I still remember Saturday morning, September 22, 1979. My Grandmother Toba had come to our house in Reseda, and we were all supposed to go somewhere. Mom emerged from the back hallway, but something didn’t seem right about her. She was walking unsteadily. She clung onto the side of the sofa until she could come around and take a seat. When we asked her what was wrong, her words were slurred and incomprehensible. All of realized that we had to get her to the hospital.
This was the beginning of an ordeal that would change all of our lives.
This was the second stroke my mom had that year. She had a minor one in May. It kept her from working and driving, but she seemed otherwise OK. She recovered quickly enough to go to my high school and my brother’s junior high graduations. She went back to work in July. Her doctor felt that she was going back too soon, but she was concerned about supporting our family on disability payments.
After the experience with the first stroke, I thought that she would recover soon from this one as well. The signs were positive at first. After a week, her words became clearer. She could form sentences. I thought that she would be able to come home soon. When I called her at the hospital the next day, her speech was worse than before. That’s when the doctor told me: She suffered another stroke, and this one was more severe. She would never again speak in complete sentences. She would never again use her right arm. She would never again be that strong, self-reliant person who took care of my brother and me.
She stayed at the hospital for another month, then spent another two months at Northridge Medical Center where she underwent therapy. One of the lowest point of the experience for me was Thanksgiving. She had always made wonderful Thanksgiving feasts for our family. Fortunately, the people at the hospital were kind enough to give my brother and me a free dinner at Bob Burns. It was thoughtful, but it wasn’t like having mom make Thanksgiving at home.
She finally came home a few weeks after that. I know she was happy to be home at last. But for all of us, the homecoming was a cold realization that our lives would never be the same.
My mom was eventually able to move around and help out in the house. She could say a few words, and I learned how to piece together meaning from her broken conversation. She was there for my college graduation and for my wedding. She died in July 1992 after enduring nearly 13 years with her disabilities.
That day 30 years affected our lives in ways we never expected. I know that it forced me to grow up. It taught me to be persistent at a time when it would have been so easy to give up. It also taught me compassion for the sick and suffering because I know what they’re going through. It also made me appreciate the time we have with our loved ones because we never know when we might lose them.
I will always remember my mom, and I’ll never forget the day when everything in our lives changed.
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