The Problem With Stroke Hands

Hey Darling Ones,

Since the stroke I spend a lot of time thinking about my hands. I also spend a lot of time thinking about Marge Piercy’s poem The Friend.

I’ve carried this poem inside of me since I read it in my Women’s Lit class during the summer of 1991. That’s some staying power.

Incidentally, I’ve also been singing that one Jewel song. You know, the one they play on “Dawson’s Creek” after Jen dies. I cannot blame this on stroke-related brain damage. This is just run-of-the-mill too much pop culture related brain damage.

I think about my hands so much because those fuckers betray me all the damn time. I mean,, yes, I did suffer a stroke and I’m lucky they function at all. Fine, be all optimistic. My mom is constantly amazed by the mobility in my floppy scoop.

“Your dad couldn’t even raise his arm above his head after his stroke,” she says.

Of course, my mom doesn’t see the floppy scoop in action as often. She’s not here when opening a piece of string cheese can reduce me to a frustrated, red-faced ball of rage.

I’m not kidding.

I finished the last of the string cheese yesterday and as I threw the cursed plastic wrapper, I told Wendell, “As god is my witness I’m never eating a piece of string cheese again.”

Yes, I’ve given up that entire genre of cheese. It’s a shame because it’s a good snack for diabetics. It looks super easy and convenient. That is a lie. Never, not once in all my post-stroke life has one of those bastards opened where it says “Open here.” Scissors weren’t as much help as you’d think. I’ve decided string cheese is not worth the effort.

Most packaging is a nightmare for my floppy scoop. Anything with that ziplock-type closure can reduce me to near tears. They’re not so hard to open the first time, it’s each subsequent time that’s difficult. I’m ashamed to admit that Swiss cheese made me cry once while shouting “WHY CAN’T ANYTHING BE EASY.” Even though I can do hard things, it doesn’t mean I want all the things to be a challenge.

Here’s an abridged list of things made more difficult with my stroke hand.

  • Peeling off those dumb produce stickers. Woe be to ye who accidentally gets it wet before removing it. That makes it exponentially more difficult, especially on peppers.
  • Drinking Diet Coke. I don’t drink soda very often. Maybe one or two a month. I have those tiny cans of Diet Coke, which is a perfect serving size. However, brining that thing to my lips is a hair-raising adventure. My tenor gets so bad I’m shocked whenever I don’t spill half of it on my chest.
  • NOT clicking on ads. I’m probably responsible for a double-digit increase in click-throughs all over the internet. It makes me so cranky when my finger misses my intended click target.
  • Duolingo. I’m pretty damn proud of my 1690-day streak. I even practiced Spanish the day I had my stroke. My shaky-hand has made any of the timed lessons nearly impossible. You add in my bad vision and it’s not fun. But I still do it. Of course.
  • Typing. I don’t think my stroke hand is solely to blame for this. I’m going to 100% blame it for all my typos. Though it’s probably a combination of heavy right side & problematic vision.
  • Texting. This is different than typing & more difficult. My tremor-y fingers send a lot of nonsense replies. The other day I responded to a picture of Sister #2’s new ‘do with, “thanks a lot.”
  • Stirring. I just don’t do this anymore because it’s a messy endeavor. If I plan on preparing something that requires stirring I either change my plans or wait until someone is here to help.
  • Washing my hair. This is why I shaved it all off. It’s still takes a lot of effort, but less so now.
  • Watching TV. The remote control is not my friend. I had to re-enter a password recently and nearly gave up. Damn you, Succession!
  • Getting water. My tremor really comes out when I have to extend my arm. So I’m shaky and trying to press the water or ice pad on my fridge. It’s not good.
  • Listening to records. I can’t do this at all. Between trying to get it on the record player and the delicacy of dropping the needle, my arms and hands just can’t do it.

I’m sure there are more, but you get the idea. Everything in my life has been impacted by this stroke. It sounds so dramatic, but it’s true!

That’s all I got today, Darling Ones. There’s nothing left in the tank.


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