Dreaming of Mom

Mom had a second stroke this week – yesterday, in fact.  It’s weird how much can change from one moment to the next.  I was counting the money for the cash register yesterday morning when I got the call.  My sister said Mom couldn’t say anything but “Mom” and “Dad.”  They called 911 and I was on my way.

So, Mom’s back in the hospital.  She was admitted yesterday.  If she does well, she’ll be released tomorrow.  She’s super confused, talks like she’s had way too much to drink and lacks coordination.  We’ll see, right?

The ER neurologist showed me Mom’s CT scans.  She walked me through all the damage that her previous 7 (?) strokes have done, the damage the blocked carotid artery has done, the damage caused by diabetes, cholesterol, etc.  Almost the entire back of her brain on the right side is dark gray – a sign of damage.  There’s similar, but less widespread damage on the left side.  There are black pin-pricks in other parts of her brain.  The arteries are very narrow leading up to and through her brain.  The doctor said that there is so much damage caused by her previous strokes that it’s difficult to find the new damage caused by the stroke on Sunday and yesterday.

After Mom was admitted I went home to relax and sleep.  After my dad passed away, I dreamed about him.  I told him how much I loved him, he gave me words of warning and I woke up at peace.  I had a similar dream about my mom last night, but she hasn’t passed on yet.

My dream last night was peaceful, beautiful, touching and sad all at the same time.  I don’t remember all of it, but I do remember the most important part.  My mom, sister, brother and I were all standing in a field filled with yellow and white daisies.  It was sunny, but not hot and I wasn’t worried about us burning in the sun’s rays.  We were all so happy and calm, but there was a touch of sadness too.

Mom was standing tall without her walker.  She looked so vibrant and alert.  She was smiling.  Her hair was done like she used to do it before all these strokes.  Her face looked younger too.  She spoke to each of us kids and told us that everything was going to be alright.  She said that she loved us very much, but that she had to go away for awhile.  She would see us soon so we shouldn’t worry and we should always remember that she loves us.

Then I woke up.

I don’t really know if this dream is a precursor of things to come; if she’s telling us goodbye before she’s gone for good, or if she was simply talking about her stay in the hospital.  I do know that when I woke up I felt a little bit lighter and sadder all at the same time.

I don’t know what I’ll do when Mom passes on.  For a long time, she’s been mostly gone but bits and pieces of her have shown up and they remind me of what I miss.  As frustrating as they were at the time, I miss our “noon-thirty I love you calls” that came about as a mutual check-in from 2005-2008.  I would be so annoyed because she would panic a little if I couldn’t answer the phone.  After her stroke in 2008 the calls stopped because she was confused by the phone.  And now she’s confused by talking.

I know that death is another part of life, and that Mom has not passed on yet.  But knowing that it’s basically around the corner for someone I love so much is very difficult to handle.

So Mom, I know you can’t read this, but please know how much we love you.  Please understand how much we miss your guidance and nosiness.  And how much I’d love to hear your stories just one more time.

TIAs: God’s Little Reminders

Yesterday started out really good. My husband and I got up, went for a Starbucks breakfast, hiked part of the way up Mission Peak, did our grocery shopping, visited his parents, and then came home to cook a Mexican meal. About 8:30pm I got a call from my sister saying she was calling 911 for Mom. Mom’s speech was slurred, she got lost inside the house (a house she’s lived in since 1978), and wasn’t self correcting when she got stuck with her walker.

Yep. She was having another stroke.

Mom has been having mini-strokes (TIAs) since 2005. We’ve gotten used to spotting them. Her first good sized TIA was in 2008 – that’s what got me started with losing weight and being healthy back then. It was my wakeup call.

We met the ambulance at the closest Kaiser hospital with a stroke center. They were wonderful with her last TIA. But this time was different. The doctors didn’t seem to want to understand that her speech isn’t normally slurred, that she doesn’t normally get lost inside her own house, and that she’s normally aware enough of what she’s doing that she can call for help if her walker gets stuck somewhere. We had to argue because they said she seemed “fine”. I finally looked at the doctor and said “My mother doesn’t normally sound like she’s downed a 5th of whiskey. She doesn’t normally think she’s at Oak Knoll and living in Oakland. She doesn’t normally get lost on the way to the bathroom at home. This is not normal. We are not taking her home until we know she is stable.” Sometimes being the health care advocate and having Power of Attorney means being forceful.

Around 2am her memory showed improvement, but not her speech. My sister said that she felt like she could take care of mom if she were to go home. I didn’t see mom getting any worse, and she was in much better condition than she was during her last ER visit. So we took her home.

Mom doesn’t remember anything about last night and her speech is still slurred. She’s still having problems with walking. We know that she’ll show improvement over the next month until she reaches her new “normal.” We’re old hands at this, right?

Is it bad that I use my mom’s strokes as a reminder to live healthfully? Is it bad that I use them as a reminder to live life to the fullest? Probably not. But every time they happen I think of them as God’s little reminders; another kick in the pants to keep me going and to remember what’s important.

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