Hippocampus is Greek for Seahorse

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“Hippocampus, Greek for seahorse…” are the only words I remember from  my mom’s neurology visit. As she showed my mom’s brain scan, I suppose the doctor felt compelled to illustrate just how aptly these short-term memory centers are named.

Although she sidetracked me with that comment, I like her anyway. She is a doctor who appeals to the intellect, a welcome change when emotions are crashing like Harvey’s waves, spilling devastation into the little world of Rockport, Texas where my father-in-law, affectionately known as “Grand Ray,” used to live.

Grand Ray refused to evacuate during Hurricane Harvey. He held out through the storm, but died afterward of a stroke and head trauma resulting from his golf cart’s tragic crash as he surveyed the aftermath. 

As for my brain, well, I have Grand Ray recorded. Just like this here Willie Nelson album I’m listening to, in my kitchen:

In the twilight glow I see
Blue eyes crying in the rain.

In a matter of months, I went from studying my mom’s brain scan to studying my father-in-laws. In contrast to mom’s pictures – which showed little white pearls – his opened into gaping white holes and cavernous blood pools. Still, amid the wreckage, I could locate the hippocampi. (Held my tongue on the Greek etymology part.)

Love is like a dying ember.
And only memories remain.

Some of us take short-term memory for granted. Remarkably, Grand Ray’s hippocampi were not damaged by the strokes or trauma. I believe this explains his ability to synch-up with us while lying there asleep – utterly trapped in his body. Willie sings:

Someday soon we’ll meet up yonder
We’ll stroll hand in hand again.

“My uncle survived Hurricane Maria. Despair over its devastation killed him,” wrote April Ruiz in a recent WaPo perspective. She confirmed our family’s notion of an old, weathered brain, utterly blown by the devastation lying in a hurricane’s wake.

I do think she’s onto something, but I need more than one perspective in order to process this tragedy, so I’m offering up myth. (Greek, of course.)

I imagine Granny as Persephone, her ashes weaving themselves into the micro-ecology these last six years. Queen of the Underworld, rising up from Rockport’s Little Bay with her big strong hands, uprooting trees like mere weeds.

Him. Huddling home in Rockport. Harvey hovering overhead.
He casts a net around the underbelly.
Her. Hollering. Demanding his return.
She enfolds him in her whipping embrace.

It’s heart-starved intent – not happenstance – that gives me a short mental break from the devastation, loss, and pain that I witnessed in Harvey’s wake. And, most important, it frees me from the nonsensical loop of Hippocampus being Greek for seahorse.

Someday soon we’ll meet up yonder
We’ll stroll hand in hand again.
In the land of knows no pardon
Blue eyes cryin’ in the rain.

Goodbye, Grand Ray. Here’s hoping there’s Honky tonk in Heaven!

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