My mom had her first stroke 20 years ago, shortly after her 57th birthday. I was 21 years old at the time and had just returned to college after spending winter break at home. She and my brother were out for lunch when it happened—her speech changed and the left side of her body become temporarily paralyzed. I rushed home from Milwaukee and for the first time in my life really worried about losing a parent.
Thankfully, I didn’t lose her. Small parts of her personality seemed to disappear, but for the most part she returned to the same caring soul she’d always been. She still had some residual left-sided weakness, but probably not something a stranger would catch on to.
It’s been 20 years since that stroke and my parents are now well into their 70s. While they’ve each had they’re own physical challenges along the way, they’ve been doing okay and adjusting to their aging bodies for the most part.
That changed two months ago when my mom suffered another large stroke to the right side of her brain. Unlike the last time, she probably won’t be walking again and her personality isn’t bouncing back like it did back in 1992. She’s lost her left-side vision in both eyes (homonymous hemianopsia). In some ways, I feel like I’ve lost my mom—she’s prone to the silence, fatigue and a lack of motivation that are common side affects of stroke. But she’s still here and for that I am truly grateful.
After spending two months in a transitional care facility trying to regain her strength to walk, my mom is being discharged tomorrow. Truth be told, I’m terrified to see her go home. She’ll need 24-hour assistance—just going to the bathroom or getting into the car require the help of two people. I’m not sure she really understands how different life will be.
I’m sharing all of this because I think it’s important for us all remember how significant a healthy diet and exercise are to us as moms. We spend so much time watching after our kids that sometimes we forget what we need to do in order to stay healthy ourselves. I’m not saying my mom brought this on herself, but I often wonder what things might be like if she’d kept up with her tennis game, continued golfing on a regular basis, or skipped a few of my sporting events so she could exercise. Maybe she’d be taking my kids on walks, reading them books, babysitting.
But we’ll never know.
I love my mom, and it kills me to watch her go through this. Sadly, she was in a similar situation with her mother. I’m not going to let the cycle continue. If I can help it, my grandkids will have active grandparents. Be a role model for your kids. They need to learn good habits, and you need to keep these habits going. Remember, some day your life may depend on it.