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Chapter XXVI - Nicola's Stroke

He told me he had not felt well in the morning so he had stopped working and dressed to attend Mass at the church. He said he was all right now but he could not control his shoulder and arm from shaking. I decided to call the doctor. Twenty-one years ago one could get in touch with the doctor at any time. The doctor suggested that my husband put his hand in very warm water. We did what the doctor suggested and then my husband decided to retire. When I went to bed he was fast asleep.

The next morning I got up and prepared breakfast and called him. He got up, dressed, and came to the table. I noticed that his speech was slurred, his mouth was pulled to one side and his eyes were bloodshot. His arm was still shaking. He refused to eat and went to bed. I called the doctor and told him he had to come over and examine my husband because there was something wrong. By now I was alone with him. The doctor arrived, went into the bedroom, looked at my husband and walked into the kitchen. He said, "Your husband has to be taken to the hospital. He has suffered a stroke."

I was paralyzed with fear but I had to act fast. I called my daughter-in-law Alice and asked her to call Edward at work and tell him to come to our house because he had to take his father to the hospital.

Nicola was resting in bed when Edward arrived. We helped him in the car. His admittance had already been arranged for by the doctor and a nurse took over at the hospital. He was assigned a bed in a semi-private room. I could see that he had worsened. The doctor came and left instructions with the nurse. I asked him about the outcome but he said he could not tell yet. It all depended upon when the bleeding stopped. Eddie and I went home very depressed. I prepared a little dinner for the three of us, Richard, Marie and myself. I had to keep busy.

The whole family came to the hospital during the nighttime visiting hours.

My husband's condition was critical. He was conscious but very much confused. The next day his condition deteriorated and the doctor told me to notify my daughter Helen in Venezuela. My husband was paralyzed on the right side and on the third day lost consciousness. Our daughter Irma came to the hospital with her husband to see her father. She was expecting her third child and her time was near. I told her it was not necessary to visit her father in her condition and it would be better for her to visit him when he felt better.

My husband entered the hospital on the seventeenth day of May and Irma delivered her child on the twenty- sixth.

I had spent many hours at my husband's bedside. After visiting hours I went to see Irma at the hospital where my daughter was confined. The personnel pointed out to me that visiting hours were over. I told them I could not come during visiting hours because her father was critically ill in another hospital. Besides, my daughter was in a private room and it would not cause discomfort for another patient. I was permitted to visit her. I assured her that her father's hemorrhage had stopped and there were signs of recovery. The nurse brought my new beautiful granddaughter into her room. I went home tired but happy for my daughter and her new child.

Helen arrived from Venezuela and was a great comfort to me. She and my son Richard assumed the responsibility of stocking and opening the store at the shore.

My husband recovered enough to be sent home. He was able to walk dragging his right leg. His right arm was paralyzed and he had to learn to eat with his left hand. In time he learned to dress by himself. The sad part of it all was that he had lost the power of comprehension. He would grasp a word now and then. His speech was very much slurred. The doctor gave him a set of exercises and he tried scrupulously to master them. Some improvement was attained. His personality had gone through a transformation. From a gentle, friendly nature he became abusive and demanding. His wishes had to be satisfied no matter how unreasonable they might be.

Three days after he came home I had to go to the shore to change the bank account to my son's name. He needed money to stock the business. My daughter Lucy came with her husband Henry to care for her father.

I was very pleased with the way Helen and Richard had arranged the goods on the shelves. There was hardly any business in June because the vacationers usually arrive on the last weekend in June and stay until Labor Day. Richard decided to take a job in a supermarket, the Acme, as a clerk to cover his own expenses. Helen tended the store. I complimented them on being well organized.

I had been away from home for two days. When I got back I was dismayed that Nicola had given Lucy a hard time and she was glad to be relieved of the responsibility.

When our new home was built he had insisted on having a bathroom in the basement so that when he came home from work he could change his clothes and clean up before coming upstairs to eat. That one bathroom with a shower was his private one.

