There is nothing debilitating about her symptoms, and she still manages to do things like play tennis and golf. Reading is tough for her, since she can’t see the left edge of the page. She can’t drive, but she never liked to anyway. Post hospitalization, my mother was feisty (that is, feistier than usual) and needing constant supervision, so I went down for a week to help out my father.
My mother has always liked to read, and so the loss of her ability to do so was difficult. The fact that she was supposed to rest, and when she rested she read, made her frustration worse. She decided (correctly) that the answer to her troubles lay in books on tape, and so she wanted to buy an mp3 player for that purpose.
This wasn’t a simple, go to the store and buy an iPod or like device kind of solution. My mother, who my father accuses of wanting to die “the richest woman in America” refuses to spend an unnecessary penny. She decided, by what means we will never know, that she was not going to spend more than $25.00 for an mp3 player, and she would not wait for delivery to get a good deal on eBay or Amazon or Tiger Direct or any other website offering discount electronics, and besides, she refused to pay shipping and handling. So, to Best Buy’s we went. Needless to say, we could not find a $25.00 mp3 player with enough memory to play an entire chapter of a book. We went next door to Target. Not there, either.
Never one to give up, and refusing to increase her willingness to pay, we then headed to Wal-Mart. My Dad had Had Enough, and decided to stay in the car while we went inside. I offered to go on my own, but I think my Mom was afraid I might spend an unauthorized $30.00, so she came with me to supervise.
My parents, who gave up caffeine when they gave up working, only had decaffeinated coffee in their house. I wasn’t working that week, but I also wasn’t giving up caffeine, so I made my Dad stop the car so I could run into a Starbucks and refuel. I got a whatever-size-is-the-biggest (which I know is neither ‘tall’ nor ‘grande’) somethingoranother-chino, and sipped large mouthfuls of comfort while counting to ten and explaining for the eleventy-seventh time why she was unlikely to find a functional $25.00 mp3 player.
I am prone to migraines. Most of the time I have warnings, and I can head it off at the pass with a combination of prescription and over the counter medications. But sometimes I don’t, and when I don’t, they hit hard. So there I was, in the WalMart in Ft. Myers, Florida, shuffling along with my mother and her temporary walker, looking for a product that didn’t exist, and lightning struck my head. Or maybe, like a Greek god, I was giving birth out of my skull. I don’t know. That’s what it felt like. Having been through this before in formal settings (like court) I am semi-able to choke back the pain and pretend all is well. Given that my Mom had enough concerns at the time (her own stroke) I decided not to let her know. And so we ambled on. And the pain got worse and worse, until stage two of sudden onset migraines as experienced by me set in — nausea.
I put my hand over my mother’s hand, and said I needed to sit down. She informed me that there was nowhere to sit in WalMart. Then she noticed how pale I was and felt the cold sweat. I was walking as fast as I could, trying to find the furniture section, with my mother on her walker trying to keep up shouting, “there is no furniture section!” The three brain cells in my head that weren’t trying to explode got together and came up with the phrase “camp chair” and so I headed to sporting goods. On the way, I found a recumbent bicycle, and sat down in the seat. One, two, three…oh no…I can’t…what can I….and I lifted the lid off of my cup-o-caffeine and refilled the cup.
My poor mother started panicking and trying to make her way towards the exit. “Cell phone,” I managed to croak. “Oh yeah,” she said, and fished in her purse and found her cell phone. She looked at it completely dumbfounded. “How do you make a call on this thing?” (FYI: her lack of ability to complete this simple task was unrelated to the stroke – for years her outgoing message has been “Hi, this is Helen. Please don’t leave me a message, since I don’t know how to listen to messages.”) After topping off the cup, I found my cell phone, called my father, and told him where to meet us.
Dad found us, with my Mom leaning on the walker, wanting to mother me, but finding herself unable to get up the little step where the recumbent bike sat, and so instead doing a little freak out monologue and dance; and with me with my head in one hand trying to decide if the temporary settling of my stomach was going to last.
He threw up his hands and looked heavenward. “I’m going to need a blankety-blank nursing degree to take care of the two of you!”
I handed him my cup. He laughed.
Later that night, I felt better enough that we spent that evening in the casino at Imokalee. My job there was to read the cards on the left for my Mother, and to stand to her immediate left at all times, especially when she was moving. Never one to let a simple thing like an inability to see to the left slow her down, my Mom would plow forward towards her destination, and it was so much better if she ran smack into me rather than a stranger or a table.
She’s much better now, thank you very much. If you met her, you would never know she had any problems. Well, not physical problems. The rest we just chalk up to her being ‘quirky,’ and all that existed long before the stroke. As for the mp3 fiasco, that was nipped in the bud when she realized she medically qualified for books for the blind, which don’t cost her a penny. My sister and I are both grateful for that extra $12.50 we now get to inherit.