It's been an interesting couple of weeks. Like most stroke survivors, I have holes in my memory, great, big, gaping holes that have eaten up large parts of my past. Most of my high school and college memories are gone. Well, they tell me they aren't gone, I just don't know how to access them any more.Not sure I believe that, but that isn't the point. Point is, I don't remember most of high school or college and what I do remember is, mostly, fleeting. So, here's the interesting part.....
Through a friend that I do have from high school, and the "magic of the internet," an old boyfriend, from high school, contacted me. Well, he was pretty much THE high school boyfriend. We dated until I went to college, the year after he did. He sent me a friend request over Facebook, and after a little talking to people, I could place him and accepted the request. So, we've chatted, emailed, talked on the phone. When I explained about my stroke and what I'm left to work with, he understood. He even understood what I meant when I told him I was "face blind," and wanted to know my baselines, so he had a point of reference. He's a school counselor for special needs children. It felt good not to have to explain every little detail about my challenges.
Anyhow, we got to talking, him trying to fill in as much of high school as I could handle, 1 conversation at a time, so I wouldn't feel overwhelmed. Believe me, I appreciate that. There is a whole lot to take in. He even sent me pictures from prom, his 18th birthday, a couple of dates to the beach, etc, and with them, he outlined who everyone on the pictures was, so that I could label the people. Then we talked on the phone (we live in different states), about the events surrounding each of the pictures, and he did his best to answer all of the questions I had. It was great that he was trying to help me regain some of my memories, but it was also exhausting. It also made me think about the person I was back then. I'm not sure I really like her.
I wasn't a bad, or mean spirited person. According to him, I have always been loving, kind, and fiercely protective of the people I cared about. None of that has changed. But, he described me as always beeing a little "larger than life," a little "running several steps ahead while everyone else walked," and even, sometimes, a little " too adventurous for my own good." According to him, I was the girl that everyone wanted at their parties because I lit up the whole place and never let there be a dull moment. He also seemed to think I was a little unstable, emotionally. I was a little (well, more than a little) wild, but in a "mostly harmless" sort of way. I don't know, it just didn't seem to sit well on me. He wasn't trying to make me feel bad about myself, nor was he trying to make me out to be anything negative. I guess I just didn't quite know how to handle being face to face, so to speak, with part of who I was pre-stroke. It's been hard for me to reconcile Lydia then and Lydia now. Of course, there is a Lydia in-between, between college and the stroke, that I haven't met yet. But we're working on that.,,,,and I'm a little apprehensive.
It's been 4 years since my stroke, or will be in about 5 days, and I've gotten used to who I am now, comfortable with who I am now; and while I am curious about who I was before, I don't want to be her any more. I want to be who I am today and who I will be tomorrow, not who I was. Then, too, I know that nobody is ever perfect, but I'm a little afraid of how imperfect I may have been. I know I've wronged people and that deserve for me to own that and apologize. But when it happens, it doesn't seem to make anything any better. I get upset because I can see how much something I did or said affected them, but I don't really have a memory of it, sometimes, and when I don't, my apology seems, somehow, hollow, which just upsets me because it doesn't come off as sincere, and them, for the same reason. And I know people get tired, easily, of hearing "I'm sorry, I guess I lost that memory in the stroke." SOmetimes, I don't think they believe me, thinking, instead, that I'm using the stroke as a convenient excuse.
Then there is the second hello. My mother moved us to Tampa 30 years ago, this year. We left behind my mother's family and moved to a state where we knew no one. Back in Ohio, in the mean time, my uncle's marriage was breaking up, due to his substance abuse issue; his way of self medicating to deal with mental and emotional issues, I've been told. Anyhow, 29 years later, we get word that he passed away. Then, a couple of nights ago, I got a call from his ex-wife, my aunt. I haven't spoken with her in those 30 years. We talked a lot and had a lot to "catch up" on. It was nice to talk to her and I promised I call her again, after a business trip I'll be taking right after the new year, to tell her how it went.
It was actually more comfortable talk to Aunt Kathy than it was talking to Michael, because she didn't really know who I was between my sophomore year of high school and now, so the focus of our conversation was centered more in the present or present and only recent past, basically, only in the time after the stroke, mainly. I handled that much better.
I guess "they" are right. You can't live your life going in any direction but forward. Trying to go in any other direction, you end up exhausted, bruised and just wanting to got back to going forward again.