Congratulations to Carrie Leazenby! Her story idea for Sick won by one vote! Sorry I’ve been so behind! But this week I have a good reason. Be watching for a link to the brand new magazine “unbound”! It’s coming out next week. I have 2 stories in the magazine (one under a pen name). So, I’ve been working on that.
Today’s story idea comes from a dear friend of mine. Her name is Cindy Mikowski. This is a very personal story for her. Cindy, at 43, suffered a stroke. I am going to fictionalize her story. However, and I think that Cindy would agree, it is important to note that stroke can hit us at any age. So, know the symptoms. Click here to visit the Mayo Clinic website to learn more about the symptoms of stroke. Having a friend go through this ordeal has really opened my eyes to this serious medical condition. Here’s her idea…
A perfectly healthy, independent, self reliant 43 year old woman suffers a stroke.
Janna had been home less than two hours. Already, she feared what the night would be like. If she had to get up to go to the bathroom, her husband would have to help her. If she wanted to roll over, he’d need to give her a push. If the headache pain came back she’d need to be rushed back to the emergency room.
The telephone rang.
“Hey, can one of you guys get that?” Janna called.
Her son, Cody, came tumbling in the room. He grabbed the cell phone off the table.
“Do you want it?” he asked her. “Or I can answer it.”
“Who is it?”
He looked at the screen. “Grandma.”
“Give it here,” Janna said. She took it. “I need you to push the button for me.”
He used one of his agile fingers to push the “answer” button on her phone.
“Hi, Mom,” Janna said, using her good hand to hold the phone to her ear. “Yeah. Come on over. I’ll see you in a couple minutes.”
“Is Grandma coming?” Cody asked.
“Yes. So, I need you to check and make sure you don’t have any underwear on the bathroom floor.”
He rushed out of the living room.
“He’s being such a good kid,” she thought.
Les walked in. Brought her a glass of water and a few pills.
“How’s your head feel?” he asked. “Better?”
“It is. Now if I could just get my hand to work.”
“The doctor said it would take a little time.”
They heard the kitchen door swing open. “Yoohoo!” her mother called, announcing her entrance.
“We’re in the living room,” Les said. He whispered to Janna, “I can’t believe she moved across the street.”
“Well, I think we’ll find it pretty convenient as I’m recovering.”
“Lookie at you, Janna! Sitting in the recliner like the Queen come home,” her mother said, mincing into the room. “Lester, how are you doing? Glad to have your lady home, yes? Good, good. It’s such a relief.”
“Hello, Olivia,” Les said. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?”
“That would be fabulous. You want one, too, Janna? Janna wants one. Do you still have the espresso machine I got your for Christmas? Because that would be absolutely dreamy. I would like one with the slightest hint of cinnamon and heavy on the chocolate syrup. I think Janna needs one like that, too. And don’t forget the whipped cream. That’s the best part. Thanks, Lester. You are a dear little lamb.”
“Would you like a scone with that?” Les asked, sarcastically.
“No. Oh, Lester. You’d think that I had completely given up on my girlish figure. But, no. Darling. The coffee will do. Whole milk, mind you.”
Les shook his head as he headed to the kitchen.
“Now, Janna, let’s talk about you. Are you glad to be home? I’m certain you are. But did the doctor give you instructions? Ideas of how to regain strength? Prescriptions? Spill the beans, child.”
“It’s all written on a notepad. I’m having a hard time remembering things right now.”
“Did he say that was normal? I mean, did you even tell him that you were having a hard time with memory? Because he surely would have addressed that.”
“He talked to Les.”
Olivia became quiet. Janna couldn’t tell if this was going to turn into a serious moment or one that Olivia would use to get some attention.
“You scared us. You know that?” Olivia was calm. “I thought we were going to lose you.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to be sorry, honey. It’s not like you actually planned to have a stroke.”
Janna laughed. “It makes me feel like an old woman.”
“Well, if you’re an old woman, what does that make me? But, I suppose if I’m a really old and crusty woman then I look pretty good for my age.”
The mother and daughter smiled at each other.
“Janna, I don’t know that I’ve always been a very good mother to you.” Olivia swiped her bangs to one side.
“Oh, Mom. You’ve always been great.”
“As compared with whom? A spider monkey? Actually, I have no idea what kind of mothers spider monkeys are. But, you know what I’m saying, yes?” She looked at her finger nails. “I was a very selfish mother. Truth is, after your father left, I check out. I just put you in daycare and drank all day long.”
“I was in fourth grade when Dad moved out, Mom.”
“Right. Daycare, school. Same thing. Anyway. I would just sit at the kitchen table and drink coffee all day long. And by the time you got home I just didn’t want to deal with you. And I feel really awful about that.”
“Okay. I forgive you.”
“I guess I’ve always been a little jealous of you. You just have such a great family here. And Lester loves you.”
“And so when I saw you in that hospital bed with all the needles in your arms and they were saying tumor and stroke and bleeding in the brain…well. Well, I just didn’t want you to go so soon. You’re my little girl.”
“I’m 43 years old.”
“And you are all I have. I just want you to know that you are the best thing I’ve ever done in this whole life of mine. And I was so afraid that I would have to watch you die.”
“But I’m going to be okay, Mom. I just need to get my body moving. Lots of physical therapy. But I’ll be fine.”
“You have no idea how much I love you.” Olivia reached out and held Janna’s hand. “When you were in that bed, I just couldn’t stop thinking that I wanted to take your place. I wished I could have taken all that pain for you.”
Janna smiled. “Mom, that’s really nice.”
“I know that I’m an attention hog. And that I have been very selfish in my life. But one thing you need to know; I would take all that pain from you if I could.”
“Okay, Olivia,” Les said, walking in with two cups of coffee. “I don’t know if I did it right.”
Olivia quickly wiped her eyes. Les looked at Janna. She smiled at him.
“You are a prince, Lester.” Olivia stood quickly. “I think it should cool just a tinch-bit. I need to use the powder room.”
She walked out of the room. Not with flare. Not with drama. Just a woman walking to the bathroom.
“She okay?” Les asked.
Janna nodded her head. “She’s just having a hard time.”
“She is? SHE is? Oh, brother.”
“I know. But she loves me.” Janna smiled. “I’m still her little girl.”
Now I have visions of spider-monkey mommas ‘mincing’ into rooms, their tails swinging up to catch the chandeliers. Notice how the attention is so intently on Olivia while the lens keeps trying to focus on Janna, but the image is so fuzzy. Weary, tired, scared Janna. Olivia, still the little girl trying to figure out how her world fell apart, feeling guilty that she struggles to empathize with her own little girl who obviously suffers more than she. Or does she?
You know, I was just writing about a nice little family dealing with a terrible medical affliction…then Olivia came mincing in. And she took over.
Does that make me crazy?
Thanks for the moving story. Very well done. Maybe you could talk to Steve and Mary Anne and tell her story too of strokes. Such a cruel disease! The memory loss has been most worrisome to them.
Yes, stroke is awful. And I have learned so much more about it since Cindy’s.
Yes, VERY well done. There should definately be MORE of this story! I am always one for wanting more…in fact I am more prone to pick up a book/novel that has more than one volume…cause I never want the story to end! 😉
Oh, yes. Olivia will find her way into something…
Crazy, but I feel like I’m developing characters for future novels!
Serious conditions do affect more than the victim of the ailment. Perhaps they bring out the worst in those around the victim and perhaps (as we might hope for Olivia) it brings a change for the better. She might have been lacking as a mother before, but maybe she will be very involved in the grandkids lives, and in her daughter’s recovery.
You’re right, Martha. That’s for sure. Thanks for your insight!