Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Road to Recovery

By Belinda

Almost four weeks post-stroke, when my nephew Tim visited Mum in the hospital, she greeted him by saying, "Hello darling."  Tim said to his dad, Rob, afterwards, that it was the first thing that Omie had really said to him since she had been ill.

Two simple words suddenly meant so much. They were reported across continents, recorded in my journal, and had the import of the words of the most famous celebrity. 

I could think of no better choice for the blessing of Mum's first "darling" than Tim. Mum meant so much to Rob's two sons, Tim and John. She was loved by everyone, but to them she had been a constant source of stability, love and security over some difficult years.

Exactly four weeks after her stroke, Mum went for a short "home visit" to the empty house on Snake Lane. An occupational therapist went along to make an assessment of the accommodations necessary for her return.

She was able to turn on the gas stove, but had difficulty with the gas fire; and the couch, her favourite place to sit, needed to be raised by three inches, so that it would be easier to sit down and stand up.

Rob needed to mount a key safe on the outside of the house, by the front door, as an agency staff would be coming by to help her get up in the morning and go to bed at night.

After so many weeks in the hospital, this was all very exhausting for Mum, but we knew that being in her own home again would mean so much to her, and Sam the cat, would be very happy to have her home.

On one of Rob's visits to Mum, after work, she told him that he must be needing to make his lunch and have something to eat--and said that he needed to go home.

And then she expressed concern for the lady across from her in the hospital, whom she said, had been sitting in a chair for too long. 

These things, that seem so small, meant so much, as they were signs that "our Mum" was returning more and more.

Five weeks after that devastating October day, Mum came home. I had not spoken to her in those weeks away. I was nervous of speaking to her, worried that I would not be able to understand her, or that she would not connect with me over the phone. I called when I knew that Rob would be there.

What a relief it was to hear her voice and hear "her." I could tell that it wasn't easy, in fact speaking was a huge effort. She passed the phone back to Rob after a few sentences, but we had connected.

Throughout her first week home I kept in touch with Rob every night. He was so wonderful, overcoming personal weaknesses and caring for Mum with such tenderness and kindness. 

Mum's progress was slow, but there was progress! She enjoyed meals and watching TV, and she loved being back with Sam, her faithful friend of so many years.

Some risks felt scary. Mum had moved back into her upstairs bedroom and would not hear of anything else. The thought of her climbing or descending the steep flight of stairs was worrying, even with the two hand rails to grip. 

We were on a journey through uncharted territory, learning to live with our fears, learning to be recipients of care and learning to lean on one another in ways we hadn't done before.

We would be leaning closer still in the weeks ahead.

To be continued...

3 comments:

Dave Hingsburger said...

A loss of 'self' is something that people assume accompanies disability. That you looked for your mother, hoping for her to still be there, would have been a comfort to her. Many would have been looking for 'difference,' she was lucky to have a daughter that listened through halting speech for the voice of the mother that she loved.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I realized the true value of the spoken word until the voice was silent. Then the few last words become precious jewels - caressed repeatedly and held up to birght light to capture all the facets of meaning.

How wonderful to hear the voice of a loved one. I've always thought it remarkable that we are able to determine the caller on the phone by one word - perhaps a "hi". Our voices are so distinctive - so individual - like diamond.

The ache to hear the tone and timber once again never goes away with time.

Thanksful that you have your own string of pearls from your mom - precious words indeed.

Belinda said...

Dave and Anonymous your comments touch my heart.

The ability to express what we think is so precious and so unconscious until lost. To have so much "locked in," to have responses but to be unable to express them, that was hard. Then each word, look or squeeze of the hand, becomes highly valued.