STROKE

In the spring of 1998 my wife Fumiko suffered, in the middle of the night, a complete paralysis of her left side. This was a calamity of some magnitude as can be imagined. Stroke is a disaster, recovery is a long hard road and is never complete.

The reaction to disaster can take curious and unforeseeable forms.

She took her first steps in September, and came home to camp out in the living room while she reassembled the muscular co-ordination to tackle the stairs.

A morning of those early days: having helped her get up from the Porta-Potty, I would balance her on her good leg with one arm while washing her bum with the other hand, then drying. There were times when the intimacy of this dance became so absurd that there was a distinct danger of falling over because of laughter.

There is a curious lesson from this disaster. I wondered idly one day, if it had been possible to turn back the clock, to unstrike the stroke, would I? And instantly I knew I would not have. I was startled at the force of my rejection. This was not sour grapes, this was not sighing and making the best of it with resignation, no, it was a strong choice. Of course, I thought, it was easy for me to say—but what about Fumiko? I asked her. She instantly said no —never!

It seems a strange reaction, difficult to explain. The stroke makes being in the world more difficult for her and it will probably shorten her life. More of my time is taken up in looking after her. But surviving this ordeal changed us. We became slightly different people. Our stance vis-à-vis the world is perhaps more sure. Why would we want to go back?

The irony of course is that the possibility of a further stroke is as horrifying to us now as an intimation of the first would have been in the summer of 1997.