“Are you ok? Oh, I’m so sorry, are you ok?” the lady in the puffy green jacket gushes at me as we watch the sock on my ankle bloom with blood. Not a big blossom like a rose but more of a little branch of cherry blossoms across the white cotton. She’s run over my ankle with her shopping cart and for a moment I grimace with pain. “I’m fine, my fault, I’m ok” I tell her as I walk away masquerading my limp by stopping to look at the raspberry jam I had no intention of buying.
When I left home, it wasn’t like in the movies with fond farewells. I put what I could take in a garbage bag and left not in celebration, not in distress, not in anger, more like with a shrug of the shoulders of those watching me go. I left my little wooden trunk of keepsakes, my formal gowns hanging in the closet, the cranberry afghan I’d knit to match the big poppies in the wallpaper above my bed.
My dream mouse was in the trunk. The turquoise dream mouse with soft velvet ears who listened to my secrets and wishes, hurts and dreams as a little eight year old girl grew up and went through the pain of junior high school bullying, through the drama of high school and on to transformation into a young woman. I loved my dream mouse.
So a few months later when I went home for the Easter family dinner, it was to be the fresh start, the newness of spring to bring change, and part of that change was that my room had been boxed up, my stuff was ready to go.
Standing in the kitchen in the controlled pandemonium of the family plus guests, dogs thumping tails against walls in excitement, a crazy little pet pig running around with his security blanket of a dishcloth in his mouth, I said “is it smokey or foggy in here, ’cause everything looks blurry.” The only response was, “here, put the potatoes on and grab the salad from the fridge.”
“My arm…..” I tried to explain that my face was sliding off, my arm down my side, and my leg was gone. By now they noticed something was wrong as my words slurred away. And it was. I’d had a stroke. “She’s probably just on drugs or something…..she probably just needs to lay down for a while” the comments from siblings. And dinner was on time as I was shuffled off to hospital to wait it out there.
After a week of tests I was set free with “because you’re so young you’ll recover fully. You’re lucky you’ll be just fine in time”. And for the most part I was. I went back to pack up the rest of my things so they could use the room for someone else. My formals were not there. My dream mouse was gone.
I asked who had my dream mouse, where did it go; everyone knew I held on tight to that fuzzy little toy for a very long time. The reply was “we got rid of your stuff – didn’t think you were coming back.”
The Easter dinner incident of my stroke was never mentioned again, and I did recover. Almost. Sometimes I still drag my right leg, just a tiny little bit, just enough to get run over by the shopping cart behind me. Perhaps dragging my leg waiting for my dream mouse to catch up.