Sunday, May 26, 2013

Just a Little Bit of Time

I know it sounds crazy but sometimes crying just feels good.  I sit at the computer with the headphones on listening to songs by Luther Vandross (Buy Me a Rose) or Diamond Rio (One More Day) and tears pour from my eyes.  My heart gets touched as my mind thinks about what has not only touched me so deeply in life but what has touched the heart of everyone that surrounds me.

Yesterday I went to my aunt's house.  I didn't realize until she answered the door, that I maybe had not seen her for about ten years.  Where had the time gone?  What I saw standing there was my grandmother who had passed away when I was about 16 years old.  I don't know.  Maybe I was younger.  I was so taken back by seeing her standing there.  I had only heard how she was doing and everyone said fine and I just went on my way in life assuming she would stay well-preserved forever.
I really had a difficult time holding back my tears....and then as she spoke of my uncle who died six months prior...her tears began to flow....and then mine did too.  I really didn't think this would happen.  Why didn't I think that?  Did I think "I" was stronger...or that "she" would be stronger.  But she "was" stronger....alot stronger than I ever knew her to be.

She's going to be 93-years-old and she is mentally totally together.  She uses a walker.  She cleans her own house....does all the chores herself.  She has two senior citizen children who are choosing to make life somewhat difficult for her right now by arguing in front of her.  She was married to my uncle since she was a teenager and now, for the first time in her 93 years of life, she would be on her own.  My uncle loved her more than life itself....but he was a very demanding individual.  He did everything for her.  Everything.  He treated her like a queen.  And see her alone was very heartbreaking.  I was actually upset that I had let this much time pass by without talking to her even a little bit.  I mean, we all have a little bit of time.  A little bit isn't much but it is something; especially when you are alone.

She told me my uncle always protected her and then walked me into the bedroom they shared and showed me the urn that carried his ashes and told me what he had talked to her about his last days.  She acted as if he was right there in the room listening to her.  She had beautiful pictures of the two of them all over the room.  The most beautiful was her in her wedding dress on their wedding day.  It must have been such a glorious day for the two of them.  Pictures hung on the walls of my uncle in his army uniform that he wore in World War II.  She was so proud of him.  As she talked, she seemed so strong.  The tears had dissipated and she started mentioning some of the funny things he had said and she laughed.

We returned to the kitchen and talked a bit longer....laughed and reminisced about years gone by.  I told her a couple of jokes that made her laugh so hard and it felt good to see that our visit was going to close with a smile, a laugh, and a hug of love.

I told her I was so proud of her and that she was such a role model for me, my children, and all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the family as someday we may all be faced with the same scenario that she is now facing.

She smiled and repeated that my uncle just always protected her.  I told her about seeing the change that came over her when we were conversing in the bedroom and that I believe he is still protecting her.
She smiled and hugged me again.  She said, "Do you think so?"  And I returned with, "I think so."

As I drove home after the visit, I cried a hard cry.  A very hard cry.  I think I needed to do that to forgive myself for the time I missed with my aunt and that I plan not to miss in the future.  My life is spread thin, but not too thin to be able to give a little bit of time.  It may be in writing her a quick letter to let her know I'm thinking of may be a quick visit....whatever it is, it is something to let someone know they are thought of and someone does care that they still exist.  Big amounts of magic can happen in a person's heart with just a little bit of time.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


After speech therapy yesterday, I thought it would be nice to take a drive to a place my husband has passed by for years and years during his work hours.  He chose a very small airport.  Very small.  It was in Hollister.

We took our lunch with us and when we went to get out of the car to sit at a table for a picnic, the wind was blowing so hard we could hardly stand up!  So we got back in the car and sat there having a car picnic and watching the work being done on the mini airport.

We didn't see a single plane take off.  It looked like they repairing the runway with a lot of construction going on.  But we enjoyed watching the equipment moving in all different directions and the wind doing the same.  As we talked we brought up how we seem to both be such a match as what two other couples totally enjoy sitting in a car, eating lunch, watching a bunch of construction equipment moving around and thinking what a fun time we are having!

We've always seemed to be a perfect match.  We have both always enjoyed repairing things and coming up with new creative ideas.  Oh....don't get me wrong.  We have had our fair share of disagreements and big ones at that, but the wonderful thing about it all is we both carry in our hearts the key to staying together when there are steep hills to get over....when there are the boulders of life to climb.....when the road gets so rocky and you don't have your seatbelt on that you could almost fall out of the doorless car.  That key is like a super glue that just doesn't's love.  We seem to get through everything because we have it, we see it, and we feel it.  Every day.....yes, every single day, we both feel it.

