In a few days, it’s going to be a year since my mother had a stroke. She lost her ability to speak clearly, to put words in order, to say her loved one’s names. She forgot how to read, and for months, was confused about where everything was in her very own kitchen.
Despite this, minutes after she came home from hospital, she grabbed a knife, went out to her garden and cut a few bags of broccoli to distribute to my family, her sister and my cousin. Though unable to make toast in the rehabilitation hospital (to the mortification of the OT, she stuck a knife in the toaster to get the bread out), the way she cut that broccoli was confident, an act as natural as breathing. A lifetime of being in the garden doesn’t get forgotten in a hurry, even if the remembering part of your brain has taken a beating.
In the first few terrifying days after the stroke, she had been trying to tell us something and for the life of us we just couldn’t understand what it was. My brother and cousins and I tried to piece together the puzzle of what she was asking us to do. As I watched her in the garden, I realised what had been concerning her so: she didn’t want us to let the broccoli go to waste.
Today I took her to the doctor.
‘Blood pressure good, heart sounds great, spirit fabulous; you'll live for another 20 years!’ says the doctor.
'Maybe to 100,' she jokes.
Afterwards, I cooked lunch for her and my brother to celebrate the milestone of good health. As I fossicked in her garden to add to my ravioli dish, it was reassuring to know that the broccoli is back in season, and that my mother is still well enough to tend it.
My phone camera roll for the last year tells a story of recovery which has at its heart cooking and gardening and giving. She has ticked off so
many milestones – re-learning how to read simple words from an old Greek school reader; learning how to say the names of common objects around her; mastering how to cook our favourite dishes; going to church and working out where to light the candles – with grace, patience, and a wicked sense of humour. I’m so blessed that my mother, and her inimitable, I-refuse-to-be-knocked-down-spirit, is still here. They simply don’t make models like her any more.