Written by Mae Fowler
Mae Fowler suffered a stroke at 33. Soon after, her grandmother suffered one at 73. This is the second in a ten-part series about how the shared experience impacted their lives.
One particular night I had the opportunity to stay with my grandmother on one of her stays in the hospital. Although she was in the hospital, we managed to have a great time, just the two of us. She and I were laughing, talking, and sharing memories and every day moments including the recent stay in the hospital for both of us.
As we were telling stories and just talking, we both kept drawing blanks – either not recalling a word or parts of a story we had started. At one point, we just started laughing. We didn’t say much about how it felt. I can tell you, she and I bonded in a way that is unspoken and unexpected. It was just a moment of bonding together and encouragement just to know that we both understood the internal frustration about not being able to think of a word. For example, I could not recall what the word is for the top of a building. Okay, so typically, it’s a roof. We just laughed!
It is moments like that night that just help in the healing process, the coping process. Simple words or phrases that the brain just misfires because something inside has been damaged can really cause your confidence to waiver. Knowing someone who understands and knows firsthand the same frustration and knowing that same person knows you really aren’t crazy or lacking intelligence is an indescribable comfort. That’s my grandmother for me and vice versa.
My grandmother and I continue to encourage each other in different ways – by listening patiently and not finishing the other’s sentence, in just an understanding look, or by just dissolving into laughter like that one night. Someone walking by her room that night might have thought we had just shared a funny joke. One could not possibly thought it could be two women, two generations, two lives touched by the same medical trauma, sharing laughter in a moment that could be seen as depressing or victimized. No, we were two women – grandmother and granddaughter – finding common ground and choosing to stand strong, pursuing a changed life course and determined to make it a change for the better – individually and together.