So as we sat there, relaxing, visiting, and enjoying our time together watching everything going in every different direction it made me think that even though we have been through a variety of experiences in our life together ...that just like a plane could take off strong and steady in a heavy wind, our love for one another has been just that....strong and steady.

Sometimes in life it's not so much where one is standing in different situations but in what direction you are always moving and I have learned that the direction my husband and I are always moving is in the direction of LOVE!....and how can you get lost with that!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Striking a Chord

Today was my husband's three month visit to the neurosurgeon.  Actually his first visit to him since have a stent placed in his carotid artery three months ago when he suffered a stroke on super bowl Sunday morning.  I have to say that I feel Dr. Reza Malik and his assistant, Adrianna, saved his life.  They were amazing.  I cannot even find the words to describe how I feel about them.  And today, they both said my husband will continue to improve and that he is doing super.  As happy as I am, I just want to cry and cry and cry.  It's a release on one hand.....on the other it's a cry of wanting my husband back to his full self.  I miss him.  But yet, this stroke, somehow, has brought us even closer together.  We both had worked so hard throughout our 33 years together that we never really got to spend time together.  But now, I'm getting to know him better.  I let him talk all he wants for as long as he wants.  I let him finish what he has to say.  I do not interrupt.  It's difficult to do.  There are times I want to hurry him along, or cut him off, but I know this would not benefit him at all.  So I sit and I listen.  I sit and I learn of what his life was like before me.  It's been very interesting.  And, I am trying to document his stories.  I think they are not only important to him but to our children.  In the future, I will be sharing some of those stories here.  But for now...I'll share what we did today.

After the doctor's visit, we drove out to Stanford University to the Cantor Art Center.  I thought it would be good for him to see different art work.  I bought him some paints, brushes, canvasses and more the other day thinking he may find some inspiration and motivation to bring out something that he has inside that has been deep within him.  He loved that we did this together.  I loved it very much.  We walked and we talked.  We laughed and we cried as we enjoyed our afternoon together.

I try to go on mini "field trips", as I call them, with him three times a week.  I think it gives us both something to look forward to and different stimulus for his brain.  Some of our field trips have included geocaching in different locations.  I have downloaded the application onto my iPhone and this seems to get us both going on the hunt to find the buried treasurer.  It's like walking into a mystery that you need to solve physically by finding the buried treasure.  These treasures, from what I understand, are buried all around the world.

A few field trips have taken us metal detecting.  Someone sent us a gift certificate for a sporting goods store and I thought metal detecting would get him more willing to walk...excercise.  And that it does!  He comes up with different places we should venture to next with our metal detector and he seems to get so focused in finding something that he forgets how far we have walked.  It's especially wonderful along the beaches.

We go on picnics to different parks.  He loves when I pack a picnic and we sit there watching people and creating stories about what their lives may be like.  The stories seem to always take on a humorous twist and when I hear his laughter I feel like that's the treasure of the day.

We've gone on trips to watch the "kite carts" racing.  That was new for us.  We tried to make a little movie of our own with background music playing as we watched.    He would chose the music and most often was the photographer, even with the blindness in each of his eyes, he would try and he was always successful.  He would get frustrated but would not give up.

There are just so many wonderful places we have been exploring and enjoying for once in our life.  I don't know if we will ever get to take "long" field trips but for now we are enjoy our mini ones.  There is just so much to see in our own vicinity.

As we drive, he puts music on the radio and before I know it, he's singing.  He forgets he has aphasia, he forgets he had a stroke, but he remembers the words and he sings everyone of them.  He used to play guitar, when we owned one.  But years ago, we gave it away.  So recently we visited a guitar shop.  I thought we could check out the guitars and just be in the environment for a bit.  The employees behind the counter asked if we needed any help.  We said we were just looking...that we didn't expect to see the price range on the guitars ($2000-6000)!  They were wayyyyyy out of our price range.

My husband started to talk....slowly, very slowly.  At this point, since his surgery, I have decided that if he chooses for someone to know he had a stroke, I will let HIM say it...not me.  As he was struggling with his words, he noticed the faces and comments by the employees and he felt uncomfortable.  I thought he was going to leave the store but instead let them know he had a stroke recently.  They were shocked and felt badly.  One even mentioned how he suffered a stroke over ten years ago and how he has recovered.  That set my husband at ease.  One of the employees excused himself and when he returned had a brown chocolate colored guitar in his hand.  He sat down and tuned it and then handed it to my husband.  He asked him to try and strum or play a chord.  My husband said he couldn't remember any.  The employee said to just try.  Just try.  So my husband stared at him for a moment and then placed his fingers on the neck of the guitar and formed a chord.  A smile came upon all our faces.  And then he strummed!  Yes, he strummed.  Yes, he formed a chord.  It was as if the clouds parted and the great big blue sky was very visible.  It was a moment to remember forever.

