Strokes suck. There are just no two ways about it. They just suck. However, in the time since my mother’s stroke, we have been trying very hard to stay positive and grow towards the joy. There are many days when I feel like the sun has moved beneath a permanent cloud. It feels like I am struggling futilely through a nightmare. I feel resentful that I can’t just wake up and be done with it all. On those days, I try to focus on our small victories.
There was the day I walked in when she was having occupational therapy and she read the message on my t-shirt out loud- “I’m not saying I’m Tinkerbell. I’m just saying that no one has ever seen Tinkerbell and me in the same room together.” Until that happened, I didn’t think she was able to read any more. That was a great day.
There was the day I was doing physical therapy with her and the therapist was trying to get her to take plastic cones from the therapist with her stroke-weakened right hand. She made several attempts with her right hand, then smiled devilishly, quickly grabbed the cones with her left hand, and began to laugh. Until that happened, I wasn’t sure she was able to find something to joke and laugh about any more. That was a great day.
There was the day I came in while she was in the dining room not eating lunch and she started pushing her wheelchair along with her feet. The look on her face told me that she had been waiting for me to show off her new skill. Until that happened, I didn’t know if she would ever have anything about which to feel proud any more. That was a great day.
There was the day I brought her a card that came in her mail at home. She opened it by herself and immediately knew that it was from an artistic friend of hers because the card was obviously lovingly hand-crafted. Until that happened, I wasn’t sure she truly knew who I was, much less remembered old friends. That was a great day.
I try hard to remember these triumphs when she has a bad day and seems to forget how to do the very thing I was so excited she was doing the day before. I try hard to remember these triumphs when I invest about six hours of my life on a ten-minute visit with a neurologist. I try hard to remember these triumphs when I am trying to figure out what I am going to do when the rehab facility releases her. I try hard to remember these triumphs when she goes back into the hospital because of some secondary issue that the rehab center believes needs to be evaluated. I try hard to remember these triumphs when I am dealing with the administrivia required to run her life and care.
I try hard to remember these triumphs when I am sad and scared of the future. I also try hard to push away the next thought that comes to my brain, unbidden, when I remember these triumphs… that they are slim pickings to be considered joyful moments. As meager as these joyful moments are, I have to hang on to the certainty that they are indeed joyful moments. It doesn’t do much good to try to grow towards the sun when your brain is only too quick to bring on the rain.
What joyful moments have you found in difficult situations? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you all for reading and for your support. I hope you don’t have to look too hard for your joy today!