The Hamilton Spectator
Jennilyne + Al: Team of two with real bench strength
They met at Head Injury Rehabilitation Ontario (HIRO) group program; they let love take it from there
She loves “Les Glorieux” (the Montreal Canadiens, of course). He loves the team they once called the Broad Street Bullies (the Philadelphia Flyers, don’t you know).
He loves pool and euchre. She loves art class and cribbage.
These are some of their differences. Here’s another.
She loves a guy named Al. He loves a gal named Jennilyne.
Wait. That’s them. They love each other.
So nothing else matters. Differences shmifferences. They’re the spice that makes all the many things they have in common even richer.
They have a lot in common. They both love Dusty, for instance — Jennilyne’s little shih tzu.
“She would always bark at me when I came to the door,” says Al.
“She was just being a good guard dog,” says Jennilyne.
Now, though, says Al, “Dusty always wants to sit beside me.” The downside is, Dusty’s always sitting in Al’s chair when he comes to use it, so he has to say, “Excuuuuuse me.”
It was on another seat, the bench outside the Head Injury Rehabilitation Ontario (HIRO) office building on King William, that Jennilyne and Al first felt the flames flicker.
He was sitting on that bench, waiting to go in for a group rehab activity session when she, going to the same place (but a different activity — as we’ve said, he likes pool and she like art) — drew up to the front door and they saw each other.
“We’d seen each other before,” Jennilyne explains, but just in passing, to say hi.
Al started talking to Jennilyne that morning, back in 2018.
“We’re both really good talkers,” says Al. So conversation came naturally.
Then they both went through the door together. In more ways than one. Love’s door is really what they went through.
“I think we knew right away,” says Jennilyne, “there at the bench.” Love at almost first sight, or rather first words.
When they walked out those same doors at the end of the day he accompanied her home. He got her phone number. Then he picked her up the next morning, to go back to group together. They’ve been together ever since.
On one of those early trips home, before they lived together, they parted at the bus stop, and Al kissed her goodbye — their first kiss.
He says he wasn’t nervous. “We both knew it was going to happen and I’m a good kisser.
They’re going to be walking in and out through another door on June 24 this summer, presumably under a shower of confetti. That’s the date set for their wedding.
Valentine’s Day is here, of course, and so romance is on their minds and Jennilyne shows me her engagement ring. Diamonds. She already has his wedding ring picked out, and Al shows me a picture on his cellphone of the wedding ring he’s picked out for her.
“You have to reach for your dreams,” says Jennilyne.
Do they ever know that. Jennilyne underwent a surgery when she was 24, 15 years ago, and it went terribly wrong. She suffered a stroke and terrible bleeding. In his case, Al was at a party years ago and was viciously attacked.
“We’re so happy here,” says Jennilyne of the HIRO group program which they visit virtually every day. “We all have the same thing and we all talk together. We are friends here.”
Of course, Al and Jennilyne are more than friends.
They’re, officially, fiances. “I said, ‘If I asked you (to marry) would you?’” says Al.
She said yes. That was last April. They’ve been engaged ever since.
For Valentine’s, Al says he bought something for Jennilyne. Of course he won’t say what. Has to be a surprise.
They might watch a movie. They like “Titanic,” “Isn’t It Romantic” and — wait for it — “Sonic the Hedgehog.”
Or they might just watch a hockey game.
“We love sports,” says Jennilyne. “CFL, NHL, but not the NFL and not soccer.”
Beth Astles, recreation therapist with HIRO, has been working with Al and Jennilyne for years.
“It’s sneaky rehab,” she says, because it’s building skills while they’re having fun and not always realizing it.
“It’s as much about building social skill as well-being so they can connect to the world outside.” Lots of their clients have formed friendships and even some close relationships.
“But this is our first marriage,” she exclaims, with a big smile. She and fellow HIRO employee Mary Jackson are invited to the wedding.
Jennilyne tells me, “Brain injury is not what people think. You have to keep on truckin’.”
And let love do the steering.
Brain injury is not what people think. You have to keep on truckin’.
JENNILYNE HEAD INJURY PATIENT