The employee said that this guitar isn't the best.  It will have to be tuned often but....he told my husband, "It's yours.  No charge!  It's yours."  My husband's eyes flooded with disbelief that someone was being this kind.  The employee's eyes were flooded too (mine too) was a very very special moment.  My husband gave the employee a long hug.  They struck a chord...with each other...that was heartfelt.  They both knew what the other was thinking that only two stroke victims could understand but yet it could be seen.

My husband strums that guitar daily.  He sings daily.  He tries daily.

You never know who or what will strike a chord to touch the strings in your heart.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I Know He's In There Somewhere.....

Here it is seven months since I have started this blog.  This is only my third post.  I had dreams about this blog.  Exciting dreams....adventures too! And boy have I had adventures since I last wrote; only not the adventures I was looking forward to having.  I was in a terrible auto accident and through some sort of miracle, my life was spared.  I was in my little Honda Fit when I was rear-ended by an SUV traveling approximately 85 mph!  It never stopped and rammed me into another SUV that was completely stopped.  The story goes on and on.  I was taken away by ambulance.   Bottom line - I survived!  Thank God.

After several months of physical therapy and recovery, I returned to work.  A week after returning to work, I woke up to my husband bringing me a cup of coffee in bed.  It was super bowl Sunday morning.  We had awaken an hour before, laughing hysterically during a conversation we were having.  After handing me my cup of coffee, my husband said he was going back for his....or at least he "tried" to say he was going back...only he couldn't get the words...... something was wrong.  His words were jumbled.  His face turned red.  He started crying.  I could see the pain of frustration and fear fill his entire being.  My heart raced as his eyes looked directly into mine begging for help.  Oh my God, I thought to he having a stroke?????

I stayed as calm as I possibly could, not letting him on to my thoughts of the possibility.  My daughter lives two doors down and I immediately called her to run over to confirm my findings that something was not right with my husband.  She confirmed it.  With that, I told my husband we were going for a little ride that could help calm things down.  I didn't bother calling the ambulance as we live in a rural area and they would have taken longer to get here than it would take me to drive him to the hospital.

I got to the hospital within five minutes.  Quietly I signaled the nursed and mouthed to her that I felt he was having a stroke.  He was immediately taken to the back of the ER and placed on a gurney.  Doctors in ER confirmed it was a stroke and administered medication instantaneously.

A stent was placed in my husband's carotid artery which had been 99.9% blocked.  We also learned he is a diabetic.  After a week in intensive care, then acute care, he was transferred to the hospital's rehabilitation facility where he was provided with exceptional care.

He could say a word or two, but they were very very slow in coming.  After a little over a week in rehab, I brought my husband home.  We go to therapy daily.  We visit doctors weekly.  I watch what he eats constantly.  He needs 24 hour care....that's what I for him constantly.  Although his speech is still on the slow side, it has improved by leaps and bounds.  I am so proud of him.  He can write things down, but has a difficult time deciphering what he wrote.  He thinks he's 40 years old and that I'm 70!!! (He's actually 60 and I'm 62.)  He has a very difficult time reading a clock or understanding what day of the week it is.  He has just recently started doing anything with numbers such as 2 + 2 =.....

When this all happened, we both had marketing he's on disability until permanent social security can set in.  And I started collecting social security even though I never planned to at this age.

So, now, we get a chance to "enjoy" life...we take things slowly together.  We eat the same things...because if he can't eat it, I can't eat it.  I don't want him to eat foods that will compromise his diabetes or any other medical situations.  After all, we both need to eat healthy anyways....doesn't everybody.  And we do eat better.  I used to only cook more than one meal a day on the weekends only.  But now I cook three healthy meals a day with two snacks in between.

I play a game out of all of it.  I never had a chance to be a chef, or a waitress, or a dishwasher.....or a maid, a nurse, an accountant or psychiatrist....but now I get that chance.  And I get to do it for somebody that I love very much.  Playing the game of occupations makes it easier for me.  He may not realize it. He may not even completely see it (the stroke has left him partially blind in both eyes).  But "I" know that he "feels" it.  Somewhere inside of him, he feels it....he feels that I am taking care of him and that I love him.....and I feel it too....which makes it all worth the new journey we are on together...where ever the  road takes us, up or down.....each day is a new day, with brand new discoveries....and we are Unstoppable together.