Why I Quit Writing About it

next chapterMemaw relished the opportunity to talk about her ailments. A retired nurse, she never shied from adjusting her clothing to display a scar or bruise.

Years after the surgeries, her knee replacement and appendectomy remained favorite topics for conversation. Her social circle and any unfortunate stranger who found themselves within reach of her voice knew, within minutes, all the bloody, painful details of her long lifetime of illness and injury.

Every Thanksgiving, whenever conversation slowed, Memaw would look at the de-fleshed ham bone resting on its Blue Willow platter and launch her knee replacement story. After dessert, she enjoyed a round of show-and-tell. An enormous bruise on her hip, we’ve seen it. Ditto the appendix scar. We somehow escaped the sight of her long-bemoaned hemorrhoids, probably due to the enormous effort it would’ve taken to wriggle out of her girdle.

I love that girdle.

Memaw has been gone quite a few years, but the scent of boiled cabbage always brings her right back. I’m glad she didn’t live to see me fall apart a few years ago. She cherished her own health issues, but would’ve suffered at the sight of her grand-daughter’s “withered arm.”
I understand that as a person ages their world’s blueprint shrinks a bit, and sometimes the ups and downs of health are the only variations in every-day life.

My life’s blueprint continues to expand.

Not long ago a friend fussed at me for neglecting my stroke-recovery blog, said they missed reading my rambles. Unlike Memaw, the topic of my calamitous health scare has grown tiresome. I’ve moved on. I no longer think of myself as “recovering.”

I’m too busy living.

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Sneaky, silent, sudden.


You might imagine a hillbilly version of Voldemort hiding behind a door. He’s armed with a cast-iron frying pan. The villain leaping into my path, bashes me in the head with a meaty thwack.

You know, a typical ambush.

Nope, my assailant hid in the right hemisphere of my very own brain. A brain aneurysm, abruptly transformed into a subarachnoid hemorrhage, took me down.


Visiting a hospital gift shop one morning, my vision zigzagged, my bones melted and I crumpled into a helpless puddle. Someone responded to my embarrassed cries for help and whisked me to the emergency room.

A doctor now known to me as Dr. Stupid laughed like a braying mule and sent me off for an angiogram.

“Heart Hiccup,” he later announced, chortling.

Discharged, I huddled in my bed wrestling with the worst headache I’d ever experienced, for five long, internally-bleeding days.

“This is not a normal migraine,” I told my family.

Back to the emergency room. Diagnosis: migraine. Treatment: an appointment with a local neurologist, now known to me as The Witchdoctor or “that smug asshole.”

My son accompanied me and my husband to the appointment.

The witchdoctor looked Gabriel up and down then asked my husband, “How many children do you have?”

“Two.” I answered.

“Why so few?” he chided. “I have ten!” In my slightly fictionalized recollection of this appointment he grabs his crotch for emphasis.

He then took my nineteen year old son into the hall and asked him if I did this sort of thing for attention.

To my husband, he shrugged and said, “Get her a nice massage.”

Luckily we have a friend who is a massage therapist, she is also a registered nurse. Kristi rushed to our house, worked her magic for an hour, then did what nurses do and checked my neck and eyes. “Something else is going on here,” she told my husband. “I suggest you take her back to the hospital and ask them to do a spinal tap.”

One week after I lost consciousness in the hospital gift shop…Back to the ER we went. The spinal tap revealed blood in my spinal fluid. Diagnosis: probable cerebral hemorrhage. Treatment: two hour ambulance ride to nearest hospital with neurosurgeon on call.

This is actually where things begin to go downhill.

Brain surgery…complications…brain surgery…complications…stroke.

According to my neurosurgeon Ninety-nine percent of people like me are dead. Fifteen percent of those die before they reach a hospital.

When people hear this bit of trivia, they say, “Oh, you are such a strong person.”

I didn’t really have anything to do my survival

I didn’t know I was dying.

Most subarachnoid hemorrhages result in rapid massive brain injury, subsequent organ failure and finally, death. When there is no pilot a plane crashes.

I’m still here.

I am told, “God has some purpose for you.”

And I imagine this white haired bearded dude lounging in his cumulonimbus Lazy Boy, thumbing a game controller with supernatural speed.

This is not my God. But I figure it’s theirs.

An Old Testament God with his lightening-tipped finger pointing at my dread-covered head. BAM!

Still here.

Once again, I really didn’t have much to do with my survival.

After the surgery, I was a stranger to myself, with limited understanding of what had transpired.

