Last Monday marked thirteen years since my stroke. Thirteen. No one ever really recognizes the day except for me, but I don’t know if I would even want them to. Waterworks here would not be able to handle it. Is it a celebratory day? Is it a sad day? Do I want to remember it? I don’t know if other people even remember. Or maybe they’re too scared to say anything. Or maybe they just want me to forget. But I remember it. It was rare, I was there, I remember it, all too well.
It happened on a dreary, cold Saturday afternoon during Thanksgiving break in Charlotte. We spent Thanksgiving day at the Shah’s, a tradition my friends and their families had started several years before. None of us had extended family in Charlotte so we began to see each other and their parents as family and celebrated together whenever we stayed in Charlotte. I spent Friday lazily brunching and shopping with my girlfriends, and being pulled away ever so often to talk/argue with my then boyfriend. Then, I spent a perfectly unextraordinary evening binge-watching some Bollywood with my parents and brother. But the next day, I walked into an Urgent Care with dizziness, and never walked out.
I used to play this short film over and over again in my head in the ICU, trying to figure out where I went wrong. Or hoping to find a loophole I may have missed the first hundred thousand times. But it always had the same ending.
Whenever I spend Thanksgiving in Charlotte, it’s always a complicated jumble of deja vu, regrets and what ifs. I see the same people, I go to the same places—traditions are supposed to be like that. But it’s so hard not to imagine a parallel universe where there was no stroke. Who would be the husband I would bring to Thanksgiving? What would be the names of my kids who would be running around with all of my friends’ kids? What would I be saying in my once-legendary Thanksgiving toast? Would I even have this time-off from work, or even be working in this country at all? This definitely isn’t a productive line of thinking, but it’s right there, teasing me with my every labored bite of mashed potatoes. I feel like there’s a giant elephant in the room, stalking me with images of what could have been but never was.
The strange thing is, I never really think about these what ifs anymore, except around this time. I’m kind of over it, I guess you could say. I’ve accepted my life and know what ifs are useless. But there’s something about anniversaries and holidays that brings it all back.
My one friend from medschool, though, does always email me around November 29th just to say he’s thinking about me. It reminds me I wasn’t the only one affected by this day. And that I’m not alone in feeling some kind of nostalgia around this time. It’s really all I need. I don’t know how people were affected but I do feel a sort of kinship with those who were there, those who also remember it, all too well. My brother brought me bagels which was his way of telling me he was thinking about me, which was definitely a solid approach too 😉
My brother’s birthday is October 13th and my birthday (and Taylor Swift’s) is December 13th so my lucky number is, of course, 13. So maybe, this will be a good year, a great year. I hope, I want, I need something to happen to keep me grounded in this world—the fragile footing I have now won’t hold. I don’t know if it will be personal, professional or progress-wise, but I don’t care. I need something to happen that will stop me from craving what never was. Something, anything. I need something that will finally make me forget.