The motel staff there seems to look forward to Dean's flamboyant presence every year. This year they gave us Room 222 on the 2nd floor, and I had to wonder if it wasn't to make it easier for him to remember his room number.
One of Dean's hangouts, I'm sure, was the motel lobby where the desk clerks were a captive audience to his thrilling stories and joking comments. I was constantly checking with them to see if they'd seen someone in a cowboy hat, only to find that I'd just missed him. So off I'd head for the conference center welcome desk or the vendor exhibit area to ask the same question. Have you seen Dean? Everyone always seemed to know who he is.
I got a lot of walking exercise those two days! We only lost his cane once (it ended up being right in our room). According to him, he kept losing me though, and I always claimed to have lost him. It got to be rather comical.
[My fears of his getting lost were not unfounded. As we were getting back on the Interstate, leaving Kearney to go home, Dean kept insisting that we needed I-80 West, and after I kept on taking I-80 East, he finally admitted he was thinking we were in Omaha...I rest my case.]
On a serious side, the conference, attended by almost 300 people every year, half professionals and half brain injury survivors and their families, is a learning experience, as well as a place to connect with old friends.
Why do we go back every year? For me, I just want to help others understand what brain injury really looks like. And I bring my own personal illustration in the form of my husband. All brain injuries are different, however, so the professionals need to see as many of us as they can.
One of the presenters understood this when she said, "When you've seen one brain injury, you've seen one brain injury."
I'm so glad God never fails to see our individuality too. We are all unique and valuable in His eyes. The world would be a much better place if we could remember this.
A bowling fundraiser 3 years ago at the conference!