All I knew was I’d lost the ability to walk and use my left arm and think in complete thoughts. Even worse, strangers dressed me each day, a large paper bib was tossed over my head at meals of soft food eaten while seated in a wheelchair. They called it rehab, I called it hell. All my personal care, and I mean personal was relegated to overworked emotionally-empty, sometimes angry nursing assistants.

The love of my family was the only thing that compelled me to open my eyes each morning.

It’s been five years and five months since my life took this crazy turn.

My God doesn’t have a plan for me. That would imply God conjured up this entire scenario. My God would never intentionally harm.

Things break, they wear out. After fifty-plus years of 100,000 heartbeats per day, flaws manifest themselves.

In the words of Mr. “No-Bad-Talking”, dookie happens.

The “why” of this wacky episode doesn’t matter.

Every life contains a smidge of drama.

Today, I close the curtains on my drama.

I’m too busy getting on with my full slightly-tilted life to think about that old news anymore.

I have a vacation, a garden, a craft project, a birthday party, a home-cooked meal, and a new writing topic to plan.

See ya somewhere.


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Vic’s Addiction


I experienced some extremely comforting drugs in Neuro-ICU after surgery.

Dilaudid is a derivative of morphine. I distinctly recall asking for more of that. “Can you give me some more of that “D” stuff?” I couldn’t remember the name, but the sensation of sinking into a cloud of cotton  wowed and numbed me, which after days, or hours, or minutes, or even seconds, of struggling in my hallucinatory battles is right where I wanted to be.


Which is why I am addicted to Chapstick. The left side of my mouth and nose are always the tingly numb of post-dental-surgery. So my lips feel chapped when they are perfectly moisturized.

One hundred percent of the time.

There is a tube of Chapstick at every spot in the house I am apt to linger for over a minute.

I would patrol the house and count them, but I’d be embarrassed to provide you the actual number.

Oh. Only nine. Plus one in each vehicle and two in my purse.

I don’t have a secret hidden stash, but it might not be a bad idea.



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pedicure-shoe1“Mama is that lady drunk?”

The girl didn’t ask out loud, her wide eyes and worried brow said it for her.

It’s 9:00am on a sunny Tuesday. The nail salon is crowded with respectable females.

My nails are painted a glossy plum-purple. I clamber down off the elevated pedicure chair, struggling to keep both my balance and those flimsy pedicure flip flops on my feet.

The girl sits watching me with the same concerned awe she’d display watching a dangerous high-wire act. Soon, every eye in the place finds me.

I shuffle and lurch toward the drying table, staggering like…. well…like a drunk.

In a room crammed with chattering women and girls—

I am the entertainment.

Desperately hoping to arrive at the drying table with pristine nails, I focus on maneuvering through the crush. I hazard a glance at the girl’s mother, who briefly meets my eyes; then finds something fascinating on the floor. If you don’t acknowledge the drunk lady at the salon she’s not really there.

I finally plop into the chair and sigh, saddened by the glob of half-dry polish scraped off Lefty’s big toe.

My observant pedicurist sees my dismay and comes to the rescue with polish remover and fresh double coat of polish.


For years, I’ve been that weird middle aged white woman with dreadlocks.

Now, I guess I’m that strange drunk-ish white woman with dreads.

Just a minor change.

I can live with it.

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snafuWe all do it, the off-hand, “How ya doing?” We say it to loved-ones and complete strangers.

No one ever really answers question. The reply is most often the completely meaningless phrase, “I’m fine”.

When I’m asked,the answer I think silently is, “Snafu.”

Well it’s true. Situation normal all fucked-up. My normal is just a little bit different.

I usually tell people they expect to hear, “I’m okay.”

And I am.

Just imagine the indeterminate rambling reports I could issue in reply.

Because I’m polite, I will keep responding with. “I’m okay.”

But in my exhausted mind I’ll think:


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Maybe I should just grow some new ones

growing new armIt has taken five years to understand a few things about the “new” me.

The sole of my left foot is numb 99% of the time, meaning I can’t feel the ground beneath my foot which= HAZARD!  The other 1% of the time Lefty’s sole is ultra sensitive. A tiny rock in my shoe produces piercing pain which shoots all way up my leg and sears my brain.

Until Lida’s fingertips redevelop tactile feeling it will be difficult to grasp things in day to day activities.

I cannot hold what I cannot feel.

These short-circuited nerves will probably remain numb until something in my head clicks back into place. Perhaps electric stimulation therapy will improve the connection between my left extremities and my brain. No one really knows.

