Page 33: The Incredible Hulk

Christa remembered that it was only a couple of months after Joe had been back from college that he had his first seizure, except at the time, she didn’t know what was happening.  All of a sudden Joe became so enraged.  Nothing in particular set him off.  He just start yelling and screaming like a mad man.  And, strong!  Why, he gained what seemed to be at least three times his normal strength–almost like the Incredible Hulk.  He picked up the kitchen table and hurled it across the room.  Christa tried to calm him down, but it seemed the more she talked, the more enraged he became.  He picked Christa up and was ready to throw her like a football when all of a sudden, he managed to snap out of it, put Christa back down and became so weak, he could barely stay standing.  He was so weak, he couldn’t even take a drink of water.

Christa took Joe to the emergency room after the first episode, and they hospitalized him for observation.  The doctors determined what Christa had witnessed was a convulsion or seizure of some sort.  They didn’t know what precipitated it, but they thought it might have something to do with the concussion he sustained when he got hit playing football.

Joe continued to have these seizures on and off for years.  Once at Stellar Motors, he became so strong during one of his seizures that he bent a cast-iron semi brake drum with his bare hands, and another time, he punched his fist into the back bumper of a car, placing a dent at least 1-inch deep.

Joe saw doctors on more than one occasion to see why he kept having the seizures or if anything could be done to stop them, but the doctors didn’t seem to have an answer or a solution for him.  Those around Joe had learned that when he would have one of them, they needed to stay perfectly still and quiet so as not to provoke him more.  And, once his seizure had subsided, they knew that Joe would most likely collapse and sleep for the remainder of the day.  

FACTS:  Joe did have these types of seizures and doctors attributed them to his concussion that he received while playing football for Winona State University.

Page 32: Acting Crazy

“Christa? Harold Westerly.”

“Yes, Harold, how are you?”

“Fine, but thought I should let you know that Joe is out here in my yard seeming a bit confused. He’s walking around in circles, muttering to himself. Tried to get him to come into the house, but he keeps pushing me away.  You know how strong he is, and I was afraid he was having one of those seizures–you know, like he used to get when he’d get all crazy and stuff.”

Christa ran outside, hollered at John to get in the car, and off they drove to Harold’s farm, only about a half mile down the road.  When they pulled up into Harold’s yard, Joe was flinging his arms in the air, pacing back and forth, pounding his head.  Just as Harold had said, “like a crazy man.”  Christa approached Joe slowly for fear that Harold might be right about Joe having one of his seizures. 

Joe had been having seizures for years–ever since he had been hurt at Winona State.  It was his freshman year, and his only year, because after that, he couldn’t play football anymore. 

Page 31: We Can’t Find Joe…Again!

Christa heard Ted’s car drive up. She peered out the side living room window from her rocker and saw Ted drive off.  She waited with anticipation to hear the back door open and the sound of Joe’s footsteps.  Seconds turned into minutes, but she didn’t hear anyone come in the house.  She got up out of her chair in the living room and walked into the kitchen.  Then she walked down the hallway and looked in Joe’s room.  No Joe.  She walked back into the living room where John was sleeping in the chair.
“John, wake up,” Christa said as she shook his arm. “Ted dropped Joe off.  I saw his car leave the yard, but Joe’s not in the house. I’m afraid he may have taken off again.”

“Huh?” John said half sleeping.

“I’m going outside to look for him,” Christa said worriedly.

Pulling himself up from his slouching position in the chair, John rubbed his eyes. “Damn it, Christa, we can’t keep living like this.  Having to watch him every minute. It’s like taking care of a baby, except he’s 40 years old!”

Christa knew that John was right, but for now she ignored him and put her shoes on. John got up out of his chair and did the same.

With flashlights in hand, John and Christa ventured outside, calling Joe’s name as they checked the barn, the sheds, and all the outside buildings.  As Christa passed the house on her way to the apple orchard, she heard the phone ringing in the house. She ran inside, hoping she would answer it before the person on the other end hung up.

Out of breath, she picked up the receiver and answered with anticipation, “Hello?”

