The children and I spent the morning cleaning the house and wrapping presents for the big day ... The day you come home. The traditional Christmas countdown has been abandoned for the ‘Daddymas’ countdown, as Tara and Quinn dubbed it. They think everyone else should be counting down to ‘Chris-mas’. I didn’t have the heart to correct their thinking to make it politically correct and honour Christianity.
A neighbor, Mike, came to the door with Christmas present or me. He didn’t know it was a Christmas present. But it was. It was a really good present – something I’ve wanted badly for a few weeks.
A week ago, I lost my address book. It had all the information that a mother would want at her fingertips and yet it’s too much information to commit to memory. The children’s friends names and ages and birthdays, their parents work numbers and cell numbers. All the information that I needed to be able to make arrangements for child-care on the fly. The book traveled with me to the hospitals in Halifax and Truro. It was saved the day more then once.
I used it a little over a week ago. Within an hour I went to put it safely away in my purse, but it had vanished. Since then, I have been systematically going through the house, turning it upside down, looking for the book. Nothing, I was losing hope. Then the doorbell rang. It was Mike. He had my cherished address book. He had found it nestled between his apple trees. It was still in readable condition. Just a little wet but very salvageable. It survived snow and rain. How it got between the apple trees, I can only imagine. Maybe I left it on the roof of the car as I drove off in a mad frenzy. I have been known to do that before.
I should know better then to lose hope. It’s back and I feel a little more complete to take on the world.
When we get to your room, it’s standing room only. The Millbrook youth group was visiting you. This is a group, that another neighbor, Darren, had started with the teenagers of Millbrook. They have been meeting for more then a year now and have been doing various activities in the community. They came to meet you and see how you were doing. You talk to the group about your condition and your desire to be whole again. I think you even warned them of the perils of a fleet enema. There were a few groans. At the end of their visit, they gave you a card. “To a Special Family” it said. The members of the group all signed it and wrote words of encouragement. Inside the card was a cheque for $1000.
We both reacted with the same thoughts. This is too much money. They had fund-raised it and as a group, they decided to give some of the proceeds to a few families who are having a rough time with health issues. We are both touched by the gesture. Touched by the thought and touched by the kind acts that can come from strangers.
Shortly after the group left, Jason from the newspaper arrived. He wanted to do a follow up story with you about coming home for Christmas. He asked you about your recovery to date and about the future. Being a sports-buff, he couldn’t resist asking you about Rod Carew’s phone call. You were very willing to share. He took some family pictures with us all piled on your bed.
You gave Jason a headline suggest. “Chris Cashen Up and Lived”. Not to be outdone, I couldn’t resist the temptation to make a play-on-words. Since ‘left’ and ‘vision’ are key parts to your challenges, I proposed: “Look what’s Left of the Organ Donor!”
Fran, Neeson and Erik arrived, full of plans for the Christmas holiday. The boys had been shopping and were counting down the days. Fran has been trying to balance her life between our Dad, who is very ill now, and the festive feel of the season. It’s very difficult to be emotionally in two places at the same time.
Richard and Kim and Reilly from Ottawa came to visit. Rich has been a friend for many years. You both were ‘winter football’ players. Every year, since I have known you, you would venture out on cold winter Ottawa days and play football with your friends using a nerf ball. This game became a tradition. As your friends went off to other universities, the weekly games became occasional. As moves for work and families were occurred, the occasional became annual. It was called the annual Eggnog Bowl.
On the winters that we made it back to Ottawa. You would start weeks before the trip, to call up old friends and organize the game day. Then you would spend an equal amount of time in our unheated workshop, turning a trophy on your lathe. There were many trophies awarded to the deserving MVP of the game. You never got voted MVP. You didn’t care – you had your trophy, the Eggnog Bowl with friends.
Rich married a fellow transplanted Nova Scotian a few years ago. They have two-year-old Reilly and another on the way. You smile when you hear Rich talk about Fatherhood. The pride in his voice makes you smile as his son gives you a brand new nerf ball to help you in your recovery.
George, was in to visit too. He has been a bit of a hero to you over the years. George has competed in the Ironman Triathlon twice. This is what elevates him to hero status.
His mother lives in Truro and you know her from the church. When George is in town, the two of you tackle the hills of Truro.
When he leaves, you are overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with loss. Everyday there are things that remind you what you can’t do. I point out all the things that you can do and how lucky you are to have speech, memories, personality and your right side. You challenge me on your memory skills, but you do have an excellent memory of all things before the stroke and you are banking new information every day since you have been here in Truro. I think that as your recovery continues, your memories will be more reliable. I can’t wait for the day that you contradict me on a memory and I will have to honesty say “You were right and I was wrong.”
A request to remove your PEG tube has been made. It may happen next week. This will be the last tube to leave your body.
That night, I cleaned up your ‘man-cave’. I know you will want to explore the space and reconnect with who you are. At this point, you don’t believe in yourself, you don’t believe that you deserve the stroke or the amazing support that has come with it. If you can connect with who you were before the stroke then it might help.