Updated: Oct 12
My last blog was in March six months ago but I have a good excuse.
In that March, unknown to me, an ischemic stroke due to a blocked carotid neck artery was unfolding. A Montreal cousin meeting me for breakfast in Ottawa had noticed my confusion. She messaged a traveling sister of mine in Italy who asked her son, my Godson, to call. He quickly recognized a stroke with my slurred speech and word confusion. He asked a friend to get me to the hospital. Within days, I had an artery stent that saved me but would not yet unfix the stroke's long-term deficits, i.e. clock and calendar confusion, zero energy. Incredibly , there was no physical nor speech disabilities.
I was heading to a remarkable rehab therapy for another six weeks. This wordsmith discovered the best new description for a stroke is "brain injury" As invisible it all was, imagine my brain wrapped in many bandages.
The stroke indeed was a blessing, "luck", a wakeup call from too much stress, rich food, and too much pandemic-induced alcohol. I was to launch a recovery with new allies of meditation, aquafit in a warm pool, exercise, a Mediterranean diet, and better leash the bad, old Rick (who could be fun) and could be armed and dangerous to my health.
Slow down, Rick!
My new gospel
In my corner, was an extraordinary legion of love in family, friends, and healthcare professionals at Ottawa Civic Hospital (one month), Ottawa General Hospital Rehabilitation Centre (two months) and a post-release six months of virtual therapist and group work with the Robin Easy Centre in Kanata. This was a mini boot camp from my hospital days.
To talk about miracles, I made this basket. Me! The guy who is not handy nor arts and crafty. Okay, I had created two books though, Soar, Adam, Soar (Dundurn Press, 2018) and Father Rick Roamin' Catholic (Friesen Press 2022). . This basket had some F-bombs hurled at it as it taught me a new gospel, to slow down, to persevere, to focus, and pay attention. The orange band was a reminder for my progressive (NDP ) politics. The purple is a colour for epilepsy, anchoring my late son's Adam story as I began on a wave of fears, anxiety, and questions to fashion my new story.
Of course, Adam wiggled right into my rehabilitation as I sweated and struggled on every day, reminding myself how he waded through his seizures and epic transgender journey home to Adam, no matter the hurts and harms out there when some folk will never let people be who they are.
On a bad day at the hospital, this picture in a lobby caught my attention. I feared the stroke would kill my days at my new lovely Abiwin Housing co-op at Centretown Ottawa and perhaps endanger my writing career. I was identifying a weak left hand as I tried texting with it, producing so many typos. I looked up at the image. It was the mother-son love that captivated me and this little boy who actually looked quite a bit as I did at that age.
As I posted this image on my Facebook to tell friends how it inspired me, they pointed out its two elements my stroke missed. The woman has a well-known story in the community, a OC Transpo bus crash victim who has valiantly persevered in her long road to rehabilitation. But I had missed her boy's name. Adam! I knew I would get better with this hard work.I met in hospital and rehab heroic individuals never quitting on life or themselves.
Before the stroke, for a new book project, I was planning with a high school buddy to drive in Italy to visit the battlefields and towns my dad, Pte. Dick Prashaw, had fought first in Italy from April 1944 to the last days to head to the Netherlands. He was a D-Day Dodger, the so-called joke Lady Astor said to refer to the long fighting Canadian soldiers in Italy who did not land in Normandy. They made up this song to make light of the slight. There was no way that I could drive with my friend. His own health challenges had him bowing out from the trip. I remembered a tour that would get me to Sicily, the abbey in Cassino, the many Liri Valley battles like Pontecorvo and Ceprano, to Rimini and across the Gothic Line. I booked a seat. I am keen to honour my Dad, to learn about Operation Husky as the Allies landed in Sicily. I"ll be a few days in Rome and Venice. My ears, soul, imagination, and phone voice and camera recordings will chronicle the memories from the Italian guides , hosts, and the Canada-Italy WW2 Friends group. I will post pictures on my Facebook Author Page and Instagram at @RickPrashaw.If the gods smile, there will be a book where I time travel from 2022 to 1943-45. The brain and imagination are not damaged even though a book may be a hard slog.
It seemed like Everest to me but, even refusing several speaker invitations, I did two of my author talks. They were in Collingwood and Pembroke for Pride celebrations. Here is the Collingwood Library talk that honed on human rights and protecting vulnerable peope at an age that was so different in gender themes from my adolesence and early years as an adult. Working with my Robin Easy therapist, I scaled down the length and began to use index cards for the first time in public speaking, while taking on a stool to conserve energy.. There will be a few, quite spaced presentations in schools and churches but never the frequency I had tried in a hectic book tour to sell books and to be an advocate for transgender and LGTBQ+ youth and families.
This slide from the Kissing Fish progressive Christianity site inspired many in both audiences. I"ll blog more on Italy later. I am sorry if the brain injury missed a few typos.