Chris stayed with his dad last week while his mom was out of town. On Sunday I stopped by for dinner (yep, all by myself!) and saw him folding laundry. I noticed one of the things was an embroidered tea towel my grandma made and without even thinking said it out loud.

No big deal, right?

My grandma died of an aneurysm when I was 2. As my parents say, as if to stretch her life out just a little longer, 2 and a half. I have only one vivid memory of a person I’ve been told loved me very much. I was on a little sled, dressed in a bright magenta snowsuit, and our dog was jumping around in the snow. My dad was pulling the sled while my mom snapped pictures. My grandma and grandpa were standing next to one another on the stoop outside the front door of their house, big smiles on their faces.

That’s it.

My grandma had silver hair and a dress on that day.

I know she came to Canada from Eastern Europe, on a boat, with her parents.
I know she was very good at embroidery, sewing and quilting because I still have some of the things she made.
I know her thimble cookie recipe never fails and she made the best homemade noodles.
I know she washed laundry by hand.
I know she played the piano.
I know she loved God and was the head of children’s Sunday school at our church.
I know she babysat me everyday while my mom went to work (go mom, 70’s power!).
I know she favored me because my cousin Lynn told me how much it pissed her off.
I know she is not the only one of her sisters to die from a stroke or aneurysm.

All my life I’ve felt a strange connection to my father’s mother, even though I didn’t know her. When I was 19 I moved home for the summer from University and had what we now call a transient ischemic attack (TIA). I walked into the house with the last box and, out of nowhere, went completely paralyzed on my left side, couldn’t talk or move. When it was over I was left with a raging headache and my dad, especially, was white as a ghost. I went through a battery of tests that summer and there were a lot of nervous glances, hushed voices and whispers just out of earshot.

Now I know why.

Today is World Stroke Day. Normally I wouldn’t come on here and get too heavy into my family history, but this is a big deal. Did you know that every two seconds someone in the world is having a stroke? Did you know that your risk for stroke is greater if a parent or grandparent has had one? Did you know that someone who has had a TIA is almost 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same gender and age who hasn’t? This stuff is real and it’s happening a lot.

Check out the World Stroke Campaign and the American Stroke Association to learn more. The F.A.S.T ways to spot a stroke are something everyone should be equipped with.

I spent the majority of last year trying to act like nothing happened to me and that wasn’t my smartest move. If you’re out there in a high stress job and have even one hint of TIA or stroke in your family history, I hope you’ll look at what’s happened to me (here and here) and rethink your career. Arm yourself with all the information you can and live your best life.

As an aside, my grandmother LOVED CATS – just like me – and today is also National Cat Day! It’s sad for me to see all the things we have in common but never got a chance to share, so this one’s in her honor.

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