Page 30: Joe Goes to McDonald’s

Ted and Joe drove off and headed toward Rochester.  Ted kept talking about anything and everything he could think of.  Joe just sat there, listening, but not really understanding anything. Joe was frustrated, but tried not to show it.  The stranger was nice, his mom and Sharon seemed to know who he was, so Joe trusted him as well.

They pulled up into the McDonald’s parking lot.  Ted got out of the car and proceeded to the front door under the Golden Arches.  Joe followed.  When they got inside, Ted ordered 12 Big Macs, 10 for Joe, and two for himself.  He ordered four large fries and two Cokes to go with it. 
Joe watched intently as Ted ordered and the person behind the counter scurried to get them their food.  Joe thought it was interesting how the food came wrapped up.  He had only seen food at the hospital and food that his mother cooked for him.  Ted carried the tray over to a table, quickly opened one of the Big Macs and sunk his teeth into one, chewing ever so slowly, savoring the taste of the beef, cheese and its special dressing. Joe just sat there looking at Ted. 

“Eat, dang it!” Ted ordered with a smile on his face.  “Don’t tell me you lost your appetite, too?  Remember the time you ate five large Pizza Hut Supreme pizzas?”

Joe watched what Ted had done, so he opened the little box, but then he wasn’t sure how he was supposed to use his hands to pick up what was inside. Ted was using one hand, Joe noted, so that’s what he tried. It seemed awkward to him. The burger fell apart, some of it dropping back into the carton, and some dropping to Joe’s lap.

Ted laughed, “First time eating?”

Joe answered, “This? Yes.”

Ted’s face became somber, “Seriously, Joe? You don’t know what a Big Mac is?”

As innocent as could be, Joe replied, “Nope. First time. Never had these in the hospital. Just had a watermelon the other day for the first time, too.” 

The food just about dropped out of Ted’s mouth. Was this for real, because if it wasn’t, Joe was doing a great job of acting. “How about fries?”

“Fries?” Joe asked.

“Yeah, these long things right here,” Ted took some fries out of the little red container, dipped them in ketchup, and ate them.

Joe did the same thing. “First time eating fries,” Joe replied. “I like them. I like the…what did you call it…big…?”

“Big Mac?” Ted finished the sentence for him. “You should, I’ve seen you eat as many as 15 in one sitting.”

Not exchanging many words after that, Ted and Joe finished their meal at McDonald’s. Not knowing what more to say or talk about, the ride back to the Aden farm was quiet. As Ted pulled the car into the Aden’s yard, he said, “Hey Joe, glad you’re back. Maybe we can get together some night for some one-on-one?”

“Sure,” said Joe, not knowing what he was committing to, but thinking it was the right thing to say.  Joe opened the door, got out of the car and started walking toward the house.

Page 29: Ted Finds Joe

Ted was almost to Elsmore, and he saw Joe standing in the ditch, just standing there.  He slammed on his brakes, pulled over to the right side of the road, and rolled down the passenger window. “Joe, what the hell ya doin’?”
Joe looked at Ted and the car with a puzzled look on his face.  “I don’t know where I am.”
“Get in the car, jackass,” Ted teased.  “You got your whole family worried about you.  Let’s get you home.”
Joe went up to the car, opened the door and got in the car.
“How’s it goin’, big guy?”  Ted asked as he socked Joe in the arm.
“Not good,” Joe said solemnly as he looked straight ahead out the window.
“Too tough for ya?” Ted asked in reference to his punch.
Joe turned his head and looked at Ted, but didn’t say anything.
For someone who has supposedly lost his memory, he sure is acting like he knows who I am, Ted thought.  “Hey, how about we go into Rochester and hit McDonald’s.  Let’s see if you can still eat 10 Big Macs in one sitting.”
Joe didn’t know who he was in the car with or what this person was talking about, but Joe figured he must know him because he was friendly enough.  Joe picked up on the word “eat,” so he responded to Ted, “Sure.”
Dang, thought Ted, he hasn’t lost his memory.  He still knows what a Big Mac is!
Ted turned the car around and headed toward Rochester, stopping at the Aden farm to tell Christa and Sharon that he and Joe were going to McDonald’s.
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Ted,” Christa said. “He’s not going to know what to order to eat.”
“Aw, he’ll be fine.  He’s in good hands with me, Mrs. Aden.”  

