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Happy Re-Birthday, love…

… your “rebirthed” self would have been old enough to drink today. I would have opened champagne. You never lived to see it.

Let me explain.

On 20 June 2003, at something like 3:15 AM, my husband woke me up by saying, in a slurred kind of way, “Wake up, I think I am having a stroke.”

Trust me, you WAKE UP FAST hearing those words.

We pretty much did everything wrong in those first fifteen minutes of this crisis. You tried to sit up and only just managed it; you wanted a glass of water and I fetched you one, without the first clue that you might have issues swallowing and that you might have easily aspirated liquid into your lungs making things VERY much worse.Then you wanted to stand up, and that’s when it all went sideways, because you just went down like a sack of potatoes, barely missing braining yourself on the spare dining room chair that lives in the bedroom and functions as a general receptacle for piled up stuff we didn’t want to deal with putting away last thing at night. That’s where I finally called 911.

They spirited you away to the hospital, where you got a scan, which told the professionals that yes, you were right, you had suffered a stroke and it was described as “serious”. Three days in the ICU, followed by a week in hospital, followed by a couple of weeks in a nursing/rehab  home (which I loathed with a pure passion… but it was there, on my birthday in early July, that I saw you get up from your wheelchair and take your first stubborn step back into life, refusing to surrender to the embuggerance, and I wept, knowing at that moment that it was all going to be all right. I worked like a demon to get you out of that place and into a in-patient rehab unit, which is where you were by our anniversary on 13 July (and we had the entire unit working with us when I arranged a little anniversary dinner for us in the common room there; we had candles, and I remember you grumbling how a hospital kitchen sure knew how to ruin a nice piece of salmon…). You stayed there for nearly a month and a half – when you finally came home it was nearly September. You had missed the entire first summer in the place to which we had moved barely four months before your stroke, but you were there to see the leaves turn; they sent you home with a wheelchair but you never sat down in it, moving from a walker to a four-prong cane to a simple cane and then even that was set aside while you were ambulating inside the house, sure of your surroundings on level ground, and only used when you were out and you might be on unfamiliar terrain which might make you feel unsteady. When we got married you promised me that you would bring me coffee in bed every morning for the rest of my days, and you did – right until the moment you couldn’t – and then, the moment you could manage to walk from the kitchen to the bedroom carrying a mug of coffee you picked up where you left off and you kept your promise right until the end. You fought every battle and you won every battle – or near enough. Your right side was weakened and would remain weakened – your right leg had to be considered carefully when weight bearing was in play and you had lost the ability to grip things securely with your right hand but other than that you had returned, you were reborn, and we even traveled together to many places, from conventions across the USA to flying to Europe to going on a late-season Alaska cruise, and while sometimes things got complicated they were never insurmountable.

I gave you your first “rebirthday” card – a silly one that said “Today you are ONE!” on 20 June the following year. A card followed every year thereafter, and some were easily found as “special” (when you were five, or ten, or fifteen (you got a Quincanaera card for that…), Others I had to get creative about.

You would have had a special one, your eighteenth re-birthday card, in June of 2021, which I already had ready and waiting for you, but you left me nearly five months before it was due. But I put it away with the rest, in a box where all the cards now live in a repository of memory.

I have an insane urge to go out and get you a 21st (re)birthday card this year. This year, you would have been all grown up.

Oh, how I miss you.

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