This is a unique time of life that I find myself in, recovering from a stroke, still kickin’, and marking the start of a new year right about now, I’ve had some “intentions” about my days ahead. I vowed to myself that I would take whatever any day threw at me, because it would be better than having no day at all, especially because I escaped my injury with less loss of things that are important to me than most who shared time in Rehab while I was there. So many people have looked back on 2016 with utter contempt, recounting all the things they lost personally, as well as how many celebrities were lost and how sad that made the year. I’ve even seen social media posts that give the finger and show outright contempt for what was last year. I also lost much personally, but there were so many good things about 2016 that I have chosen to dwell on those things so that there would be as much positive as possible to dwell on. You know, positive energy attracts positive energy. Rewire my mind to focus on as much good and positive as possible. It’s a really utopian outlook on what actually happens some days. But it’s a really popular notion that a lot of people adhere to.
Now reality. Even trying to reframe everything as a “challenge” fails in the face of really compounding calamity. There has to be a point even in the mind of a utopian dreamer that events cease to be “challenges” and switch into downright nasty mode! They are no longer just a hurdle to be jumped. The nicest word I can think of the circumstance to be referred to is trials. Maybe tests. But make no mistake; they are at a level beyond challenging! Running a marathon may be challenging, but doing so if you have a prosthesis like Terry Fox, we’ll that goes beyond a personal challenge. I think you might get the picture.
And then for me came the other day. On the stage that day was the set of an epic battle for my attitude, which had the potential to skew my attitude for the rest of the year. (How do you see beginnings? Are they the sign of things to come?) There was a coup. An attempt to set me up for that darting eye, keep my head low so it doesn’t get knocked off, prepared for the next big hit at any moment watchfulness and expector of bad things kind of year. Not everything bad that could have happened came to pass, but enough that some serious questions could be asked. It was a Schleprock kind of day. If you ever watched the little dude on the Flintstones back in the 70’s, you are at least familiar with the saying “Wowzy wowzy woo woo.” His day was calamity from beginning to end. The little rain cloud over his head followed him wherever he went.
My day started plain enough. I actually got up in reasonable time to make the day a good and productive one. I even got some facebook time in on the toilet while I was attempting to void my bowels (“sittin’ on the shitter” for my friends of the redneck and construction site persuasion). Hey look, it’s the new form of reading material for 2017. Anyways, there was no slipping and falling in the shower, no nicking myself shaving, no burning my hands in hot running water. All I knew about the day was that it was colder than the average day here in the Okanagan. Minus 23 doesn’t come along that often. So we Okanagians take note of that stuff. My video that I posted was about a task that I was setting out to do. Borrowed stuff needs to be given back. Even on cold days. But cold days and challenges have never deterred me before! Diesel trucks take some time to warm up, so I went out and jumped in the truck and turned it over. Seemed to be able to turn over, but just wouldn’t stay running. Finally the battery gave out and I had to set up the charger. It didn’t take much of a boost to get it going, so I let it warm up for a bit and hit the road to the north end of town.
I got to the place I was going and shut the truck off without thinking. I was back out in 60 seconds, but there was nothing when the key turned. Dead in the water. With a poor me look on my face and a timid voice, I asked for a boost. As it turns out, that was the catalyst for the agency van to be started, and it needed a boost too. At least the issue was with more than me, and I could feel less like a beggar and a bother on a freezing cold day. I don’t know why, but I didn’t even check the voltmeter, and what was happening without my notice was that the charge was dropping lower and lower. It was when the truck started sputtering on the hwy that I first took notice. Funny lights had shown up on my dashboard and insisting messages were brightly shining. It’s a diesel, it will run without battery power, but the electronic control of everything obviously wouldn’t. I was bolting for home…but so far away. Finally, I decided to see if it was a simple thing like the alternator belt. Walmart has a huge parking lot and that’s where I headed. Nope, not the belt. And it was still running with the odd sputter at higher speeds. That’s when my mistakes compounded and I made a bad decision. Off on my way home again, I barely got out of the parking lot and I lost power completely.
