A week ago, I took this picture of Tate and my Meme. Tate would argue that it’s her Meme, but I have 38 years worth of dibs that I am prepared to cash in.
This night, she was laughing and rocking in her chair, as Tate poorly serenaded her with Let It Go. My cousins were here from Chicago, filling her in on basketball and college acceptance letters. Her house was full. She was happy, that Meme of ours.
It was my cousin, who called me, just twenty-four short hours later. “They think Meme had a stroke,” and that is when the pleading started.
What would I say if I had five more minutes? Five more days? Twenty-five more years? Should I have… I wish I would have…
You wrestle the cold fear with the hoping… for just a little bit longer, a little more time. You plead with the universe to make this ok. You question how you’d even cope with this idea, this life that would feel so wrong without her in it. Though, you know she’d argue with you and state, in her pragmatic, very Meme way, that she’s ninety and you can’t live forever. You realize too, that not fully functioning or living on her own, is pretty much her biggest fear.
So, you sit. And you wait. And you feel helpless.
She had gone to bed, the night the photo was taken and woke in the middle of the night with a headache. A headache that hadn’t gone away the next morning either. My aunt had driven to her house that morning and told her that we should cancel having people over and Meme brushed her off because she wanted the kids to open their gifts. She said she was going to rest for a little bit and by the time all of the great-grandchildren arrived in the early afternoon, things had only gotten worse. My aunts were concerned, but Meme argued that she didn’t want anything to do with taking her blood pressure. My cousin had asked her a question and she seemed confused and couldn’t answer. By the time Dave and I arrived at the house a little later that afternoon, she was feeling sick and disoriented. She tried to convince me that she’d have a cup of coffee to settle her upset stomach, until I pointed out that coffee was probably not a great choice for an upset stomach.
She asked me the next night, twenty-four hours after her stroke, as I was sitting with her, how we knew, or thought to take her to the hospital.
My answer to her was simple. “I walked into your room and said, we’re going to take you over right now to get your blood pressure checked, just to be on the safe side. Your only response to me was, OK and a little sigh. I knew that something was very, very wrong if you weren’t pissed at me about going to the hospital.” She chuckled a little because she’s a stubborn ox and she knows it. She doesn’t even remember that conversation, or much of me being there at her house at all, but she vaguely remembers that Dave drove her. She laughed when I likened getting her ready for the hospital, to the worst version of Cinderella, ever. My cousin and I were down on the floor, each trying to wedge her feet, with her poor arthritic toes, into a pair of moccasins, the only shoes I could find in her closet. I told her, we thought she had lost it because she had two completely different colored socks on. She wiggled her feet, those ridiculous socks still on her feet in the ICU, and explained that she had lost one of each of the pair.
She doesn’t remember us leaving the ER to pick up our kids. We suspected it was just her sodium level off again. Knowing full well when it was fixed that she’d be pissed about being there we preferred leaving that to my aunts. Nor does she remember sitting with my aunts, still in the emergency room some hours later, awaiting test results and suddenly, not making any sense. Or, that she couldn’t even answer simple questions from the neurologist. She doesn’t remember the decision being made to give her the tPA shot, or our visits with her that night as we waited to see if it might work.
But there, twenty-four hours later, it clearly had.
Sometimes you’re gifted with it, that beautiful second chance. This morning, we were there, at her house, she and Tate were snuggled up in her chair again, thick as thieves, this time watching cartoons. I’d argue that all of it makes you appreciate what you have, but then, I think we’ve always realized how lucky we are to have her. I’ll take five more hours, or five more months, or twenty-five more years, whatever we’re thankful to have been given.