Our beloved high school friend had a stroke

Ten of us met for lunch last Saturday at El Cholo in La Habra. It was to be a reunion of sorts with high school friends and to welcome Ann and Jack who drove in from Tucson. Unfortunately, what we all hoped would be a happy reunion turned out very sad. There were tears immediately when Wendy and her husband Doug arrived. For some this was the first time to see her since her massive stroke in the fall of 2018. Bob and I and Lee and Chris had seen her six months earlier. In my mind she had not improved. Actually, she seemed much worse. But she insisted on coming out to see us all for what we learned later would be her last outing. In four days’ time she was going to be moved to a home that specialized in caring for stroke victims like her.

The night her stroke happened she was giving a talk about her newly published book – one of many she has written throughout her life. Wendy, a professed Wiccan, had a Ph.D., and had been the head of women’s studies at the California State University at Long Beach. Just a few months before we had all celebrated her birthday at an elegant party on the Queen Mary. I also went to a  writing workshop and had lunch with her about a month earlier. She told me she was taking medication for very high blood pressure at that lunch.

There was no elegance this last Saturday – even though Doug had their caregiver do Wendy’s hair and put a little makeup on her face – that wiped off quickly as she or Doug constantly wiped her mouth of the remains of foods or drinks she could barely swallow. She also couldn’t competently hold a cup and continued to spill water down the large bib that Doug had put over her front.

Though I could barely understand her words, I knew she could understand what I said to her, so I feel she is still viable – though a lot less so – mentally. But six months before she seemed more coherent and more involved in our conversation.

After we kissed and hugged goodbye, I told her I loved her. She said, I love you too as she kept hold of my hand. Those were her most intelligible words the whole afternoon.

I then hugged Doug and told him what a hero I thought he was. He paid constant attention to his wife throughout the lunch. Of course, that is the way he’s treated her ever since she was released to their home after her initial hospital care.

I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself for more than a second, so blurted them out to Bob as we walked to our car from the restaurant. Just shoot me, I said, if that ever happens to me. And if you can’t do that, put me in a home and lock me up right away. I wasn’t the only one to say those words after experiencing what a stroke did to our dear high school friend, Wendy.

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