Finally! The parking lot. I had made it all 5 kilometers back. And although I felt like I had just gone on a substantial hike, everything was feeling pretty good! A man can convince himself of almost anything that doesn’t include picking up after himself. In the moment, I had come to my very own personal conclusion that everything was alright and in fact I would be able to handle the upcoming hiking trip. No problem!

The task of driving myself, my son, and the new kid back home started without a hitch. Well, other than the fact that I had sweat so hard in my shirt and even though it was fresh out of the laundry, I smelled like a bag of rotten onions, so I was focused on doing everything with my arms down as close to my side as possible. Every time I would raise them a little, my eyes would start watering from the fumes comin’ out of my pits. It’s not very often I have pits that smell so bad that they could gag a maggot.

Thinking back, although I’m freaked out when I think of it now, my fine motor skills were starting to be affected. As I was trying to drive with my arms down to avoid what I thought would be a small personal embarrassment, I noted that my steering was choppy…jerky. It wasn’t Mario Andretti for sure. My motions were mostly normal, but there were signs that I can only see in retrospect. As we drove and during drop off of our passenger, I remember now that my voice seemed hoarse, and my words were choppy too. But the regular recognized signs of something else were totally absent. I was for all intents and purposes a walking time bomb. The slow slide down had started, but no one, not even I knew.

Once we got home, there was the regular chatter about our experiences of the day as our family dug in to one of our standard health food suppers (hot dogs). When your wife works at a bakery, there is always a chance to have the freshest of hot dog buns for putting some freshly smoked hot dogs into. They are so good! Other than the feeling I had which I keep describing as tired, I don’t remember any other issues. I do know that I showered and went to bed early. It’s the thing to do, after all…..when you’re tired. I had passed the window of opportunity to use  the new miracle clot busting drugs that can totally reverse the symptoms of stroke without the slightest clue that anything like that could have been happening. You already know what I blamed for anything that could have passed for a symptom. And I was looking forward to a good nights sleep to shake off the feeling.

Morning came. Sharon (my wife) had gone to work at the usual early hour and the boys had gotten up to go to school. I drove myself to my clients house to install some landscape lights. What else do you do on a work day? I climbed the ladder to work on the wiring and mounting of the lights on the house by the front door. It completely got past me when I was clumsier than usual. I honestly couldn’t make the connection at that point, and I’m not talking electrical connection. That happened. Seeing my clumsiness as an effect of a stroke is the connection that didn’t get made.

My client came over to where I was working, and as had been the case throughout the summer during the big landscaping job I had been involved in, he had questions for me. He asked, and the impact of what had been happening silently inside my skull came to light. I swear that I’ve never worked as hard on any Friday night (some runaway wine tasting shall we say) to make my words understandable. My words were slurred, even though I pulled out all stops with muscling my words into existence. I was slurring! Immediately my mind recognized what could be happening. If I would have had a mirror, I’m sure that I would have been the color of ash again, because the fear had cracked open and was dripping down on me like a broken carton of molasses.

As the fear oozed in and began to choke me, I switched it off in my mind and hastily made an exit plan. The phone rang, and I struggled through the call, with a demanding customer pushing me to act right away on the issues they wanted me to solve for them in that moment. Normally I would have seen that as business as usual with that customer, but in my crisis of that moment, I used placating words to push the issue off, and not be stressed by the demands. More questions from my customer, which I answered with as few words as possible. Pack up my gear. I had to go.

Knowing that there would be ongoing demands on me if this thing that was happening turned out to be something that would hinder work, I ran a couple errands after I had dropped the service van off at home. Some friends had asked me to take a look at a basement suite for their son to move into while going to school. I decided I couldn’t blow off my promise to do this for them. Thankfully, the vendors of the suite were a very gracious little old Italian couple. I’m sure my speech sounded like I was speaking with a strange accent. I knew I was slurring, but they seemed to understand what I was saying and it didn’t phase them. I even came away with fresh garden tomatoes and clusters of grapes. I walked through their garden while he talked about his batches of homemade wine.

While my mind raced to the realization of what the possible problem was, I was no longer tired. I had eyes as big as saucers. Scared like a cat dropped in a room full of rottweilers. I had no idea how this would turn out. Unaware of this at this time, I was further along than the erasing drugs could be used, but less than 24 hours. And no where near the bottom of the hole I was falling into.