Early in the winter, successive storms sailed into Oregon. Frigid air stalled their advance and they dropped anchor in the Columbia River Gorge.
Walking became difficult. Deep powder clogged the sidewalks and pedestrians were forced to use the street. There, danger lurked as traffic packed the snow and hid slicks of ice.
As with most Northwest winters, celebration and trepidation held hands. We prepared for Christmas along with anticipating a new grandson’s arrival in January.
Then suddenly, other family matters clouded the season’s tenor. My wife’s sister, Janet, suffered a right-brain hemorrhagic stroke on December 21st, the winter solstice.
Her home is in San Miguel, Mexico. There, her husband is a resident at a care facility outside of town. He is incapacitated by Lewy Bodies disease. She looks after his affairs and supports him with regular visits. They have no children.
She’d come to Oregon this winter to deal with routine medical conditions of her own. Bad weather caused her doctor’s appointments to be postponed. So, her stay in Portland extended beyond its original intentions. She was finalizing her health affairs co-incident with the occurrence of her stroke. Friends, with whom she was staying, called an ambulance.
When notified, my wife left immediately to be at her sister’s side. Shortly thereafter, she was joined by her brother and other sister. Seven weeks have now passed. During that time, my wife has made just two brief trips home.
Turmoil ruled following surgery to clean out the brain bleed. Eventually, Janet graduated from the ICU to a step down unit. Then, she left the hospital for an acute care nursing facility. Permanent deficits as a result of the stroke have not been determined. However, independence sufficient to live alone has evolved from doubtful to maybe.
Life, we learn, is precarious when stepping onto the slippery surface of aging. Often, what we can’t see causes us to stumble. Who, we wonder, will be there when we fall?
The three sisters, Marilyn, Janet, and Linda along with their brother Nick are remarkable individuals. Compassion and empathy run deep in these four, as does a sense of humor, which complements the organizational skills required to manage stroke recovery.
Family matters … it remains the source of our greatest joy … and most heart wrenching pain. Each speaks a unique language that tells its own tale. In this instance, theirs is that of resilience and they speak it fluently.
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