A turning lane is an entertaining place to have a breakdown. People don’t seem to understand that 4 way flashers actually mean there is a problem and that they need to go around. Cold weather, on hold with BCAA so that a tow can be arranged and the incessant option being given to leave my number to be called back got the better of me. I took the option to leave them my number taking note that I was not to call again or I would lose my “priority position”. That was after about 45 minutes on hold which actually started at 12:26 p.m. There was no heat from the stalled truck and it was cold outside. Cold was creeping in ever so slowly, and it was getting to the point I couldn’t take it anymore. Not even for the entertainment of watching people come right up behind the dead truck, wave their arms and shout profanities at me could I stay any longer. I was cold. It was when I finally decided to make the trek to the Starbucks in my rearview mirror did I realize how terrible a decision it was to wait as long as I did. Because of my stroke, my body doesn’t handle cold like it used to. I was literally so stiff that I could hardly shuffle across the seat to climb out the door, but the personal tragedy/comedy was just beginning.
Finally, I got myself over to the door on the passenger side so I could safely exit the vehicle, but as I put my weight on my feet, I recognized that this little walk was going to be quite the show for everyone watching, and quite the challenge for me to accomplish. Control of muscular function goes out the window on muscles that have been stroked, so it was an Igor lope that moved me down the sidewalk towards my much warmer target destination. By the time I got to the door of Starbucks, my jaw was chattering so violently that I just about dislocated it, and I couldn’t control my left arm. I craved a hot drink, but as I approached the till to order, I realized that I probably wouldn’t be able to actually give my order, so dragging my left foot, fighting an uncontrollable left arm, and clacking my teeth so loud that everyone in the joint was looking at me, I hobbled off to the bathroom. I wonder what they were wondering I was up to in there as they saw this spastic, teeth chattering weirdo hobble off to their bathroom. I didn’t even look at the door to see if I was going into the “correct” bathroom for my gender, although it seems like only an old guy with antiquated sensibilities would even care in this day and age. The warm water started to settle things down a bit even though I had to fight my left arm and push it down into the sink to get close to the water. Once I regained my composure and a little bit of control, I went back out and ordered myself a London Fog. It’s not coffee because I’ve never gotten into coffee in the middle of the day (one cup in the morning for breakfast and done) and London Fog is the most pretentious drink I can bring myself to order at a Starbucks.
People watching is an entertaining pass time when you have nothing better to do. Every once in a while, someone would come in that I couldn’t resist watching and taking note of. Lots of people are strange, not just the 52 year old guy with a wild snake for a left arm and clattering teeth under a frost bitten red nose poking out of a face half hidden by a stupid looking toque that I couldn’t get to cover my head properly because I was shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t believe that BCAA hadn’t called me back yet. It was now late enough that Sharon would be home from work and wondering where I had gotten to. So I sent off a text and let her know that I was stranded on the north end of the city. After a lot of back and forth about calling BCAA again, I finally dialed them up and got the same message to wait. There were options to ask for help online. So I tried that. The system kept rejecting my membership number as not valid. Another option was to do the same thing through the smartphone app. Stubbornly using Flintstone technology (Blackberry) means that there is no app for my phone. Since my phone was dying, I had Taran deliver my charging cable to me while he was on an errand. At least the Starbucks staff were now warming up to me and smiling in my general direction as my body was no longer jerking and looking as awkward and things had settled down.
Finally at 5:30 I made the plunge and dialed up BCAA to try and get through, or die in Starbucks on hold. At 6:30, I got through. My original call had been totally lost in cyberland! When I explained my situation, and told them about the fact that my battery was now dead with no flashers, I was blocking traffic in a turning lane, and I had been stranded the whole afternoon, the tried to do their best and send a tow as soon as they could, but no one who could tow a one ton truck was available. At around 7:00 that evening, an apologetic tow truck driver showed up to get me the heck out of there! I was just glad to finally get some help. Fatigue was rolling in heavy on my entire body. I was fading fast from the epic muscular control battle, the stress of not knowing whether to call again and lose my place, the worry of someone not paying attention and driving into the back of my abandoned vehicle that no longer had flashers going, and every little detail of the day. I’ve always wondered about people that I see walking down the street that look like spazzes! I don’t have to wonder anymore. I can live it and wonder what other people are wondering about me.
I know it’s a long story, but I felt I had to tell it. I had no idea that the life of a stroke survivor could be as interesting as it is. And you know what? I never knew that intentionally working towards trying to view everything in a positive light would be this challenging. I’m still choosing to look for the good in as much as I can. It makes the life that I’ve been given much more bearable. Still, the right is reserved to draw the line and say that the challenge has just gotten nasty!