Page 28: We Can’t Find Joe!

Ted arrived at the Aden farm just a little before supper time. He knocked on the door several times, but no one answered. He checked to see if the door was locked, which it wasn’t, so he walked right on in.
Ted had become just like one of the family since he and Joe had started hanging out.  It wasn’t unusual for him to come over any time he felt like getting away from the wife and kids. He had popped over plenty of times late in the evening only to have Evelyn put a full meal out on the table for him. 

Joe’s mom was about the nicest person on the planet.  Hard worker, too–seven kids in eight years–working right alongside John in the barn and in the field.  She was a pillar of strength after Tessie died, always saying how thankful she was that she didn’t lose two kids that day and how thankful she was that the good Lord took Tessie instead of her being a vegetable and Joe having to look at her every day as a reminder of what happened.  It was no wonder Joe loved her as much as he did.

“Hello? Anybody home?” Ted yelled as he cautiously walked through the kitchen. Water boiling on the stove and a roast in the oven, someone must be home, Ted thought. He walked around the corner and yelled down the hallway, “Hellloooo?”

Still no answer. Ted walked back into the kitchen and turned the burner off on the stove. The water must have boiling for while, Ted observed, because there was barely any water left in the pot. He opened up the oven door and peeked inside.  He saw that the roast was to the point of being burnt.

Ted went back outside. Both the family car and truck were in the yard. Sharon’s car was there, too.  As loud as he could, Ted yelled again, “Anybody here?” Just as he was getting ready to walk down to the barn, he saw Sharon running from the field, out of breath, panicking, “Ted, Joe took off, we don’t know where he is. We thought he was lying down.  Mom went in to get him up for supper, and he wasn’t in his room.”

“Maybe he just went for a walk. He’s a big boy. He’ll be fine,” Ted said reassuringly.

“No, he won’t be fine. Joe doesn’t remember anything so he’ll probably get lost. Plus, he was really upset earlier today.  I’ve checked all the buildings, and Mom is headed out toward the apple orchard.  Can you please help?”

“Yeah, sure,” Ted said begrudgingly.  “I’ll just take my car and drive around the section and then head towards town. I’m sure he’s OK, Sharon.  He probably just needed to clear his head.”

“Right!” Sharon said sarcastically. “Obviously you haven’t seen Joe since his shock treatments.  There isn’t anything in his head to clear!”  Sharon wasn’t trying to be funny, but Ted burst out laughing anyway. “It isn’t funny!” Sharon said  angrily.

“OK, Ok, I’m sorry,” Ted said as he tried to hold back a smile.  With that, he walked to his car, started it and drove off to help find Joe.

FACTS:  Joe would leave the house and get lost because he didn’t know where he was and couldn’t find his way.  

Page 27: Those High School Days

Even though Ted had known Joe ever since grade school at St. Mark’s, they were never, what Ted would call, close friends.  Joe just tried too hard to get everyone to like him, and because of that, Joe was teased something fierce. Always there, always around, always showing off, like a lost puppy dog that follows you everywhere no matter how hard you try to shoo it away. 

There was a lot of tension among Joe and the rest of the guys on the football and basketball teams. It just wasn’t fair that Joe could come in as a starter his junior year and play every game, the whole game. But even being a star football and basketball player didn’t win Joe any friends in high school.  He still was picked on by all the guys on the team.  One night they even beat Joe up after one of their football games. “Let’s see how tough you really are, Moose!” they taunted, as they started throwing their jabs.  Joe never fought back, and Lord knows, he probably could have killed them if he wanted.  He just stood there, tears in his eyes, taking blows to his body as if he was a human punching bag.  

That was over 20 years ago. Not a lot of Ted’s high school friends stayed in the Elsmore area, so he and Joe had become closer throughout the years, mostly by default—really no one else to hang out with.  The two of them had continued to play basketball for a city league, winning several championships. Ted had heard that Joe was not doing so well since he had been released from Mayo.  Rumor had it that Joe had lost all of his memory, didn’t even remember his mom or any of his family.  Ted was skeptical, thinking that maybe Joe was up to his old tricks of trying to get some attention. Ted decided it was time to pay Joe a visit and see for himself first-hand just how bad of a state Joe was in.

