For today’s Random Fandom, I’ve got a little story to share. Back when the lockdowns in the US first started – at least here in California on the Central Coast – I started spending more and more time outside during the day. It was just at the point where our weather here was beginning to warm up, and we had these gorgeous sunny days. I could sit outside for a couple of hours, and forget about the world. My anxiety was pretty high at the time. I had all of my kids at home, along with one very kind significant other that belongs to my oldest, one more (big) dog, and two bonus cats. Our house is spacious, but not so much so that I didn’t start feeling the walls close in from time to time. I needed to be outside just to get through the day.
At first it was me with a book, and then Whooosh! started just as I was really starting to struggle. I found that I could listen to the show and do some cleaning or gardening, and before I knew it, I was able to sleep again and started feeling better. Then my husband Walt had a stroke on a Tuesday night at the end of May, and things were pretty out of control again. I couldn’t wait until Friday came each week, because I’d listen to Whooosh! again, and even though it was only about an hour or so – it was something!
Eventually, I sent in a question, figuring it would never actually get answered. In the note, I explained how Walt had a small stroke, and that those one-hour shows were what got me through the week at first. All of that was true. I can’t really put in to words the kind of terror I felt when he first came home from the hospital.
Walt had trouble speaking. He could still talk, but the words weren’t coming to him very easily. He’d forget what he was saying mid-sentence, and it was terrifying at first. Motor skills were also a problem. He could walk and do large motor things, but tasks like typing, texting, holding pencils, utensils…and even playing piano were an issue. Let me tell you, it is crazy to see him play piano even now because the left hand does exactly what it should, but if he is playing a piece of music that he learned before the stroke, his right hand will NOT hit the right notes. New music though? Not a problem. It is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. For a few weeks, there were major improvements. I didn’t have to play “fill in the blank” for him as often when he’d speak (think charades, but not nearly as much fun). He was able to hold a pen and write again. His personality was still there, but I worried about whether or not he was still “all there”, cognitively. That was a fun conversation when he finally got mad and let me know in no uncertain terms that he still had it all together. (I can laugh now, but at the time? No way.) Every single day I would wake up and for a split second, I would think everything was fine. He was there, beside me. But then he’d go to talk and I’d remember right away that no, things weren’t right. After a while, the improvements slowed way down, and were more incremental than massive.
We weren’t sure if he’d fully recover, although the doctors felt that he would at least get close to a full recovery. In their minds though, Walt was lucky to still be alive and that should be enough. It’s hard to feel lucky when you’re terrified though, and I didn’t have a lot of people with whom I felt like I could really vent. Most people were concerned about Walt—rightfully so—and not so much about how I was managing. To be blunt, I was told more than once to stop being so selfish about my own feelings. So I stopped talking about them. They weren’t selfish though. I was scared he’d have another, and that it would be worse than the first one (which is common), and I was frightened that I needed to accept the person who came home from the hospital, and mourn the loss of the man I dropped off at the ER. Some of that fear remains, particularly about another stroke, although even I can see that he’s much healthier now than he’s been in years.
The one thing that got me through though, is Whooosh! I know that sounds silly, but it is the truth. I took that one hour each week, put my earbuds in, and just listened to their show. I didn’t think about whether Walt was getting too stressed at work (did I mention he went back to work literally the MONDAY after his stroke the previous Tuesday night? Yeah, he’s crazy that way. His excuse at the time was that he didn’t have to speak to be on conference calls, but he did need to keep his job), or whether or not he’d get his speech back completely. I listened to music. I did a lot of self-searching, and even some meditation. I took time to breathe.
So, I asked Simon and Katy about one thing I enjoy outside of Duran Duran, and that’s classical music. I couldn’t think of anything else to ask at the time. (of course I can think of lots of things when I’m listening to their show!) As I said, I figured it would go unanswered, and it did for a couple of months. I’d forgotten all about it until last Friday, when Erin messaged me and let me know they’d answered! I hadn’t had a chance to listen yet because I’m working again, and when I did – I nearly cried. Simon was so nice about Walt, and I really appreciated their kind words.
The funny thing, well, maybe not funny but something to celebrate – is that for the most part, Walt really HAS fully recovered. His speech is back, aside from momentarily lapses that even *I* experience from time to time. He can write, talk, text, use a screwdriver, and even play piano, although he does still struggle with songs he knew before the stroke. Best part is that he still drives me completely nuts – so that means he’s fully healed for sure! I almost felt bad when Katy read my letter on the show, because so much has changed since the afternoon I first sent the email. My husband was in fact, very lucky; but so am I to still have him. That last part doesn’t ever leave my mind for long, even when I’m so annoyed with him I could burst. I am beyond grateful.
I guess my main point with this Random Fandom post is that for a long time, I was kind of convinced that I didn’t matter. That Duran Duran wouldn’t or didn’t really *see* me – except when maybe I was right in front of them. Now, that didn’t change the way I felt about the music, obviously. I love their music regardless!! I just accepted the fact that not everyone gets recognized in some fashion – whether by winning a contest, or having a question answered online, or having many photos with them. None of that felt so devastating that I was dejected and couldn’t be a fan; more that I just felt, at times, that I blended into the wallpaper. That is a feeling I’m pretty used to experiencing.
We all like knowing from time to time that yeah, they can see us. Maybe we get a shout-out, or just some sort of simple acknowledgment – whether we’re talking about Duran Duran, another band, or even our significant other. That’s what Friday was for me. It was really nice, and for those who think it’s always the same people who get questions answered, I’d suggest they give it a shot and send in a question to Whooosh! You never know, and when it does happen, it’s a lovely surprise.