The numb bums and I are just hanging around trying new moves until we find out.
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conga line Bathing-beauties

Edgar Allen Poe said, ” Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.”

Confession time: I am one of those obnoxious optimists, the kind of person who methodically excavates and studies events in order to discover good in disaster. Here is a partial list of good things related to my stroke:

  1. I skipped Menopause.
  2. Realized I have an abundance of devoted friends who are enthusiastic in their efforts to keep me their lives. They invite me to events, pick me up, drive me home, and pretty much bring the party to me.
  3. No one asks me to be the designated driver; nor do they frown when I have a second glass of wine.
 4. I received a perpetual handicap parking placard, which I try to use thoughtfully. There are certainly other people do need it more than I do, but it is great during a thunderstorm.
 5. I have met some incredible people in the medical community: former strangers who impacted my life ways they cannot imagine. They kept me alive and keep me living – which are two very different states of being.
 6. I appreciate my family more than ever– they have infinite patience and an amazing abundance of loving support, support I never knew I’d require before my “Big Bang”.

Sometimes catastrophe rips bonds asunder. Sometimes it acts as emotional super glue.

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Obsession or Focus?


As the fifth anniversary of my brain aneurysm and subsequent stroke approaches, I wonder:
Do I dwell on this admittedly dramatic event and its impact on my life too much?
Or is this constant attention the reason my recovery flourishes? Considering each waking moment an opportunity for therapy and improvement, certainly keeps *Lida and *Lefty at the forefront of my consciousness.
I don’t believe I’m obsessed with my affected limbs. But I’m always aware. They feel weird and don’t work right.
I try to take special care of them with lots of stretching and mental focus. They rarely respond overtly to my ministrations, but this perpetual scrutiny has definitely resulted in subtle improvement.
The connections to my brain have been under construction for five years, but the roadblocks now have detours that eventually get messages to my fingers and toes.
 So I am a little preoccupied with my post stroke symptoms, but the key word here is “occupied”.
I’m busy.
 Ever since I tumbled into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, my goal has been to grow in the sun and thrive.
And for Lida to give Death the finger.
*Lida=Little dead arm.* Lefty= my goofy foot.
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Voodoo in the Twilight Zone

 chickenfoot1I celebrate the completion of even the most mundane task, especially when I manage to accomplish something in the most efficient, most logical manner. However, this orderly approach is rare.

I am prone to episodes of extreme disorganization: my shoes go on before my pants, etc.

But that was about to change.

Beaming with pride, I launched into some organized housework the other day. I had remembered to dust before tackling the floor! But…

 The mental scritch scritch scritch of dramatic Twilight Zone music froze me to a halt.

On a little shelf just above eye level sat the voodoo chicken foot that usually resides in the china cabinet  in my office, where everyone’s is kept.


You don’t?

Well, this particular chicken foot was a gift to my husband from our daughter. She had been to New Orleans and bought the talisman from the House of Voodoo. In the Fountain family gifts like this are signs of deep enduring love.

How did this gruesome mummified foot end up on the on a shelf in the dining room?

I didn’t recall putting it the there. But sometimes I can’t remember what I did five minutes ago.

Dust cloth in hand, I stared at the desiccated body part while my imagination ran wild.

The black and gold spray painted talons tap,tap,tapped on the China cabinet glass until the door creaked open. The foot dragged itself across the tile floor, then clawed its way up the wall, collapsing to rest on the dusty oak shelf where it lay in wait for my unsuspecting dust cloth.
No actual dusting occurred that day.

The floor did get vacuumed and mopped.

The foot is still there gathering new dust.

I don’t really want to touch it, even to put it away. Even though I’m relatively sure I placed it there to begin with.

I just don’t remember.
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The Deadzone II

forgetfull tree 1Occasionally, friends and their children tumble into my deadzone. I only figure this out when it’s too late.

Should we be mid-conversation and a dullness glaze my eyes and my mouth cease its blather, please know I still care about you and our chitchat, but have momentarily darted into my brain cavity to operate the mega-watt searchlight, peering into the dark moldy folds of my mind in search of your name.

 I expect silence and the vacancy you encounter in my visage will signal my distress.

You can throw me a lifeline here. It usually just takes a little hint. Like pointing to yourself and saying, “Elizabeth.”

 Before your feelings get hurt, remember I am the person who sometimes can’t recall whether I have running water at my house.

And that hole in my head sucks up an amazing a number of random things, glasses, multiplication tables, appointments, past pain, and the day of the week.


I swim in muddy water.

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