Learning the banjo (again) after a stroke – Part 2

Part 1 Part 3

It was now almost 11 am. 2 1/2 hours since 8:20 am and my thoughts of making a cup of coffee. As soon as the clot was found, TCP was administered. Almost immediately, I felt my left side come back to life! This was great! I thought I would maybe even go back to work – now let’s figure what’s for lunch…

But it wasn’t to be quite so simple as that. After a few minutes, I felt things gradually going back to a state of paralysis again. And there they would stay, perhaps for the rest of my life. Or… perhaps not, but I could not see that at the time. Over the next few days, life seemed to be coming to a very practical close for me. I was only eking out a mere existence now, for who knows how long.

The next few weeks were difficult times, filled with despair. Nights were especially difficult. Up until this event, I had always had a good feeling thinking of hospitals, a sense of security in knowing how close I would be, if ever I were a patient in one, to the latest and the best care I could get.

I now realized I needed a new word in my vocabulary. A word that would accurately yet succinctly describe that thought and feeling (it’s both) of when your perceptions of an ideal situation are dashed against a harsh reality. I have had that happen maybe two or three other times in life, but not until this time did I really connect them as passages in life that everyone must go through. Hopefully, coming out all the wiser on the other side – yes, hopefully.

In reality, being aware of the latest medical technology was not the comfort I had envisioned. Nor was being fairly close to others. Instead, I was simply a number (I believe I was number 217, as in “Have you woke up 217 yet? Well go do it!”) I now understood what others had described to me in times past.

One very odd positive note in all this – I now laughed. A lot! If something was truly funny, I simply had to laugh out loud. And many things had a new face, and a new curiosity about them, often causing laughter. I think I laughed more in the first year after my stroke that I had in the previous ten.

Still, I had no idea what the future held now. How well would I respond to rehabilitation? No doctor nor rehab specialist could – or would – answer that. There was only a quiet resignation to either despair or the unknown.

Stelling Red Fox Banjo

Perhaps it would have been fitting for the future-me to tell the stroke-laden-me that the outcome of the arduous process that lay ahead would really be up to me and my willingness to fight. It’s true that the first thing I thought of after realizing that I was having a stroke was “I won’t be able to play the banjo anymore!” And I think that was a large part of my willingness to try to the point of total frustration to try to get back my life and my ability to play the banjo.

I remembered that day in college when I heard Tim Alexander playing “Flint Hill Special” in the band named Pickin’ Apples. That’s when I said to myself “I have no idea what it involves, but I’m going to do whatever it takes to learn the banjo!”

It was that time again.

Continued in Part 3

About Phill Gibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Software Engineer and part-time banjo instructor. My wife Miiko and I worship at Rivertree Downtown. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin and dulcimer at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play and teach Scruggs, melodic, clawhammer, and 2-finger styles. I'm also very keen on theology, being a Trail Care Partner with the Land Trust of North Alabama, photography, urban planning, architecture, astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, martial arts, and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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2 Responses to Learning the banjo (again) after a stroke – Part 2

  1. Pingback: Learning the banjo (again) after a stroke – Part 1 | Phill Gibson

  2. Pingback: Learning the banjo (again) after a stroke – Part 3 | Phill Gibson

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