FACTS:  Joe was beat up after a football game in high school.  There was speculation among Joe’s friends that his memory loss wasn’t as bad as it was.  Joe did play on a Rochester city basketball league.

Page 26: Joe the Mechanic

It was no secret that Joe loved fast cars, from his Pontiac Duster that he used to drag race, to the Corvettes that he paraded around town.  It was probably his love for cars and their engines that made Joe decide to be an auto mechanic.  He took classes in the Twin Cities at Cummins headquarters and became a certified Cummins engine man.  Frank Stellar, owner of Stellar Motors in Elsmore, hired Joe on the spot. Joe had a reputation of working hard at whatever he did, so Frank knew that Joe would be a great asset to his shop.

As it turned out, Frank was right—Joe was the best diesel mechanic Stellar Motors had ever had.  It didn’t take long before Joe’s reputation spread throughout the region.  People came from hundreds of miles around because they only wanted Joe to work on their engines.  Not only was he a great mechanic, he had a memory like no one else—memorizing all the numbers in the auto parts manuals.  He never had to look up a single number—knew it right off the top of his head. 

People also came from miles around just to see how big and strong Joe really was. Legend had it that Stellar Motors didn’t need their truck jacks anymore because they had Joe. Many townspeople witnessed Joe picking up the rear end of a car by its bumper on more than one occasion.  In fact, one time, in high school, his friends saw him move a parked Cadillac Seville forward by at least a foot.

This was the Joe that Ted remembered, always showing off how strong he was, trying to be accepted as “one of the guys.”  During their high school days, in addition to picking up or moving cars, Joe would try to impress everyone by flexing his arm muscle and then slapping it so hard that another muscle would form on top of it. 

FACTS:  All true, according to stories told.

Page 25: Sorry…don’t come here for help!

Joe and Sharon were back at the house.  Joe went back to his room again and laid down, trying to get Tessie and the accident out of his mind. 
Sharon told Christa everything that happened on their walk.  It had been a tough week.  Joe was not getting better.  Christa decided to call Dr. Spitzack.  When the receptionist told her that he wasn’t available, she said it was an emergency.  The receptionist paged Dr. Spitzack, and he took Christa’s call.

“Dr. Spitzack…I don’t know what to do.  Joe’s memory loss is worse than I had imagined.  I think he needs to come back in.  He’s so frustrated and angry that I’m afraid he’s getting depressed again, but this time it’s because of not being able to remember.”

“Mrs. Aden, I wish that I could help you, but Joe is no longer my patient.  He was referred by the county clinic, we’ve provided the recommended treatment, and now he is out of our care.”

“Are you kidding me?” Christa felt the anger rising inside of her.  “Doctor, you said if we had any questions, that we should call you.”

“Mrs Aden, as I explained to you before, there’s no explanation for Joe’s memory loss.  In fact, I can only ascertain that Joe is faking this, possibly for attention.  There’s nothing more that I can help you with.”  And with that Dr. Spitzack ended the conversation by hanging up the phone.
FACT:  Joe’s doctor Thought that Joe was “acting” like he lost his memory.  When Joe’s mother called back for help, even though they said to call if they needed help, the doctor referred to the county clinic.

Page 24: Go Away Little Girl

Joe and Sharon were both silent as they slowly walked back to the house.  As they passed the apple orchard, the memory of Tessie came to Joe as clear as day.  Joe began to speak, retelling the whole accident to Sharon, just as if it was happening right then and there.  

Joe confided in Sharon, “It’s my fault she died, you know. I pushed her, and then I just watched her fall.  She cried, but I didn’t help her.”

Sharon searched for the words to comfort Joe.  “It wasn’t your fault.  Ma said that even if the accident happened on the front lawn of the Mayo Clinic, they wouldn’t have been able to save her, and if they would have, she would have been a vegetable her whole life.”

Sharon hesitated for a moment.  “What I don’t understand, Joe, is how come you remember Tessie and the accident and you can’t remember anything else?”

“I don’t know,” Joe said solemnly, “but I see her, me and the accident in my sleep almost every night, just like it’s right here happening in front of my eyes.”  Joe started to cry again.  “She just won’t go away.”

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