Borders, North Dallas, Preston @ Royal
We arrived early — around 4 — to pick up our book and, get ready for this, WRIST BAND! Finally, we hit the big time. Even the HUGE Giada de Laurentis signing didn’t involve wristbands, but it should have, I digress. The wide-eyed star glitter in Gwen’s eye started to glimmer. Most disconcerting. Her favorite news person, okay the only one she really knows beside Gideon Yago, and sorry, but he doesn’t count, was SO BIG, he needed a wrist band. This was almost as good as a film premier! (Pardon the exclamations, but seriously, she was very very excited.) Before we left the Borders, we made sure we had the RIGHT color arm band (being first in line) and when they were scheduled to start and what time the line began. You know, important details! So, we had two hours to go until the discussion/signing which was plenty of time for dinner.
The best thing about the Preston / Royal area of North Dallas is the little eateries popping up in odd corners. The last signing — Shanna Swendson — we found Natalie’s (5944 Royal Lane, Dallas, TX 75230) with eclectic home cooking. Yummy. But we noticed a small Tex-Mex place across the parking lot, named, appropriately, “Hole In the Wall.” And since we were in the mood for Tex-Mex, we thought we may as well try it. Had to be better than Cantina Laredo. Oh. My. Absolutely fabulous! Can only say I’m glad a) it is 10 miles away, in bad traffic; b) we got there before the dinner crush; and c) good prices for EXCELLENT food! The coconut flan is worth driving down for…repeatedly. I agreed with the lady at the next table who was saving herself for a big ‘ol piece of flane.’ (Put in a Texan accent and you’ll get the picture.) Gwen had the tilapia and I had some type of beef cube stew. Even the salsa and tortilla chips were good. The salsa stuck to the chips, not watery or runny, the chips were lightly fried, not too much grease. As I said, we finished off a delicious meal with a coconut flan, sopippilas and some great coffee — strong but flavorful.
By the time we got back to the Borders, a KLIF truck was in front of the store and the parking lot was filling up. I felt the need to find a seat and get ready. The KLIF team was broadcasting from the coffee bar area and only a few chairs were empty in the signing area. I snagged an end chair and left Gwen to her own devices. She likes to shop anyway and needed a hot tea. Soon we heard applause in the background for Bob and Lee Woodruff being introduced and interviewed on the evening KLIF talk show. There was a small but growing crowd of people in the coffee bar backing unto the autograph area — so we soon had a merge of people and chair shuffling as it got closer to 7pm. Around me, people were reading IN AN INSTANT, checking out the photos and discussing the war, the military, and traumatic injuries. It was a wee bit gruesome! Finally, Bob and Lee arrived at the back of the store and were introduced. It was a standing only room crowd of over 150 people and more arriving and jousting for places. I was no longer on the end of a row and Gwen was wedged in the end of a bookshelf with her tea cup strategically placed above an end cap.
Lee started the discussion — tonight was their last stop on the book tour and we almost didn’t happen! Imagine that! They were going to skip on Texas. The problem was getting the time off for Bob from ABC News. But apparently they persisted and did a whirlwind tour with stops in Houston, Fort Hood and Dallas. The spend the day in Killeen talking to the men and women who saved his life — getting him from the tank to the helicopter to Baghdad for the emergency surgery on his brain/skull. He doesn’t remember any of it, thinking he’d passed out, but the reports from military personnel were his anger and shouting, wanting to get revenge. Bob related his enjoyment of the stories they told him about those missing hours — soon to be missing days as he was in a coma for 36 days. Both Lee and Bob concentrated on the stories the soldiers told them about the rescue in Iraq, filling in blanks and being with soldiers he met in Iraq during his previous seven trips. Lee did say he’s not allowed to go back to Iraq and Bob said he thought she also ruled out his going to Afghanistan anytime soon.
The Woodruffs talked about how they wrote IN AN INSTANT, the difficulty for not just the TBI (traumatic brain injury) victim but also the care taker. The recover period is not just years but decades. Something our government does not consider as we all know from the stories about the VA Hospitals and Walter Reed recently. Their book is not just about the injury and his recovery but also flips back to different parts of their married life before — giving a background on the obvious relationship they have with each other. Of course, Bob did joke Lee was mad at him because he forgot her birthday and Mother’s Day (May 13th) — he does use the excuse “oops, I’ve got a brain injury and I forgot.” She smiled and gave him a little pat on the arm. They also talked about humor and how it helped during the recovery and the bad times for both of them — as victim and as caretaker. They quoted the statistic that 89% of the marriages with one spouse with a TBI end in divorce. Mostly because there is little support for the spouse caretaker. Another scary statistic was — it is believed that over 10% of the current military serving in Iraq have suffered a TBI because of the better armor and helmets it’s hard to tell physically. Lee was also thankful for the support she got from her friends including Melanie Blum (NBC Correspondent David Blum’s widow) and our local investigative reporter — Chris Heinbaugh — who was in the audience. Again, both Woodruffs stated their appreciation of the prayers and thoughts of the people, some they didn’t even know. On the other hand, Lee also talked about being pushed into the glare of celebrity, the bounty on getting a picture of Bob’s head with his “brains exploded.” (Didn’t go over well with this audience either.)
The Q&A period showed a bit about the people at the signing — two men had suffered TBI: one in Iraq and one in Phoenix. Both expressed their thanks to Lee and Bob for writing a book about TBI. Several doctors, physical therapists and nurses were also in the audience, asking questions about where he recovered, what types of therapies he’s still undergoing and agreed with the proposal of letting state-of-the-art private facilities handle the after care of the injured instead of leaving it with the VA who is unequipped and not trained to handle it. There was general disbelief (and angry murmurings) in the audience about the lack of interest and support military personnel receive following their discharge. The Woodruffs have also started a foundation to provide support to TBI soldiers and their families to “bridge the gap,” helping them to return to “normal” lives. Their long term goal is to provide templates to communities to adopt injured solders and their families to help them adjust. It was an excellent plan and something every community could adopt easily. It runs from providing free physical therapies to making a dinner for the caretaker, to caretaker training for support.
Then we waited for our books to be signed. Both the Woodruffs were extremely gracious and personable with the readers — listening patiently, posing for photos and generally making people feel at ease.