just to get those items, because too many times I filled the cart with gifts and cards for others or supplies for church functions or other things. I needed help remembering that I’m on a limited income now and I have to watch my finances more carefully. He was good at that, and I appreciated his gentle reminders not to overspend on others.

While I was preparing part of the chapter, I had one more “curveball day” where too many changes took place and I couldn’t handle it. I ended up taking my medicine, which then meant Aiden had to drive me to our church’s choir rehearsal. Of course, we were in different sections in the choir, so I just sang and tried very hard not to chit-chat, because others would hear my medically-caused slurred speech.

The sad part is that all that had happened to cause my meltdown was that a doorknob broke in my condo and so I couldn’t get into a room to put some supplies away, at the same time that my landlord was calling me about changing the water hose for my washing machine. I broke down in tears over these two small events as if they were big. Brain injury!

I know many people get flustered when the routine or schedule is changed, but I get so upset it can lead to a meltdown. After the meds kick in, I calm down and things go smoother than they would have if I hadn’t taken them, but hours later, I feel horrible because I had been snotty to others while I waited to feel relief.

Aiden had witnessed some of my meltdowns. Sometimes he was good with that, and other times he’d had enough. I can’t blame him for getting bothered by my childlike episodes, but I do wish he could have helped me get over it more often.

He had also helped me in the middle of the night. An alarm battery went dead very late one evening. I had never replaced this type of battery in my carbon monoxide detector before. The beeping sound it was making was scaring both my dog Happy and me. I called Aiden. He drove over to help me replace the battery and then get me to a calmer, quieter place so I could rest. He easily could have just stayed home and given me directions over the phone, but, instead, he came to my rescue one more time.

Once, I needed a late-night trip to the ER for one more bladder infection that was not getting better with my usual meds. He took me as soon as I called him. I truly wish I could have remembered these loving gestures of his when I got all riled up about something he did that I didn’t like.

That feeling of being upset instead of content happened way too often. Because we had opposite personalities, we didn’t see eye-to-eye on the majority of topics that arose. So – we plugged along trying to understand each other better.

He was not familiar with the kind of situation that my particular brain injury presented. As many experts say, “if you’ve seen one brain injury, you’ve seen one brain injury.” There are no two exactly alike. The only thing that they all have in common is that they rob the injured person of the life that person once knew. Family members are left to “clean up the mess,” and this can sometimes tear a family apart.

Some people with brain injury are forever bedridden. Others need wheelchairs or walkers. Others are more mobile, but have cognitive and/or behavior issues. That behavior category is where I fit in. I look normal, have an excellent vocabulary, but I have numerous issues relating to interacting with other people. Let’s not pass judgment on degrees of brain injury. Let’s realize that the forever life change for all involved, but especially for the person who is dealing with it the most – the person who had the tumor, the aneurism, the stroke, the accident, and on and on and on....

One strong suggestion I would make for any brain injured person or the caregiver: do NOT make large life decisions for at least one year after the incident, surgery, or event. Engagement or marriage, memberships, etc. should be postponed until improved wellness takes place. Give yourself at least a year.

And that’s where we’ll get back to Aiden in this, the Aiden chapter. He proposed to me in a very romantic way at that Holiday Inn where I told you we had met. He did this seven months after my brain surgery. At that point (February 2010), I was still high on life after surviving what I had survived.

Aiden had asked both of my parents (when we visited their home in Florida for Christmas of 2009) if he could marry me. They were thrilled at that point because Aiden had stuck with me through this horrible brain surgery ordeal. Two months later, he got down on one knee as the band that played that evening at the Holiday Inn announced that something special was about to take place. I eagerly said yes and we went out to the lobby to call my parents.

We didn’t rush into making wedding plans. We had our engagement picture taken, but that was about it. I was still in early recovery stages, so my thinking skills were slower then. We discussed various ideas, such as a honeymoon in Australia, but nothing was finalized.

Why nothing got organized right away was because of what I’ve written about here in the chapter about my beginning of meltdowns.

Only three months after Aiden’s proposal, I began to unravel. As you’ll read in the next chapter, Mother’s Day weekend of 2010 was the beginning of a long journey that I’m not completely finished with yet.

Then, after I began to “fall apart,” things got even worse. Without going into too much of Aiden’s private information here, let me just say that he had to get a handle on some of his own issues. A pastor at our church and then another pastor at a different church helped him, and thus us, with that. Because of Aiden’s issues, I canceled our engagement. I had been divorced once and had my second marriage annulled, so I was being very cautious.

I pretty much knew a wedding would not take place for us. I do know that when he was father-like with me and helped me calm down after one of my immature temper-tantrums, I was drawn closer to him. But, many other times, I knew he made things worse for both of us by joining in, with his narcissistic behaviors.

I struggled with our differences. I’m a pretty good listener, yet he hardly talks. He didn’t listen very well, and I talked too much. I’m way too sensitive for his insensitiveness. His just “forgetting” (to get me a card for a holiday) got me way too upset. We are opposites who tried to find common ground.

One of the mean things Aiden called me was “oddball.” Though he's actually accurate that some of the things I did and/or said are “out there,” it still hurts to be named-called. On the other hand, one helpful thing he said often to me was, “Analyze, analyze, paralyze,” because he witnessed how often I over-analyzed situations with everyone, not just with him.

