Excerpted from John Kawie's column "Life At The Curb" in the March/April 2006 issue of Stroke Connection Magazine.“I’m throwing those away,” my wife Marilyn said, looking down at my pants.
Confused, I asked, “Throwing what away?” “Those jeans,” she replied.
It seemed a shame, because she had a snap sewn in place of the rivet button at the waist to make it easier for me to put them on after the stroke. Then again they were starting to get a little drafty. No, windy. Okay, sometimes there was a nor’easter coming up from the south
I hadn’t shopped for a pair of jeans since way before the stroke, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. I was pretty out of touch. Marilyn offered to come with me, but I knew if that happened I’d be in the store for two days trying on different styles, so I told her I could handle it.
Before the stroke, shopping for jeans, like so many other things, was easy. I knew the styles. I knew what I liked – Levi’s 501’s. Essentially it was quick and painless. I dodged salespeople like a running back … cut left, grab a pair of 30X30’s, duck into the fitting room, a no huddle try-on -- touchdown! That is, pay and get out.
Now it’s different, I walk slowly into the store and salespeople immediately surround me like hyenas would a wounded wildebeest on the Serengeti. After a stroke, even simple decisions are difficult. But the questions start coming. And they keep coming. “You want regular or low rise?” I imagine myself with a plumbers butt and pick regular.
“What about the finish? Antique, stonewash, natural, rustic or worn?” I thought I could avoid that one by outsmarting them and choosing black. No such luck. Even the store manager, Stewart, got involved (Oh, yeah, I’m on a first-name basis by now). Without missing a beat, he prissily says, “Excuse me, sir, they don’t come in black. They come in Night Sky, Coriander, Pinecone, Mallard, Timber, Squall, New Potato, Asparagus, Sea, Sand, and my personal favorite, Pink Snapper.” Whoa, Stewart, these are way too many choices for anyone, stroke survivor or not. I went with Night Sky, because it looked like black to me.
That’s all before the critical fit decision. I whittled it down from four to two. Relaxed Fit or Easy Fit. I went with Easy Fit because Relaxed Fit looked like it could double for a car cover.
Now, time to try them on. After the stroke, my technique for putting on pants with one hand was to either lie on my bed, or lean against a wall. The fitting room had no wall space, and the bench was too small to lie on, so I ended up on the floor. This was anything but easy or relaxed. From this position, I could see the rest of the store, and they could see me, because the wall didn’t go down all the way to the floor. While I was lying there trying to button the Easy Fits, Stewart poked his head under the partition and asked me if I needed help. Help? I needed a miracle. I needed a crane. But all I had was Stewart.
Finally, after 2 1/2 hours of intense cognitive, physical and occupational
therapy, enduring an ordeal worthy of a Fear Factor challenge during Sweeps Week
… I had a pair of pants.
Editor's Note: For Information on booking John Kawie's one-man show about stroke recovery "Life At The Curb," contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.