So, my mom had a stroke on Saturday.
My plans for the weekend included doing nothing as I am smack dab in the middle of this huge 5 company upgrade that I’ve been terrified of for 5 years now.
It’s going well. I mean, not perfect, but the world has not stopped spinning, so…
The plans changed drastically on Saturday morning when I called my mother. Randy and I were driving back from the grocery. As soon as I heard her voice, I knew something was terribly wrong.
Me: What’s wrong?
Mom: Shell, I think I may have had a stroke.
This is something I cannot stop hearing. It just won’t stop.
Me: Why are you not on the way to the hospital?
Mom: I need to call the Kroger pharmacy.
Okay, yeah, that’s completely okay. Who wouldn’t call the grocery when they’ve had a stroke?
Me: Yeah, I’m calling a life squad right now. I will call you back.
We turned around and I called 911.
After sending an ambulance her way, I called her back. She already sounded a little better.
Mom: What should I bring? Just my purse?
Me: Yeah, sure….but mom? Why on earth did you think the appropriate response for feeling like you had a stroke was to call the grocery store?
Mom: Well, I haven’t taken my blood thinners and thought I probably needed them.
Me: Have you heard the expression “shutting the barn door after the horse got out?”
The ambulance had picked her up by the time we got to her house. My dad was in the garage waiting. It’s been a while since I experienced a lot of rage toward my narcissistic father. I thought that the worst of the storms had passed, but apparently, when I’m terrified my mother is dying, I backslide a bit.
The drive to the hospital wasn’t comical, but bizarre. My dad has brain damage from a heart episode 25 years ago.
He’s already a narcissist, and isn’t chock full of empathy.
Plus, he has no mechanism to work out how dire some situations are, or he can, and just doesn’t care. No idea which.
I’m giving Randy directions, trying to reach my sisters and kids and my dad is in the back seat saying things like “Hey! What’s your favorite restaurant?” or “You know, I don’t think George Wallace was really that racist.”
What the actual fuck? At least the scream in my head never escaped my lips.
Mom was getting CT scan by the time we reached the ER. When she came back, I knew immediately that she had a stroke. Her face was droopy on one side and her speech was slurred. But I didn’t react. I hugged her and told her it would be okay. I wanted to react, though. I wanted to so bad. Seeing her face like that felt like a punch to my stomach.
The doctor came in and explained that she might be a candidate for a medicine that breaks up blood clots, but that there were difficult side effects and it could be dangerous and they also needed to get her up for an MRI right away.
I saw something in that moment that I had never seen before.
My mom was scared. She looked to me with such fear.
I’ve seen my mother afraid before, but never ever ever for herself. Never for herself.
It took my breath away. I didn’t want her to be scared. And I wanted my mother. I wanted my mother so bad, but she needed me this time. That is hard to process and had to be processed in seconds. She needed me. After 57 years, I had to swap roles. On a dime.
I told her she would be fine and the droopiness already looked better. She could walk and talk and those were great signs. I promised her she would be okay. They wheeled her away and she wouldn’t let go of my hand until we were actually pulled apart.
I’m still processing that.
I can’t get the image of her looking so scared and vulnerable from my brain.
I can’t stop hearing her say in a whispery, slurred voice that she thought she had a stroke. I can’t stop seeing the terror on her face as they took her away. I had never seen the look before and then they took her away. I needed to hold my mom’s hand while I processed what happened, but all I had was the ghost of the pressure I felt after she was forced to let go of me.
Then, the waiting started.
We spent hours in the ER, waiting to hear what the doctors thought. Waiting for test results.
And I fought with my dad. It was bad you guys. I was so fucking furious with him. Mom had been back from her last test for well over an hour. We were bored and scared. Both at the same time.
My dad demanded I give him my mother’s purse. He wanted to get money out of it.
I looked at my mom and she shook her head no.
Me: We’re in the ER dad. There is nothing to buy
Dad: Give me her purse. I want money.
Me: What do you need money for?
Dad: I just need it. I don’t feel right without having money in my pocket.
Wait wait wait. He doesn’t feel right? He doesn’t feel right without some folding money in his stupid pocket when my mother just had a fucking stroke?
Me: Mom said she doesn’t have any money in her purse. She also just had a stroke. How about if we concern ourselves with that and not whether you have any money in your fucking pocket?
Then, he gave me that scowl.
The hateful, nasty scowl I remember so well from my childhood and I was left shaken with rage.
The bad thing about my dad, is his brain damage left him with limited short term memory. He gets hung up on an idea and can’t let it go, so this conversation repeated itself more times than I care to remember. I tried to be as quiet as possible speaking with him, because you know, my mom just had a fucking stroke and perhaps me fighting with her stupid husband would upset her.
Randy left to take our groceries home. Thankfully, yesterday was cold, so nothing went bad. I took my dad to the cafeteria to get something for him to eat, so that was fun. He talked about how we were usually at the hospital for him and then talked about all of his surgeries. Because if it’s not about him, then he doesn’t fucking care at all. Even about his wife of 59 years having a stroke less then 6 hours earlier.
It wasn’t all anger and frustration. My sisters and my nephew joined us in the ER. Between Randy and my sisters, my mom laughed a lot. My mom decided this development was amazing, because she hates saying no to anything, and now she had a good excuse. “Oh, I can’t. I had a stroke, so….”
Randy and I are going to have a shirt made for her that says “Can’t. Had a stroke.”
At one point, I went to find the ER doctor because my mom had been there for hours with nothing to eat or drink. My youngest sister is studying to be a nurse and works as a nurse’s assistant. She said that until the doctor gave the okay, that mom could have nothing. So, I tracked him down.
He said that she needed a swallow test, but then she should be fine with something to eat and drink.
It had been a long freaking day. I remembered the “it should be okay to eat and drink” but temporarily forgot the swallow test part.
My nephew had a bag of pretzels and I told him to give grandma one because the doctor said she could eat.
I was sitting at the foot of her bed and as she chewed I remembered the swallow test part.
Me: Oh, shit. You were supposed to pass a swallow test first.
Mom stopped chewing and looked at me.
Me: I mean, I guess this is the test.
Then my mom, with her lips pressed shut, started laughing so hard her shoulders were shaking. She pulled her knees up to her chest, put her head down and kept laughing.
Me: Mom, swallow that fucking pretzel before you choke. Holy shit.
Which made her laugh harder.
She did swallow the pretzel, which is good because I was a little afraid that while she survived the stroke, I may have killed her with a pretzel. I was also a little afraid that she was laughing a little too hard and she’d have another stroke, but honestly, pretty sure she needed the laughing as much as the rest of us did.
The good news outweighs the bad news here.
The bad news is, as much as I thought I was finished being mad at my father, it turns out I am not.
The good news is, my mother will be fine.
She’s already coming home. She definitely had a stroke, but the doctor is calling it a “non impressive” stroke. She said the damage in her brain was about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen.
I love getting older, but this part is bullshit.
I adore my mother. I am so grateful she is still here.
Now, wish me luck because I’m going to be traveling next week to continue implementing this stupid project.
And when everything is done? I’m going to need an entire weekend in bed.