My dad belonged to a group for smart people called Mensa. As a child I imagined the meetings as a bunch of guys standing around talking logarithmic equations in their white short-sleeved button-down shirts with skinny ties, with pens protruding from their pocket protectors. Maybe a slide rule poking out of a back pocket.
My dad had to take a test to get into Mensa. Mensa means “table” in Latin. There are now about 134,000 members around the world. My dad was very proud of the fact that he had been tested at a 165 IQ or maybe 190, and he was obviously a card-carrying Mensa member. I mean, really.
IQ was oft discussed in our house. My IQ was the second highest in the family, a few points above my big brother’s, a fact that made me feel temporarily VERY superior. I mean, it felt GREAT to finally be better at something than he was because he was always crushing me at Risk or generally being better in every way.
According to my dad, a IQ was the number one way to judge how good a person was. And I totally believed him, because why wouldn’t I? He knew everything, or pretended to. And I had the second-highest IQ in the family, which must have been good for something! Maybe that made me the second best person in the family! Second best isn’t exactly WINNING, but it’s okay. At least I tried. That should count for something, right?
Being a smart family made us better than the other families. This was something I just knew as a child, got it by osmosis. We didn’t leave our milk out on the table during dinner to get lukewarm, and we didn’t own a dog, so we were better. We also didn’t have friends. I mean, I had friends, sort of, but they were at school and never came to my house. Was that weird?
My parents did not have friends. At the time it seemed normal to me. About once every year or two we would have this strange thing come to our house called Company, and before Company came my mom had to take down all the window screens and wash the windows on both sides and even launder the curtains, all because Company was coming.
When Company came they always smelled weird and left a lingering weird-person smell after they left, which I resented. I don’t know what Company looked like because I always hid in my room when they came and pretended I couldn’t hear their strange voices in the living room. Sometimes my parents made coffee for Company, which was weird because they never drank coffee but it made the house smell good and partly cover up the lingering weird-person Company smell.
Eventually I figured out that not all smart people were smart in the ways that counted. Some smart people were actually downright deficient in some pretty important areas! Like empathy, integrity, compassion, authenticity. So after I left my family’s house to live on my own in the Big World I figured out that being smart wasn’t the only way I could judge my value.. I also had to be Good.
You would think that this revelation would have helped me realize that being smart isn’t the end-all be-all of life, the yardstick by which I should measure myself, but it didn’t. Not much, anyway. I still believe I am a better person if I am smart. Or rather the converse â€” if I am not smart, I am worthless.
Here we come to the crux of things. I don’t know the cause of this, but I am not nearly as smart as I used to be. For awhile I thought it was the brain surgeries. I am healing, I thought, and I should give it time. Isn’t three years enough time for a brain to heal? I will ask my neurologist this the next time I see him but I am pretty sure the answer is sorry, you’re fucked.
Another cause of all this smart-leakage could be spirochetes. Evidently there are millions or billions of the pesky little buggers running around my body, wreaking all manner of havoc. I’m doing many things to fight them but they have the upper hand.
They took my brain cells and my words and my reasoning and made everything gray and soft and meaningless.
So now I must mourn my IQ, my intelligence, my worth. I have to let it go and accept the fact that I may never get it back.
My intelligence was a big part of my identity.
Without my identity as a Smart Person, I don’t know who I am. This is so scary. I feel lost and I cannot even remember the right words to describe how I feel. It’s a long slow descent into nothingness. I’ll never make it into Mensa now. What good am I, really, without my brain?