We had two more bathrooms, one on the first floor and one on the second floor. Our bedroom was on the first floor.

The doctor had told us that he should not climb stairs. Lucy told me that he wanted to go to the basement to his bathroom, but she insisted he use the one on the first floor because she was afraid he would fall. He got angry and hit her arm.

I could see that he relaxed when he saw me. In his sick mind he thought that I had disappeared and left him.

Lucy was glad to leave her charge and go home.

With me around he was more manageable and would eat his meals, rest and sleep. Improvement was taking place in his arm and leg but his mind was still in a fog.

I had intended to stay home all summer and care for him. Also he would be near the doctor. In July he must have grasped a glimpse of the situation and realized he was not at the shore. He began to try to communicate with me. Why weren't we at the shore? I realized that he wanted an explanation. I told him we were staying home because he had been sick and had to get strong. He didn't agree with me and tried to make a fist to show that he was strong. His try was futile and he could not close his hand. He got upset and began to scream and call me names, accusing me for keeping him home. I had learned to understand his tantrums even if I could not understand his words. It was pathetic but I gave in because I was afraid that if I did not take him to the shore he would have another stroke. On the road I could feel spasms in his legs and arms and I was worried.

He spent the whole summer at the shore. Helen was doing most of the work but I would help when it was busy around breakfast, lunch and suppertime. In midmorning and midafternoon it was very slow so I would clean the apartment, cook the meals, do the laundry and care for my husband during those times.

It was around the end of August and around 5:00 p.m., our busiest time, when Nicola started to call me very loudly to come back into the kitchen. There he was excitedly pointing to the radio and saying, "Mio, mio." Lowell Thomas was on the news. Nicola always liked to listen to the news and Lowell Thomas was his favorite commentator. For the first time since his illness he could identify the program. I put my arms around him and he clung to me. Repeating, "Mio, mio" he wanted to convey to me that it was the program he liked best.

He began to recognize his children. Sometimes he could not remember their names and I had to say each one in turn until the one was mentioned that he wanted to talk about.

Summer soon was over. Helen was joined by her husband John and she had to leave.

Richard was with us but soon was to leave for service.

Marie was working in New York City. She had a job in her field and had to commute. It was hard for her to be the only one left in a large house since there was little time for her to mow the lawn and maintain the grounds.

Upon consulting with my children we decided to sell the house in Maplewood and move back to Coolidge Street. We would take one of the apartments and my daughter Colette the other. My daughter Lee had bought a house and did not live at Coolidge Street any more. I gave the tenant notice that I needed the apartment and we made our plans to move.

The move seemed even more urgent because of an incident, which happened prior to leaving. One morning in the early dawn I was awakened by a loud thud. Startled I looked at the bed; Nicola wasn't there! I jumped out of bed and looked for him in the main floor bathroom but he wasn't there. I heard a moaning in the cellar so I ran down the stairs. He was in his private bathroom slumped on the toilet seat. He had taken advantage of seeing me asleep and decided to go down the cellar. Usually he would awaken me but he wanted to prove that he could manage by himself. He managed to go down the steps to the bathroom but when he reached it the door was closed. Instead of pushing the door open he walked into it and fell forward across the toilet. When I reached him he was in a sweat and fainting. I helped him to his feet and turned him toward the stairs but his knees gave in and he slumped on the steps. I screamed, "Marie, Marie, call the doctor!"

Poor Marie! There she was, a young girl awakened from her sleep and running down the stairs to help me! The two of us were not able to carry him upstairs again. I said loudly, "Marie, get the doctor."

The word "doctor" stirred a chord in his consciousness and he shook his head and said, "No, no doctor." He seemed to regain a little of his strength and that helped us to get him upstairs and into bed.

That cellar bathroom must not be available to him so I was glad when we moved back to Coolidge Street on the first of November. Moving back was a happy occasion.

My daughter Colette took the second floor apartment and we lived in the first floor apartment. There was a bathroom in the basement there, too, but we had another built on the first floor so it would be more available.

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