I'm the first to admit that sometimes my behavior is a little “off,” but I do know that I bit my tongue A LOT around him and others who agitate me with their carelessness in word choices. Though he attended many meetings with me to learn more about brain injury, he didn't always apply it. I've learned to keep quiet more often when others irritate me. That's way easier said than done!

Aiden said it best about himself, “I know I’m an odd fellow.”

Aiden and I had a very different upbringing. I grew up in affluent Rhinebeck, NY. I went on a family vacation cross-country to California, another to the United Kingdom, and more. Most summers were spent either in the Hamptons or the Adirondacks. I also owned a house with my former husband in beautiful Rhinebeck.

Aiden told me many times that his birth family was so poor. Once, he had to miss a school field trip for ice cream because they couldn't afford a ten-cent ice cream cone.

That may be one reason why we saw the world so differently.

The part of this relationship that was excruciatingly hard for me was how sensitive I was to his insensitive comments. I know I don’t always do the right thing, but he had the hardest armor against the world that I’ve ever known. Nothing I, or anyone else, said to him seemed to get “under his skin.” He was able to pass it off.

I’m not able to, so therefore, when angry sentences like the examples here were said by him to me, I crumbled:

·       “Your ass is fat.” [True, but mean.]
·       “That’s Janet being Janet.” [Intended to be derogatory.]
·       “What’s wrong with you?” [Said harshly.]
·       “Why are you so literal?” [Brain damage, ever hear of it?]
·       “My kids despise you.” [More than obvious, but still hard to hear.]
·       “I hate your dog.”
·       “You act like a nut!”

[And one thing I have to add here is that I used to say something very mean to Aiden which I should not have said: “Remember – I fell in love with you when I had a brain tumor.” That was accurate but mean.]

I know we all say things in the heat of an argument that we wish we could “take back” later, but what happens in my brain is the overplaying of these cruel words. So, I knew that all of this was in God’s hands. Aiden and I didn’t get together by accident. He helped me (as I’ve shown here), and I helped him (by restoring his faith in God).

But, our differences were too great. Though it reads here that he did so much for me, he also destroyed my self-esteem for a very long time, with examples I’ve deleted from this chapter.

Now that I’m free of this relationship, God is healing me.

For the coming year, I [Douglas Winslow Cooper] will be
excerpting, weekly, material from this almost-final version of the fine book by Janet Johnson Schliff, M.S. Ed., which she wrote over a three-year period with some coaching and editing help from me, through my business, Write Your Book with Me.

Her memoir is now available in paperback and ebook formats from Outskirts Press  and



Janet Johnson Schliff was on WKNY  Radio 1490 at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday, March 1, Kingston, NY.

Janet spoke at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3 at Barnes & Noble in Kingston, NY. I [DWC] attended, along with about 40 other people. Congratulations to Janet on a fine talk!

Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at the Starr Library in Rhinebeck, NY, at 7 p.m. on March 6. 

She spoke at the Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY, at 2 p.m. on March 17. 

She spoke at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff, NY, at 6:30 p.m. on March 28. 

She spoke at RCAL in Kingston, NY, at 4 p.m. on April 3. I was able to attend. They gave her an impromptu book-launch party.

On 4/4/18 Janet spoke at the Parkinson's Support Group at the Starr Library at Rhinebeck at 2:30 p.m.

On 4/27/18 Janet spoke at the Stone Ridge Library at 5:30 p.m.

On 5/4/18 Janet spoke at the Hurley Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/9/18 Janet spoke at the Kingston Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/14/18 Janet spoke at the Staatsburg Library at 7 p.m.

On 5/31/18 Janet spoke at the Clinton Community Library at 6:30 p.m.

On 6/9/18 Janet spoke at the Tannersville Mountain Top Library at noon.

On 6/11/18 Janet spoke at the Gardiner Library at 7 p.m.

On 6/20/18 Janet spoke at the Marbletown Community Center at 6 p.m.

On 7/13/18 Janet spoke at the Esopus Library at 7 p.m.

On 7/20/18 Janet spoke at the Pine Plains Library at 6 p.m.

On 7/23/18 Janet spoke at the Ulster Library at 5:30 p.m.

On 8/11/18 Janet will be at the Northern Dutchess Bible Church in Red Hook at 1:00 p.m.

On 9/06/18 Janet will be at the Inquiring Minds Bookstore in New Paltz at 7 p.m.

On 9/15/18 Janet will be at the Adriance Library in Poughkeepsie (93 Market St.) at 2:30 p.m.

On 9/22/18 Janet will again be at the Tannersville Mountain Top Library, at noon.

More signings will be coming up. A fine feature about Janet by John DeSantos [845 LIFE] appeared in the Middletown Times Herald-Record on Monday, March 12, as part of Brain Injury Awareness Month. An article about her book was just published in the May 2018 Living Rhinebeck Magazine. An article about her book appeared in the May 14 Daily Freeman of Kingston, NY. and another in the Family Life section of the Poughkeepsie Journal on June 8th. The Millerton News will publish an article about her talk at the Pine Plains Library. 

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