Return of the Native
So this post will not be half so tragic as Hardy's classic, but the title fit, ok? Sheesh.
Anyway, I'm back on the East Coast, where I have been for a few days now, but have been up to my eyeballs in bureacratic red tape and other such wonderful substances, and thus have been unable to communicate with y'all.
Thanks again to everyone that wished me a good journey, and sent their love to Grandma. It was greatly appreciated.
The trip to the Soo was good. In fact, my only regret is that it did not last longer. I feel like I should be there. I want to be there. But, alas, I've taken about as much time from work as I dare in this crazy season. All I can do is hope that I have the opportunity to go back sometime soon (*que pointed look towards the Air Canada offices (somewhere in the ether) and the sending of mental vibes along the line of "seeeeeeeaaaat saaaaale").
At this point, I feel I should note that there are a few bright points to Air Canada- to start, they managed to get my Mom and I on my sister's early flight. Yay! No Montreal for us! On the way there, at least. Oh, and they give you PeakFreans cookies on the plane. Yum!
Upon arrival in the Soo, I was struck (as I always am) by what a sad place it is. Once a booming steel town, it has dwindled over the past twenty years. All I can say to describe it is that it is a sparse place. We arrived at the Rehabilitation Hospital (once the secular hospital- the main hospital used to be run by the Catholic Church), which is located across from an old residential area near downtown. As we crossed the street, I noted the painful irony that there was no crosswalk to aid in the crossing of the four, fast-moving lanes of traffic, forcing visitors (and potential patients) to play a rather scary game of chicken with the on-coming traffic.
But we made it. In one piece. The up we went, dousing our hands in disinfectant and inhaling the astringent aroma of Hospital. Seeing my grandma for the first time since her stroke was both better and worse than I thought it would be. That's all I can think of to describe it. I was shocked by her altered appearance (I'm not sure what I was expecting), but her voice has returned to its normal range, and when we arrived, she was "holding court" (her words) in the hallway with my aunts and her best friend, and munching on a fresh piece of gingerbread. This was encouraging.
We spent the four days of our visit scheduling ourselves around the hospital visiting hours. In the 'tween hours, we'd all apply ourselves to some project or another- knitting, baking bread, reading, pre-cooking dinner for post-evening shift with Grandma, or reliving our family history by looking through Grandma's multitude of photo albums. We spent our time with Grandma taking her for spins around the ward in her fancy chair, giving her foot massages (she looooooooved those!), looking at and discussing with her the two HUGE bulletin boards by her bed that have been covered with pictures of her, her sisters, her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and finally trying to convice her to eat the gray lump that was supposed to be chicken, or pork, or beef, and the green lump that was supposed to be beans, and the ever-present potatoes and gravy. I never thought I'd see the day when my grandmother refused potatoes, but that day has come, and I'm pretty sure Hell has frozen over.
During the first visit, I had been knitting away while my sister took a turn showing Grandma all the cards people had sent her. She saw the knitting needles, and seemed quite interested, so I offered the yarn to feel (nice, soft mohair-like stuff) and inspect my work. Now, my grandmother has been a knitter for well over seventy years, and before I knew it she had the needles from me. (I was only mildly shocked by the fact that I had just been outpowered by an octogenarian stroke patient.) All four of us present held our breath as we watched her attempt to knit with one hand. I swear, the shear power of our stares could have set the needles on fire as we attempted to will her success with our minds. I couldn't believe it: She nearly got it. But then, as I've mentioned before, Grandma is the most determined woman I've ever met.
So the next day, I spoke to Grandma's occupational therapist, and lo and behold, there is such a contraption as a one-handed knitter!!! It's a little wooden block that holds one needle while the knitter works the other one. Amazing. So now re-learning how to knit has become part of her daily therapy. I'm pretty sure she'll have the hang of it before long, and hopefully that will help with the boredom...
Well, I could sit here and write a narrative about the whole trip, but then you'd all likely be bored to tears. Suffice it to say that as a result of this trip I have come to value my family even more than I previously did (which is definitely saying something), and have learned a multitude about strokes. The most important things I have learned are the following:
1. Every stroke is different- the cause may be the same, but the effects vary so much with every patient that you should not allow yourself to by filled with hope or dread by other people's stories. Just take the situation as it comes, one day at a time.
2. Should your loved one survive the stroke itself and be given a chance to rehabilitate, remember that the road to recovery is a very very bumpy one, and is by no means assured. There will be bad and very bad days; days when you're sure that, even though your loved one has survived the stroke, he or she is still gone forever. But there will also be good days; when you almost forget that he or she is sick. These are the days to look for and to treasure; they'll keep you going through the bad ones. I promise.