Almost 3 years ago my mother in law had a massive stroke. Fortunately my father in law found her right away, and she was rushed to the hospital and treated. They say receiving treatment in the first 3 hours is crucial. We weren't sure if she'd make it, and if so, what the damage would be. Miraculously, she is almost completely physically recovered. She and her doctor speak of a weakness in her right arm, but you wouldn't know it from how active she is, continuing to swim (she's a Senior Olympics gold medalist) and doing all her regular activities. But her speech... She has such a difficult time with all of her language skills, not just speaking but also reading and writing. She has been through so many different therapies and tries so hard, and still she has such difficulty. Shortly after the stroke my husband and I would say to her "it's OK, we spend most of our lives trying to figure out what the May Queen is saying." She was so shy about speaking. She's a perfectionist, and didn't want to speak if she couldn't get it right. She wouldn't play bridge with her friends. She didn't want to go out. But we all pestered her and encouraged her and wouldn't let her give up. And it has gotten better. A little. Some sentences are perfectly clear, some are a mixed bag, and some are just a garbled mess. And we try to understand as best we can. But I'm struck by how frustrating it must be for her. To have so many thoughts and opinions in her head, and not be able to get them out. When any small comment, such as "What a beautiful flower" is hard to express, how many times a day does she decide it's just not worth the effort? And how many times a day do we, in interacting with her, decide the same thing?
The May Queen will never remember her Grandmother as someone who talked normally. She said to me the other day "sometimes I just can't understand a word that Grandma says!" I try to explain to her what happened, but she doesn't understand. But, thankfully, she still interacts with her. She still loves her. Last fall Grandma and Grandpa were visiting, and my husband and I were out for the night, so they were putting the May Queen to bed. MQ insisted that Grandma read her 2 bedtimes stories, despite Grandma's urging that Grandpa read instead. "No, you try!" MQ said firmly as she patted the bed next to her. So Grandma sat and struggled through the first story. When she finished MQ said "now I'll read the next one."
My mother in law had a huge smile and tears in her eyes as she told us that story. And we are all so glad that everyone made the effort.