My Mum has kindly given me permission to write about these things. My Mum reads my blog, and I would ask that anyone who cares enough to comment please send her a note of love and kindness as well.
Last weekend was always going to be special. It was my Dad’s birthday on Friday – the big 65 – my Mum’s birthday on Saturday – 61 this year – and their 39th Anniversary that same day. My gorgeous sister, Bronwyn and her boyfriend, Phil, had come down to celebrate the triple whammy with us all. Here are those sweet lovebirds.
Thank goodness Bronwyn was here this weekend.
My almost brother-in-law Phil, and my brother-in-law Rob both love Ten Pin Bowling. To the extent that they each have their own ball, and Phil brought his ball from Townsville for the Wakefield Bowling Bananza we’d arranged as part of the birthday shenanigans.
Here we all are. I tried to be all arty and focus on the shoes. But I’m a sucker for the smiles
We had a whole bunch of fun. I even won a game!!
After bowling, we went back to Mum and Dad’s ready to settle in for the night. We’d organised for the whole family, all 8 adults and 5 children to sleepover at Mum and Dad’s. We’d never done that before. I’m so glad we were all together the next morning.
We spent a lovely evening together, only marred by our silly dog Angel running away (and although this is important, I’ll share more about that another day, or not). It was one of those nights where the adults were comfortable at the dining table all night long, fueled by dinner, birthday cake and lots of coffee. We told stories about life and each other, and we laughed so very very much. We let the kids stay up until they crashed.
It felt like just the perfect family celebration, except that our dog had run away, but that is about as perfect as family gets, I think.
Surprisingly, we slept reasonably well. Even if Dean, Sabrina and I were squished on a double sized fold out camping mattress on the floor. And the kids, bless their tired snoring selves, didn’t wake up until about 7.30 the next morning! Which for our kids, is AMAZING.
I love this pic of Bronwyn and my niece Presley, waking up together. I walked in just in time to hear this gorgeous 3 year say in her best sing song voice “Aunty Bron, what are you doing here?”. I tried to get a photo of the sleeping bodies sprawled all over the lounge room, but it was too dark and I was too tired. And well, I didn’t realise how much it would matter.
Once most were up and about, we headed towards a huge BBQ breakfast feast. We had bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes and capsicum ready for a huge fry up on the BBQ. As the chopping and preparing began, Mum got up and joined us at the dining table. I remember thinking that Mum was up earlier than I thought she would. I’m used to Mum taking a little while to get going in the morning.
I have a vague recollection of Mum answering questions weirdly and saying fairly often “I’m just so tired”. Sadly, I said to someone “come and ask Mum questions, it’s fun”. At that time, I thought she was just really tired, and was struggling to string her words together. However, not long after that, I remember my sisters and I clustering in the kitchen, worrying that maybe she was like this every morning, and perhaps Dad wasn’t telling us what things were really like for Mum. It was probably about then that Bronwyn said “it’s like she’s having a stroke or something”. None of us could summon a laugh. We were already worried. Just a bit.
And the day went on. We gave that BBQ breakfast our attention, and within minutes this has happened.
My sisters and I went and sat with Mum outside over breakfast. I remember coming to the table and Mum telling me a story that I couldn’t seem to follow. She was telling that Suzie had fallen off the chair, but then it seemed that maybe it was Bronwyn that had fallen. And then, apparently “Julie” came to the table. But there was no Julie at our house. Suzie quietly said to me it was Presley who had fallen.
By the time we were finishing breakfast, we were really worried. Mum had called Bronwyn “Bruschetta”. She had told us that “she loves airconditioners” when she was pointing at Suzie’s sandwich. Fortunately, Bronwyn is a doctor, and despite normally living in Townsville, she was here with us in Brisbane. She did some assessment tests on Mum. We started to talk to Mum about needing to go to the hospital, and Mum was really definite that she was just tired and “no thanks” to the hospital.
Mum then told us that she wanted to go inside. Somehow we ended up sitting some distance from Mum, and we watched Mum start to work up to standing up. Because we knew something was wrong, and we may need to describe it to someone later I decided to time Mum. We watched Mum work on it. Work on standing up. For 15 minutes. By then we were sure. Something was very definitely, very wrong.
Mum went and had a sleep, and we kept talking. Bronwyn text a colleague, who confirmed what Bronwyn had suspected. That the signs were that Mum was having a stroke. Because Mum is already on blood thinners (the treatment for strokes), we continued on with the day. Although she needed to go to hospital, there was nothing they would be able to do. My heart breaks for Bronwyn. She was the one who went and sat with Mum and told her that she thought she was having a stroke, and then came outside and told our Dad.
We organised lunch, not wanting to upset the children and trying to work with Mum so that she would go to the hospital voluntarily, rather than some dramatic ambulance event. That would have been stressful for everyone.
Later that day, after Suzannah and Dad took Mum to the hospital, it was confirmed. Mum had suffered a stroke. An ischaemic stroke. A blood clot had caused a blockage in my Mum’s brain, blocking the blood and oxygen flow, and all we could do was wait.
For the next few days, the text messages and phone calls flew between us. At all times of day and night. While we tried to understand what was happening, and how Mum was doing.
Mum was in hospital for a few days, while they checked her regularly and waited for the stroke to complete. Once it was finished, Mum was sent home. Our Mum hasn’t suffered any physical paralysis. Her difficulties are with her speech. Mum continues to use some of the wrong words, and isn’t able to carry a conversation as she used to.
I’m sad, because our Mum has always been an active participant in any conversation. Mum is a scrabble champion, a lover of word games and an avid reader. To hear her struggling to articulate herself is difficult.
We have another couple of weeks until rehab begins for Mum. My Dad and my sisters are doing an absolutely stellar job of supporting Mum, and each other, and me, while we learn how to help Mum communicate confidently again.
Our life has changed. Our Mum is different. Hopefully, just for now. My Dad and my sisters and I have leaned on, and into each other. I hope that Mum feels that too. Crying when we need (even when it’s at my office, or in the middle of the night), laughing when we need (com on, “Bruschetta”, that is a bit funny) and being grateful for second chances and plenty more hugs and laughter to come.
Life is a gift. Live it.