“Behold; The Aging Sociologist”, a web-blog produced by the League of the Grey; a website of advocacy and research for those interested in the psych~social aspects of aging.
My wife and I live in a southern California community not too far from Los Angeles; in an assisted-living, retirement environment.
We’ve been married for over fifty years. I am a partially paralyzed stroke survivor; a clinical sociologist, graduate of City University of New York, a retired psychotherapist. She has had a professional career as well; and age-related issues of her own. In spite of, (or because of) our challenges, we thrive. This; our story, our adventure through recovery, began…
In the dry heat of August, in the southern California morning; too intense to stay in bed, I had wanted to sleep in all day long. We lived, at that time, in a 1926 lathe-and-plaster, two-story home but it’s thick stucco walls made it cool enough for me. Still; I had a project waiting for me at the office. Reluctantly; I got myself dressed, gulped down a bowl of Cheerios. And stopped.
What I remember accurately is that ‘something’ just wasn’t right. I don’t remember what it was exactly. Just a ‘something’; something a little ‘off’. I do remember telling my wife, “I’m really feeling dizzy”. I had experienced a small stroke two years earlier, but I had gone right back to work after six weeks. I wasn’t scared. But I was being cautious. I was 59 years old. 5ft. 8 inches tall. And 298 pounds.
“Do the math”, I could have said! I was a second stroke waiting to happen. And it was happening!!
I was getting more and more dizzy. Fortunately, my wife and I were living on the same street as Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Hospital, 5 minutes away. During those five minutes I had lost consciousness. My wife remembers that I was throwing up in the car. She remembers that I had started convulsing. She remembers arguing with the woman in admitting who demanded accurate paperwork; my wife, screaming at the clerk, “He’s having a stroke NOW”! Do something !!! She has told me that a doctor, hearing the commotion, took control of the situation. But; for me? I remember… … ….
NOTHING… … …
Three weeks in Critical Care… … …three months of in-patient rehabilitation.
Several days of re-learning the basics of swallowing. Several weeks re-learning how to control by bowels. Several weeks of sitting in a wheelchair, strapped to a back brace to strengthen my spine. Learning how to walk. Learning how to speak. Learning how to write.
That was 2002. Now is 2017. I am writing this blog. The right side of my body is paralyzed. I can walk with a mini-walker for a few yards. My wheelchair takes me further. The (in)famous Los Angeles Rapid (?) Transit System takes me further still. My arthritic hands are… … …arthritic hands. There’s more. Worse. You can imagine.
I hear stories of families devolving under the stress of similar events. My wife and I are still going strong.
“Now”, is all there is. An incredibly short series of ‘now’s. They can disappear in a moment. Cherish what you have. Its all you’ve got. Its the same for all of us; I know. Maybe some day, I’ll tell you my raison d’etre; why I don’t give up. Maybe some day. As soon as I figure it out.
The story never stops.
Until it ends.
For now, there is more to tell.
The rest is the on-going work of my blog. It has given me hope and focus. And Meaning. And Purpose. I hope you will find the work useful as you, and I, age.
Jonah A. Steinhaus; Editor