grumpy about mom’s stroke (a little elegy to her missing parts)

I’ve been feeling kind of guilty about the way I write (and thus feel) about my mom sometimes. I’ve been thinking it would do me some good to write extensively about my relationship with her, all the emotional twists and curves, because that would be really original for a daughter to do that.

The thing is, blogging about it is so much cheaper than therapy. Jesse’s been using all the time with her shrink on her own issues, so there’s nothing left for me. Grumpy.

Since mom’s stroke a little over 2 years ago, I’ve been grumpy about her. My brothers say she actually seems pretty happy so I shouldn’t worry too much. They live closer and see Mom much more than I do, so I should trust that. But I suffer from the common conceit of daughters, which is that I know (or knew) my mother better than my brothers. Because girl power, right?

Mom had an acute stroke in the thalamic region of her brain, which is right in the middle between the big lobes. It’s like the brain’s switchboard, apparently. She would not wake up one morning. She was taken to the hospital, where she still did not wake up. Her BP was crazy high so they gave her meds for that, and she continued to sleep. She was decidedly not in a coma, but no one could wake her up. I remember speaking with my brothers. Mark told me, “she just looks like she’s sleeping.” Ted told me, “she looks really peaceful.” Everyone was mystified. I was in Wisconsin, taking care of my children and unable to do anything, when I should have been at my mom’s side in California and unable to do anything.

Mom slept for several days and then she woke up. She was goofy from the stroke, of course, but in the weeks that followed she quickly regained her physical skills. Her body suffered no paralysis or lost functioning. She didn’t lose many memories, and she’s not especially confused about basics. She struggles with language and word retrieval a bit but she does okay. By all superficial measures, Mom had a spectacular recovery. But to my eye, the stroke was an energy-sucker that cratered out Mom’s personality.

I can hardly think of anyone who made me as angry as her through the years. Mom was full of rage, bile, and cruel (honest?) insights. She could enter a word fight like a cornered alley cat, mean and clean on the attack, but also crazy. When the siren song of my screaming-banshee-mama routine calls, the voice I hear singing is Mom’s. Mom also had an incredibly silly and witty sense of humor. When I needed to share a gut laugh with someone over something stupid, I knew who to call. Mom had one of the best, raucous gut laughs ever. She could laugh so freely and fully that her eyes cried and her stomach hurt. This is the lady who taught me to bark the command “EAT IT!” after issuing a mighty fart. In Korean it sounds something like, “Moh-goh-rha!” Even better, she would trap her farts under a blanket when she was lazing on the sofa and, giggling like a sneaky little kid, flap them free onto us as we walked by.

So I see what I’m saying now. Boiled down to the essence of things, my mom taught me to scream at my kids and make fart jokes.

I have to admit, I don’t miss her screaming rages and irritable moods. That’s all gone, thanks to the stroke. Mom is easy-going now. A lot of wrinkles in her brow are gone, and she doesn’t make the upside-down-smile grimace of stress and misery anymore. She seems peaceful. I also can’t remember having a good laugh with her since the stroke. I try sometimes to tell her some silly story about the kids. She just doesn’t seem to think anything is especially funny anymore, or else she has trouble following the flow of my words. I can’t figure it out. So I miss that part of her, very much.

Instead of crying about it, like I am now, maybe next time I see her I’ll try farting on her just the way she taught me, and see how that goes.

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