My first experience with stroke was as a little boy. My father’s mother, who lived in western New York, had a stroke when she was in her sixties.
That stroke changed grandma’s life. She never went home. She was in a nursing home the rest of her life, until she died many years later.
What I remember about that time was that we went to visit grandma shortly after the stroke happened. It was winter. There’s a lot of snow in that part of the country in the winter time. My brother and I got to play in the snow a lot. I got to ride snowmobiles with my cousins. I was about 10 years old at the time. My brother was five. It was fun.
Then our mother had a stroke when she was just 58. It was a “significant event”, the doctors said. That meant there was a lot of damage. My mom lost pretty well all of her ability to speak, and right arm, hand, and leg were rendered useless. She had to learn how to sign her name with her left hand. Not easy for a righty.
That stroke was a significant event for our father too. He retired a year later to take care my mom full time. That was twenty years ago. Caregiving is hard work. Not how they expected retirement to be, I’m sure.
Stroke came to our family again on New Year’s Eve. It’s our dad’s turn this time. Though also a “significant event” according to the doctors, he doesn’t seems to be as severely effected. At least with his speech. He can talk, though a bit slurred because the left side of his face is still droopy.
Time will tell if he’s able to use his left arm or hand, or be able to walk again. “Plan for the worst, hope for the best.” That mantra works pretty well in this situation.
The big difference between the first two strokes and this one? The responsibility for everything – care, housing, bills, life management and decisions – is squarely on my brother and me.
We’re a pretty good team. Complimentary personalities and skills. We’re up to the task. But it won’t be easy. Then again, lots of things in life that are worthwhile are that way.
Nothing can be more worthwhile than taking care of people that took care of you. That’s another mantra that applies to this situation. And one more for good measure?