Happy Mother's Day!
I have returned from New Hampshire where I visited my mom on a pre-Mother's Day trip with my partner. When I last left our "Anonymous Peggins," she was in a bed at Exeter Hospital, barely able to move anything on her right-side. Her only word was "so" and her prognosis was, to be blunt, fair at best. The stroke, which knocked her down, happened the Wednesday of Holy Week. I left for New Hampshire right after the 11:15 Easter service, and spent many hours by her side, promising that I would return when she was in a facility with therapists who would help her get better. Between that time and now, my mom was transferred to New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Portsmouth. But that proved to be a facility that wasn't the right fit: they are a short-term, quick recovery place. Mom is 85, and had a stroke that created a black hole in 40-percent of her brain. Not good odds for a "quick" recovery.
And so mom was transferred, again, this time to Colonial Poplin, a "skilled facility" aka assisted living with nursing home. This seems to have made a difference.
When my partner and I arrived in her room, my mom let out an "Oh! Oh! Oh!" and immediately started to cry. She grabbed our hands, and kissed them. She fondled my necklace, holding the mustard seed she had given me when I was 16.
"Yes," I said. "That's the message for you, too. Have faith! You'll get through this."
She is not only showing signs of getting through this; she is showing great tenacity and a willingness to keep at it despite her biggest disability at the moment: her inability to express her thoughts in words, either spoken or written. The speech therapist, at a meeting with me and my brothers, indicated that both verbal and written language were affected by the stroke. As part of her therapy, she's been having Peggy practice writing by making my mom copy what the therapist has written on a page. I shared with her that, earlier that day, mom took the whiteboard that we had bought for her, and wrote T-E-D. At first, everyone thought she'd made a mistake and meant to write, "Tom," as in my brother who was in the room with us at the time. She kept pointing at the magnolia on her dresser. It had come from her half-brother, Ted, as a pick-me-up to his sister.
"Oh, wait: you meant, 'Ted' as in your brother and his flower!" I said, almost 15 minutes after this exchange.
She nodded emphatically, "Yes." And the purpose was to let us know that the flower was kaput, and she wanted it gone now. Thank you. The flower was gone, and order restored to her dresser. It also left room for the additional flowers that would arrive via my brother, Edward, who has been receiving her "loot" at our family house in Exeter.
All the therapists are really pleased with the progress my mom is making. She's kicking a soccer ball, batting a balloon, and walking (with assistance) along the bar in the hallway. She also practiced wheeling herself in a wheelchair. Some the activities are more difficult because she still only has use of her left hand. The right hand and wrist are not moving, and they hurt as the nerve endings are starting to "wake up." This, like her speech, may be one of the last things to come together.
Speech is a challenge. She is now consistently adding, "I" to her "So." As a result, most conversations with the Anonymous Peggins involve a declaration that, "I, so, so, so, so, so, SO!" Sometimes "so" will be a drawn out, low drone of "Soooo." Sometimes, it's a higher-pitched, almost smiling, "Sosososososo!" Sometimes it's more of a, "So-so" with a shrug. Satisfaction gets expressed with an, "Ahhhh!" And, again, there are the tears, "Oh, so, so! So, so!" Just witnessing her working with the therapists can wear out the observer. Imagine being the one in the body, and the brain, that has suffered this damage? Her work ethic is admirable and amazing! The speech therapist, named Leslie, explained that she is having difficulty moving the facial muscles to make different sounds, and what's more likely to happen (and has) is that if we don't make her think about making a sound, she may spontaneously come out with a different one. For instance, she managed an "F" one day. She pronounced the name of Tom's dog (Toby), and she got out a nearly perfect, "perfect" (it came out more "paafect.")
One of the things this trip has made me think about it is the value of spending time with my mom. I have lived away from my family pretty much from the time I went off to college at age 18. In the past decade, I haven't been able to go home much at all. But this crisis with my mom has given me cause to make the time to get back to New Hampshire. Perhaps the take away for this Mother's Day. I shouldn't waste an opportunity to spend time with my mom.