Consider Su Meck
"It was Su
2.0," said Jim Meck, her husband, a systems engineer.
had been in her
kitchen that evening, making macaroni and cheese.
picked up Patrick, her
6-month-old son, and held him aloft.
body brushed against a ceiling fan and somehow unhooked it.
Jim and Su
had met five years earlier at Ohio Wesleyan University
A rebellious child from the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia, Su
had removed the "e" from her name to set herself apart from three other Sue Millers at school.
awoke from the coma, the past was quite literally gone, and she
says that almost nothing that happened in the first 22 years of her
life has returned.
The few flashes of recollection have been brief and mostly fleeting, such as the distinctive feel of a drum tuning key, or the time she sat down at a piano, a few months after the accident, and played "The Entertainer" from what could only have been a memory.
could never do it again.
"I said 'Hi, Su
, how are you?' She
just looked at me, and there was absolutely no recognition in her
Oh my gosh, it just tore me apart."
Su left the hospital after two months.
had completed a checklist of tasks, such as riding a bicycle, preparing a meal and reading a simple children's book.
To complicate matters, for weeks after the injury Su
could not make new memories.
would awaken each day to a house full of strangers.
It would be years before she
could remember where she
had parked the car at the mall.
On the way home, she
would circle the neighborhood, clicking the garage door opener for a hint of which address was hers.
became known around the house as the "tidy fairy", for her
habit of putting things away and then forgetting where she
had put them.
"We'd have the milk out and we'd put it back in the fridge and close the fridge and . . . where did the milk go?
said Benjamin Meck, 24, the eldest of Su's
Kassidy, the only child Su
remembers from birth, is 18.
Talking on the telephone was disorienting in the first few years out of the hospital, so Su
family communicated with letters.
wrote hers with the spelling and penmanship of a young child.
"The boys play good with Legos now so givs me a chance to rite," she
mother in one mailing.
In another: "I hav to go to mor doctors be case fall lots to hitig head bad head ackes.
mother assembled a photo album filled with images of the childhood she
no longer knew.
"This is your life Su
wrote on the first page.
For years, her
life as a wife and mother was all Su knew, all she
had ever known.
times tables from her
children and volunteered at the school library so she
could hide in the stacks and read.
Nineteen years after the accident, in 2007, Su
walked into a classroom as if for the first time.
children were heading off to college themselves.
yearned to be known as something other than mother and wife.
It was the familiar dilemma of the stay-at-home mom, except that this mom knew nothing else.
"I didn't really know what I was going to do," she
"And Montgomery College
children what to bring to class, how to take notes, how to ask questions and write papers.
first classes were in sociology, stress management and remedial math-at 42, Su
was still multiplying by repeated addition.
was a slow learner-her husband can read eight pages to her
plodded through assignments, reading difficult passages again and again so she
would remember them.
Su and her husband are planning a move to Massachusetts, where she will enroll at Smith College in the fall as a transfer student seeking a bachelor's degree.
specialty is still the drums.
plays on a kit her
husband bought for her
for Christmas four years ago.
It sits in the family den, framed by posters of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Who.
Atop the kit is a small, stuffed Animal, the crazy Muppet
drummer, another relic of a forgotten childhood.
went through two decades of adult life without telling anyone outside her
inner circle that she
had no memory of the previous two decades.
didn't want to be pitied.
The story finally poured out one day last spring at the college, when someone in the honor society asked other members to each bring five things that meant something to them.
brought "Hop on Pop".