About the Film
At six am, on August 31, 2011, my mother awoke to the sound of my dad’s body hitting the bedroom floor. My siblings and I awoke to the news that my dad was in the hospital. All any of us knew was that he hit his head. An ambulance picked up my dad from his house in Hudson, NH and rushed him to a hospital ten minutes away, where by chance a neurosurgeon was on-call. My dad immediately underwent a craniotomy. Just the day before my family was in New York City cheering on my older brother as he wrestled in the World Police and Firefighter Games; now we all huddled together praying that my dad would keep fighting.
there’s NO QUIT in me
After being in a coma with no brain activity for 7 days the doctors began to doubt that my dad would ever wake up. Then, on day 8, his eyes fluttered open briefly signaling to the world that he was still here. That week we saw small movements in his face but his body remained paralyzed. Flash forward 3 weeks, and miraculously my dad begins to speak. He growls, “There’s no quit in me,” through the tracheostomy tubes coming out of his throat. The nurses tell us it’s next to impossible that someone in his condition could talk. Next to impossible never stopped my dad from doing anything before.
My dad’s neurosurgeon told us it was the first time in 20 years that one of his craniotomy patients walked back into his office for a checkup. My dad’s injury produced one of the worst brain bleeds he had seen in his two decade-long career. My dad attributes his motivation to recover to his family. “The decision is easy,” he says, “you either give up and die, or you live.” My dad still struggles with behaviors that most of us take for granted—talking, distinguishing between dreams and reality, eating, walking, feeling the sensation of being full, conjuring imaginations, writing, controlling his emotions, and the desire to go on living.
If you spoke to my dad today you would have absolutely no idea he had a traumatic brain injury. If you knew him before his injury you would know that there is something different about him now. He laughs uncontrollably at times or he cries at no end. My dad has always been a lovable person, but I have never seen my dad laugh like this or ever seen him cry. He confesses to us that he cannot remember the house we lived in for over 20 years (which we lost to the banks during his recovery) and the game of golf, which he passionately played for 50 years. He cannot remember the deck, any of the kids growing up in the house, the backyard and all of the parties we’ve hosted, birthday parties in the TV room, and his bedroom where he fell.
My first memory of going to the horse track with my dad is age 4. I’d keep my eyes glued to the scuffed linoleum floor tiles, littered with old tickets, picking up each one to see if it was a winner. I know what a perfector box bet is. Calculating the odds of horse races were my first math problems. Every time I smell a cigar, I’m reminded of those days surrounded by old men yelling and swearing at the small, suspended television screens. But it wasn’t a bad childhood by any measure. My dad loved the track, and he loved us; he didn’t see the harm in spending time with both of us.
This film will document my family’s attempts to help my dad find his lost memories. We will take my dad back to the house we lived in for 20 years and the golf course where he spent so much of his life. This film will follow my dad’s return to the track and deconstruct what it means to be a good father. Through this film I will try to understand my dad’s gambling addiction, especially how it contributed to my parents’ bankruptcy and to the eventual loss of my childhood home.