Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The One Where We Stroke Along...

Well, we were *supposed* to be well into the demolition/reconstruction/renovation process by now.

There should be concrete trucks, and dumpsters, and hunky carpenters, oh my.

Instead, there is... just the same old house.

ContractorMan had an accident the day before he was supposed to start our house, and now things are delayed indefinitely.

My hopes for the house being done before Christmas are dashed. I feel guilty for being so selfish - after all ContractorMan had an accident, for crying out loud. It's not like he decided he was going to loll about on some sunny beach somewhere for a few weeks before starting on our project.

But I still wish we could have started on schedule.


ContractorMan should make a full and complete recovery - the only question now is how long it will be before his doctor clears him to work again. What is more troubling for me is how agitated my Mom has become.

Both The Wrench and I have been a little shocked by just how upset Mom is. I guess it's one of the side-effects of the strokes.

Did I mention the strokes?


It all started years and years ago, well before I came along.

My Mom had her first stroke while she was in high school. No one knew it at the time; her family and her doctor all assumed that she had some weird kind of flu that wiped her out, and left her feeling weak. She recovered from the "mystery flu" slowly, and eventually, after nearly a year, seemed to be mostly her old self again. The final reminder of the "mystery flu"was that she tired a little more quickly than she had before.

Growing up, I knew that Daddy was always really protective of Mom, always concerned that she never overdo things, and he was always really worried whenever she got the flu. I had heard about the "mystery flu" my whole life, but had always just assumed that it was just that - an odd strain of influenza that nearly took my Mom out before she could graduate from high school.

Fast forward to last year. Mom and That Guy have just moved to Florida; the furniture has not even arrived, but Mom is sick. It reminds her of the "mystery flu" she had so many years ago, but worse. Mom knows that something isn't right, and she is scared it is Alzheimer's or maybe even dementia. She goes to her doctor, who orders all kinds of tests, including an MRI of her brain.

The MRI clearly shows that there have been at least two major strokes - but one of them happened "a long, long time ago." The other major stroke occurred apparently during the move that Mom and That Guy made to Florida. There have also been "lots and lots" of "mini strokes" or "minor events". The "mystery flu" is finally solved.

The Florida doctor cautioned Mom to take her medication, and be sure to attend all of her follow-up appointments.

The first we learned of all this was during just the last few weeks while going through some of her paperwork, post-divorce. I am stunned, and at the same time a little relieved. It explains a lot.


Being a Mom, she didn't want to "scare" me, worry us, bother us. She knew that The Wrench and I (and even Twinks) were always concerned about her - she was so far away from us, and one of our greatest fears was always that something would happen, and we wouldn't be able to get there fast enough.

She also became afraid of being "put away" against her will. After she got the diagnosis in Florida, That Guy actually threatened her, and told her that he would have her "put away" if she had another stroke, because he "couldn't deal with it". He went so far as to take her on a little "surprise" tour of the place where she would go.

Don't. Even. Get. Me. Started.

She became terrified to go to the doctor then - a fear that we are still dealing with now.


One of the biggest side-effects of the strokes seems to be confusion. Mom is easily disoriented now, and sometimes seems almost child-like in her reactions to some things. At times, she lacks the "proper" or expected emotional response to certain types of situations. However, most worrying is that during a recent emergency - when we needed her to move NOW, she balked like a reluctant two-year-old, demanding to know what was the rush, and why do we have to go now? And can't I stop to get my book and a drink of water?

Changes are difficult for Mom to process, hence her frustration and irritation that ContractorMan has not yet shown up, even though she clearly marked on her calendar the day he said he would start. She remembers that he had an accident - but she also remembers that he was supposed to start on this day (jabbing at the calendar). Those two conflicting bits of information about the same person and the same day are just almost more than she can cope with.

Weirdly enough, Mom's memories are still fully intact. She can remember nearly everything - with the small exception of a week or two right after they arrived in Florida, which is presumably about the time that the second big stroke occurred. Most days, she is just fine here at home, but if we have to go somewhere she can quickly become overwhelmed by the stress of trying to process all of the sights and sounds. She cannot multi-task at all now - one thing at a time, and in a prescribed order, or else she will get "lost" in a task. She also cannot cope with overlapping conversations; for example, if there are five people in the room, and there are two conversations going at once within the five people, she cannot keep up with either one of them, let alone both. Whenever she becomes overstimulated, in either a visual or auditory sense, she simply shuts down and refuses to do anything until she can regain a focus.

Mom clings to me now. She is very dependent upon me, and at times seems almost unable to make any kind of decision at all without my "approval". At first I thought this behavior was a reaction to her "freedom" after her divorce, but I now believe it is related to the strokes. Hardest are decisions that have more than two possible outcomes, or have no clear choices; given enough time we can work our way to an answer for "Which color do you like better: Green or Yellow?" but if the question allows for too many possible answers, like "What is your favorite color in all the world?" then she often simply gives up.

