The Caribbean lifestyle is rich in culture and delectable cusine. Our tasty delicacies and meals can sometimes be hazardous to our own health. As a child, the most common ailments I heard Jamaicans speak of, is their “pressure”, diabetes and stroke.
Granny was always hearing about someone who died from a stroke, had a stroke or thought they were having a stroke. It seemed to be the number one killer of people in Jamaica at that time.
I was always curious about adult maladies and whatever I did not understand, I curled up with my old friend, the Encyclopedia Brittanica and found a wealth of knowledge there. The encylopedias were a great companion for me because they taught me riddles, limericks and all sorts of nifty information about places around the world.
So on a hot, humid Jamaican day when Granny received a phone call that Sister Punchinella had a stroke. I was right there to comfort her with facts and a bit of wit.
Granny called, “Mags come here quick!”
“What’s the matter Granny?”
“Poor Ms. Punchinella was in her kitchen cooking her Sunday dinner, and the next thing she knew, she had fallen down. The children find her lying on the ground.”
“So Granny what happen after that?”
“Well, she was so heavy, that it take all four of them to drag her into the bed,. Then they call for an ambulance. When she got to the hospital, they said she had a stroke. Mags, can you imagine? It seems like everybody is getting a stroke these days. I just bury your Grandfather after his thirteenth stroke. Now everytime the phone rings, I am hearing about someone who got struck down by this illness. Lord have mercy! What is this world coming to?”
“Alright Granny, never mind,” I responded.
This was my shining moment to comfort granny with all my scientific research done on my quiet afternoons away from school.
“Granny, did you know that people in the world have a stroke every few seconds?”
“Not all people Mags, some, who suffer from Hypertension.”
“What’s hypertension Granny?”
“Pressure…….” Granny looked awfully worried and concerned.
“Don’t worry, I’ll look that up next time. Anyway, Granny, I found out that a stroke is a brain attack and something about Poppa’s taxi.”
“What does Poppa’s taxi have to do with this?”
“Ok Granny, I think I got confused with this word….a-p-o-p-l-e-x-y?”
“Apoplexy, sweetheart the word look familiar to you, but it has nothing to do with Poppa’s taxi.”
“Ok then, so you know what I am trying to say?”
“These people’s brain don’t have any blood supply or they get a flood in their brain and the next thing they know is, dem undying. Granny, the book says it can happen to anyone and sometimes they can’t get around. Granny, do you think old man Powell had a stroke?”
“No sweetheart, his foot got stuck one day in his Singer machine, and squeeze his big toe. That is why he has a cane.”
“Oh…., Then maybe rude boy Waltham have one, he’s always acting so silly. Twisting himself up, especially when he does those dances.”
“Mags, a stroke usually only happens to older people.”
“Why Granny? Is it because their body gets too tired?”
“Yes, I guess you could say that, or because they are under a lot of stress or they don’t eat properly.”
“Granny, I think you’re right, the book said that your foods shouldn’t be salty and fried. I guess from now on we are going to have to boil everthing…..huh Granny?”
“Not necessarily, I can bake most things or we can eat more raw foods. Like fruits and vegetables.”
“Granny, I just thought of something! You’re older right…..? So, that means….You could get a stroke too?”
“Yes, but don’t worry your little head about that. The Lord takes care of Granny.”
“Granny, tell me the truth, how are you feeling? Are you a little weak, dizzy? Do you feel like you can’t move any part of your body? Come Granny, lie down. I’m going to put on some lovely church hymns for you. I’m going to mix you a cup of your favorite tea. Tie your head wrap tight, I don’t want you to get a heart attack or a stroke…Okay, I’ll be right back.”
Granny indulged me in my efforts because she knew somehow I had become preoccupied with strokes and their effects on people around me. Maybe, it was because I saw my Grandfather fight like a champion to elude THE STROKES. Whatever the feelings were, I was on it and determined to prevent my Granny from having one of those nasty episodes.
I returned from the kitchen, with one tea gone awry, a transistor radio, limacol and a bowl of fruit for Granny to nibble on. In my child-like mind, these items were supposed to make everything great.
After suprising Granny with a good douse of limacol on her forehead, she declared, “Child, are you trying to give me pneumonia?”
“Here Granny drink this, you’ll feel chipper in no time.”
Granny took one sip of the cold tea and commented. “Thanks dear, but this tea will definitely give me a stroke. As she gently removed sediments from the peppermint twig from her teeth.”
I tried to make my rendition of her tea, except I didn’t boil the water and I roughed up the peppermint leaves a bit.
“Granny smiled sympathetically at me, as she rummaged to find a dry scarf, “I know you’re concerned about Granny, but I’m not having a stroke today. Your gesture was nice…..It’s really the thought that counts, sweetheart.”
For a long while after this conversation between me and my Grandmother, everywhere I went I warned people about not smoking, losing weight and reducing stress. I was the evangelist for the “No Stroke” Campaign.
The funny thing is, now that I am an adult and people around me seem to be dropping like flies from strokes. I wonder if all the preventive measures that Doctors and well-wishers give us really help the situation?
I have known folks who have done all these healthy tid-bits and have still succumbed to the devastating effects of a stroke. Could it be that the depravation process of eliminating things that are supposedly “bad” for us, creating additional stress in our lives?
Granny always told me, “Do everything in moderation and do whatever makes you the happiest.”
Sometimes doing what makes you happy can be the best medicine or prevention.
However, instead of throwing caution to the wind, the next time you want to tell someone about their rc, bc, and you start to feel a little dizzy. Count to ten and calm down.
If that spicy meal looks enticing and it has the possibility of making you yell, “Stroke!”
Consider a healthy, low calorie meal that just might save your life in the long run.
*Dedicated to the people who just can’t live without their salt fish, mackerel and fried foods that could send them straight to hell. God Bless Jamaican Cuisine!