On My Fathers Stroke

As I was making coffee this morning I was thinking about the experience that my father wet through after having his stroke. Not the actual experience of having it, the hospital, the operation and the rehab, but coming home and being a different person with a different reality due to loss of control of the right side of his body and loss of his speech. Mainly what I am thinking about is the reintroduction to society. In a very strange and odd way it kind of relates to what I have experienced here for the last three months. Not to say that the experiences are at all the same, or to under estimate his suffering from the new physical limitations that he had to live with. But I am making analogies about his being in a society and not being able to communicate and having physical limitations after being very active, and having a completely different social character, and having different friends, and seeing a different world. I have a new appreciation of the changes that he went through after my moving to a new culture where I can not speak the language (aphasia) and having limitations of fitting into a new society (a different life after the 'event') and gaining a greater appreciation of everything that I knew before the 'changes' (the past life). All this means so much more to me now.

I know that when I return to Rochester it will be the same old stuff. Cold as hell, gray as southern hell, dirty snow and all of that. But my appreciation of that is now different. (As my friend Peter said: ' You will not be the same when you return' and I agree with him, but I am curious about exactly how I will be different. I am sure I will get a sense when I go home for the holidays in a few weeks.) The difference seems to be that I have a new and changed perspective on the same old stuff.

For me the biggest difference, I think, is that I will able to talk to anyone I see and they will understand me! That is what got me going on this idea of the analogy of what my father's social life was like after, and what my social life has been here. I have felt sadness and a sense of sorrow here that I have never felt as strongly, ever before. That is quite a statement to be made, especially after seeing my father lying on the floor in a pool of blood after having committed suicide because he could no longer tolerate the changes that the stroke offered him. But perhaps the years of dealing with that have softened the edges of what I am experiencing now. But for me being here is quite an experience. I would not trade it for anything. I have no regrets and I am anxious return to Italy for more after spending the new year in New York. But I have had to learn so much here. Simple things that everyone who lives here knows about and takes for granted.

For instance I've had to learn how to order food at a restaurant, I've had to learn how to buy a bus ticket, I've had to learn how to recognize the currency, not to mention a translation of what something is worth in 'real' money.

This perspective has given me insight on why my father ended his life. He felt he had no choice. I am here and have my health. I can do almost anything I want. I can learn the methods of the society. I have learned how to get around on the bus. I have learned how to answer the phone (not that I can understand what the person says on the other end once I answer it). I can now count my money, and not need to figure out what it is worth in 'real' money. All of these things I have the ability to do.

Considering what he went through. I feel, and have always felt (once I got over the initial shock of it) that his was an act of courage. Very self centered, but an act of courage. In suicide many of the family and close friends feel cheated by the person performing such selfish act without consideration of those that are close to him or her, but in a strange way I feel I understand his courage. Even above and beyond how much I miss him.

For those readers who are getting worried about my mental health, I should clearly state that I have no intentions of this analogy leading anyone to believe that I am considering such an act. I wrestled with that idea for two long silent years after my he died. For me that is not an option. Nor will it ever be unless I am terminal and just have to wait. In that instance I would prefer to go to the desert and follow the path of the American Indians on the final sojourn into the emptiness of this planet and into the light of the next. To go in nature, or natural surrounding is the best way. To have your body dried out by the sun and to act as food for the wild or to have your remains burned over a wood fire (not in a gas chamber or crematorium) is the best, and by the way, most natural way to 'pass on'.

My actions in life today are only as they are because of my past. They have given me a wonderful experience living on this planet and I look forward to more. I have always been curious of how my life would be different if he would have lived and never had a stroke. At this point all I can do is to dream about the possibilities and be curious. All I can do is to try to fill in the holes. But I will never know. Not knowing has sharpened my imagination. I have always wondered how it would have been to know him man to man, as opposed to father to young son.

This experience has definitely helped me to appreciate what I have and has allowed me to live my life fully! I guess that after I 'healed' myself from the actual incident, that saying about this life not being a dress rehearsal became my motto. Actually, I think it is what saved my life, and keeps my angst for travel and living and being happy so strong!