She's still in there - we see flashes of what TW calls "the old Mom" - but the strokes seem to hide part of her. We're very fortunate that right now, she can still care for herself, and that the biggest struggle that she has is always getting the right word(s) at the right time, in the right order to come out when she is speaking. But there is still something missing, or disconnected, and whatever that is... is what made her fully and completely... Mom.

One thing that worries me is that I would like to get another "baseline" MRI before she has any more of these little "mini strokes". Currently, she is patently refusing to undergo another MRI; I can't even get her to go and *look* at the brand-new open MRI at the brand-new hospital mere blocks from here.


Through all of this, the rest of our life has to go on. Twinks has started school - the 8th Grade! - and with that comes a whole set of concerns and problems as well. Twinks 504 had to be re-submitted and implemented for her "accommodations" at school, and with this year comes an added problem of attendance. Because she has two high-school level courses, attendance requirements become mandatory, so additional documentation is going to be required to excuse the many absences due to doctor's appointments and, well... pain.

Both Twinks, and The Wrench naturally want some "private time" with me. They both want, and need, to be the sole focus of my attention for just a little while each week. I know how much they have sacrificed - both of them with very, very little or no complaint - and so I try to find a way to make that special time for each of them every few days. Because right now the only people that my Mom is comfortable with - besides me - are TW and Twinks, that means that one of us is always with her. And I'm always with someone... Mom, TW, and/or Twinks. "Alone time" is a mere memory for me now, and for the foreseeable future.

Add to all of the above that my cat - my furry little buddy, my deskmate, the sweetest little cat I have ever known - is dying. I don't know how long he has left, but I presume we will be lucky if he can go even another month. The vet says there is nothing more we can do but keep him as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible. I just want to cry every time I look at him, because I know how sad I'm going to be when he's gone.

My greatest fear at the moment is that something will happen to me. I worry about how my family would cope, if something catastrophic were to befall me. I feel so *responsible* for everyone, and everything.

I imagine you wouldn't be surprised to learn that I don't sleep too well these days.


I feel oddly disconnected these days. It may be sheer exhaustion, some form of shock, or it may just be that I am putting off my emotions until later, when I can process them more safely. I don't know. I can't allow myself to think too far ahead now, because I simply can't cope with what the future may hold.

For now, I can only stroke along, hoping and praying that it all works out somehow.


Kelly said...

Hugs to you, Thim.

Keep going....some life phases are more difficult than others are we basically just "survive" through them.

I know how you feel :)

Suldog said...

I don't know, kid. I had something to say about lots of the parts of this, but overall I think the best I can do is to tell you that I'm keeping you and your family in my prayers each night. And, as Kelly said, keep going. I truly believe that everything gets better eventually. Hang in.

Anonymous said...

This is how things work for me...

Today has been a great day. Almost like "old Mom". Don't know why - if it is the weather, what she ate for lunch, or something even more arbitrary and random. Couldn't say.

I'm just glad to have a little bit of my "real" Mom again, even if it is just for today.

Thanks for the support. All of y'all are absolutely precious to me! :)

Thim :)

Chuck said...

My mother hasn't had strokes, but I can definitely identify with dealing with someone who isn't their old self anymore and I know how frustrating that can be. I also know how hard it is to lose a cherished pet. You seem to be doing an remarkable job...and I only have one tiny piece of advice to add, take it for what it's worth.

My advice is to make a little "alone time" for yourself. It doesn't have to be much...could be a twenty minute walk around the block every other day...but I think it could be beneficial to your own well-being.

Your family will remain in my thoughts as always.

moderngeartvtesting said...
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thestraightpoop said...

A big big hug to you. You have so much on your plate right now...and you even make time to come and comment on my new little project. Thank you for that...sending big, supportive hugs your way.


teneal ann said...

Just keep trucking, Thim! I admire your patience with your mother- it's definitely more than I have with my family. It's rather inspirational.

Seeing your description of what your mother's going through, and with the brainscan my grandma just had, it may very well be that mine too had some sort of stroke. I guess I better be more compassionate, hm?

Thanks for your comments, and I'm sorry if I don't always return them. My life has reached a phase of massively busy.

Ericka said...

when my mom went totally bonkers during my last semester in college - when she decided she couldn't walk and wouldn't go to the doctor and dad was carrying her to the bathroom? yeah, fun times - anywho... when i finally snapped and hauled her @$$ to a doctor, they did an mri and found evidence of strokes and gave an estimate on when they happened and wow did that explain a few things! so, i know something of what you're talking about. i'm sorry you're hurting.

it totally sucks to watch them age, doesn't it? but, it beats not having the opportunity.

you know, mom did the master gardener certification thru the state university's extension office. she's always been interested in gardening anyway and i really think it helped "get her back." she started thinking and problem solving again and it made a difference. maybe you can find something your mom likes to do and get her into classes? good luck!