Today is my Dad’s 73rd birthday. He will spend it in the hospital getting a feeding tube put into his stomach. Sounds like a party to me.
Actually, I suspect my dad will be happy to have the feeding tube
taken out of his nose.
That’s Dad with my cute niece, Jackie. On May 6th, my Dad suffered a stroke. He was doing well that day. My mom works from home and my Dad made Mom some lunch and they sat and ate together. Mom went back to work and Dad was still in his chair eating his lunch. That was 12:30 p.m.
She came back out to the room at 2:45 p.m. after her shift was over and Dad was still sitting in his chair. At first, Mom thought Dad had dozed off but when he failed to respond when she tried to wake him and when he wasn’t moving right, she knew he’d had a stroke.
She called the paramedics and by the time they got Dad to the hospital it was getting pretty close to the four-hour window in which they can give medication to stroke patients to alleviate the blockage and stop the damage. Mom called my brother and they quickly determined that it was better to give the medication to Dad and at least try.
If you are wondering why there would be any choice in the matter, the doctors were telling my mom that the medicine could cause my Dad to bleed out and a lot of other scary stuff so it wasn’t as clear cut of a decision as you’d expect.
The medicine worked and Dad has since regained the use of both sides of his body. I can’t remember now which side wasn’t working at first. However, he suffers from Asphasia, which is the inability to speak. Also, he can’t swallow yet, hence the feeding tube. Because my Dad has a pacemaker, they can’t do the electric stimulation to get those muscles working again.
On Mother’s Day, I called to talk to my Mom and wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. I reached her just as she was getting to the rehab center where my Dad is now. He was just coming back from his physical therapy session and three of my sisters were there with my Mom. Mom said, “Say Hi to Daddy.”
I said, “Hi Dad! Happy Mother’s Day! Thank you for giving me such a great Mommy. She is the best and I’m so grateful for both of you.” I proceeded to tell him about my day and how excited I was that I would get to talk to my daughter, Ryley, later that day on a Google Hangout. My daughter is serving a mission for our church and she is only allowed to call home on Mother’s Day and Christmas. After I was done talking, I heard some sound and then I heard my Mom and my sisters clapping and cheering.
Mom said, “Did you hear that?” I told her I didn’t and she said, “Daddy just said, ‘Hello, Hello!'” which is often what my Dad says when he answers the phone. It was the first he’d said in six days. Best Mother’s Day gift ever.
Dad has continued to speak a few words here and there. When my sons, Nathan and Sam, and I called last Sunday, Sam was talking to Dad and told him it was Sam and Dad said, “Sam I Am!” Dad did ask my sister yesterday to see Sophie, his precious little doggy.
His recovery is slow, though, and I’m left to wonder how much will come back. His care givers tells us there is some cognition loss. All of my siblings (6 of them) have seen my Dad and they can all tell that his humor and personality is intact.
I’m going to send him this card. It will make him laugh. Mom and Dad live in Boise, Idaho, so I will make a side trip to see them when I’m out in Utah in July to pick up Katie, my disabled sister-in-law, who lives with us part of the year.
So, other than being all TMI on you, I have a couple of points. My first is this. Do you know what the signs of a stroke are?
Every second counts, so responding quickly to any sign of a stroke is important.
My second point is this: You only have today.
My Dad’s stroke was on a Monday. The Thursday before that I was coming home from taking Sam to play practice in town. As I was driving home, I decided to call my Dad. I’m not going to lie. Calling home is not something that has not been super high on my priority list. It’s not something I do as often as my parents would like. But, I did that Thursday.
My Dad loves my blog. He loves reading about the things I’ve done and he loves the talent that I have and he loves that I tackle projects that most people wouldn’t dream of doing. My Dad thinks I’m a female McGuiver and frequently jokes about giving me some gum and a paperclip and seeing what I come up with.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to hear his praise. I don’t know why, but it just is. It embarrasses me and it’s hard for me to know what to say. I feel like this is just me and I don’t do that much to be the way I am. It’s how I’m made and he and my mom are a large part of that.
But on that Thursday, I was deeply grateful for his words. He was especially effusive in his praise. He really went on and on about it. He told me how proud he was of me and I remember just feeling so touched to hear just how much my Dad loves me. That Thursday, I especially needed to hear those words from him. I’m so very thankful that he spoke them.
See how he’s looking at me when I’m a little girl? He’s always looked at me like that. Like he just can’t wait to see what I do next.
I find great comfort in the fact that I don’t ever need to hear my Dad say those words to me again. If his speech never comes back, I will still know that my Dad loves me and that he is proud of the woman I am. He has spoken all the words to me that I need to hear. He’s given me a lifetime of great advise and counsel. He has cheered me on and cheered me up when I needed it. He has encouraged me and maddened me and made me think. He has taught me well and I’m so grateful for that.
If Dad never speaks again, I will feel sad for him because I know he has far too many words still inside him. Dad has always been a talker. I get that from him. He could spend hours in a store talking to someone. We’d think he’d be catching up with some long-lost buddy, only to discover that person was a complete stranger. Dad has never lacked for words until now. I can’t imagine a bigger challenge for him and for that reason, I want him to recover. But, I don’t need him to speak for me, if that makes any sense.
I do want to hear my Dad tell stupid jokes and sing songs and tease my Mom. Theirs is a love story that has been going on for 54 years. They were high school sweethearts. They are still sweethearts.
Here they are playing footsies in the hospital. One of the greatest gifts my Dad has given to all seven of his children is his unconditional love for our mom. He always sings her praises. He loves to tease her and they have stood by each others side through all the trials of their lives. They are good people.
Dad’s stroke has reminded me of the importance of living for today. None of us know how much time we have. Are you living each day the best that you can? Are you doing those things that are important to you? What if you could no longer do them? If you couldn’t speak tomorrow, would all of your people know how much you love and care for them? Would they know you are proud of them or would they live wondering about those things?
I have been so very blessed to know these things. I hope and pray that my Dad’s speech will recover enough one day that he can say all of those things that he left unsaid. He is an amazing man and has so much joy and wisdom to share with us still. I am very proud to be his daughter.
Happy Birthday, Daddy! I love you muchly, much muchly. You are the very best Poppa a girl could ever have.