Monday, October 05, 2015


Toward the end of September, I set a couple of challenges for myself: The Couch to 10K Challenge using an app on my phone to spur me on to run further than I have before, and the One Month Plank Challenge. This last one is so simple. Just a few minutes a day doing front and side planks, increasing the duration a few days at a time. Easy peasy. I like these challenges. They keep me focused on exercising regularly and working toward goals. Helpful nudges.

I also thought that perhaps I would write more in October. I thought about challenging myself to write a post a day for the month of my birth. Just a little check-in each day, a picture or two, a thought, or more when time and inspiration came together.

But then, life, as it is wont to do, happened.

One week ago, my dad suffered a stroke. It is the call you don't want to get. The one from your mom saying Daddy is in the hospital.

Also, one week ago, Coty was packing his bags for a three week trip to India. We were going to take one last bike ride together before his trip, cover the pool for the season, and get him all ready to go.

I felt so torn. Stay at home and help my husband get ready for his trip and spend the last evening together or hit the road south to be with my parents at the hospital. After talking with my mom and being assured that my dad was in good hands and doing well, I decided to stay home for the evening. The next day, I took Coty to the airport and kept going south, on the road to the hospital a couple of hours away.

So, no regular posting in October. Instead, I have had the incredible privilege of spending this time with my parents, spending a couple of nights in the hospital with my dad, being with my mom through a rather scary morning when Daddy was not doing well at all, and observing the amazing courage, humor, fortitude, and grace with which they have handled the stroke and its aftermath. It has been a privilege to walk with them through challenges of a very different kind. Challenges of a very different nature and far more serious than exercise routines.

Mostly, it was my dad's speech that was affected. He has trouble remembering words. Sometimes he knows exactly what he wants to say but he cannot draw the words up from the blood clot damaged recesses of his brain. What is beautiful is that most of the time, he laughs at himself. Sometimes he gets frustrated, but mostly he is gracious and rather interested in the phenomenon of knowing the right words but observing that they simply will not come. We have watched as his speech has improved over the last week. Sentences are getting longer before the words stop and trying again usually enables him to correctly pronounce words that came out garbled the first time around.

The other effect of the stroke is his ability to write. As with speech, he knows what he wants to write, but with pen in hand he is unable to spell the words and shape the letters. He simply cannot make his hands do what his brain is telling them. I am confident that he will regain this ability with time. He starts speech and occupational therapy tomorrow and I am praying for the same grace and fortitude over the long haul that he displayed in the crisis time.

My mother is a tower of strength. It takes some forceful persuasion, aka ganging up on her, to convince her to go home and rest. My sister and I plotted (jokingly) with the night nurse to make her go home and let me stay at the hospital. She is always worried about someone else's comfort and not her own.  She said to Anne and me, "Just because you two are here, don't think you can tell me what to do." Oh, Mama, believe me, we don't. But if we're worried about you, we'll still try.

She is not only strong. She is also very gracious. So kind to the nurses and vocally thankful. One evening, as she sat at my dad's bedside and looked out toward the hall, an orthopedic tech across the hall caught her eye. He waved. She waved back ... and then got up and walked out in the hall and chatted with him. The next morning, he came in to visit in my dad's room. Daddy didn't need an orthopedic tech but John popped in anyway to say hello to his new friends for the day. My parents made many such friends in the hospital over those few days.

I mentioned to someone the other day that after-stroke care is a team sport. In addition to the major player on this team, my amazing mother, my sister and brother-in-law came to help. They, too, are amazing. Hard working, funny, thorough, resourceful, tireless. That in the midst of a rather serious situation, we all laughed a LOT, is a gift, a grace that I appreciate deeply. The first night home, we sat around the table and played Uno. My dad, who doesn't usually join in the group games, suggested it. There were moments I laughed til I almost cried. And so did my mom and my dad. So did my sister and brother-in-law. It was a rather hilarious evening. Who'd have thought we'd be doing that?! Surely, it was healing laughter.

There are many challenges ahead. As I said, my dad will have to work to regain his words, both spoken and written. It won't always be easy, I'm sure. My mom will have many nights ahead of waking two, three, four times to come and help my dad, and lots of daily care. The recovery will, I'm sure, feel slow at times, the tasks, daunting.

It is time to stop now. Time for bed. We have an early start tomorrow, to take Daddy to his therapy, so I need to head to bed. I can't tie this post up with a neat bow tonight, but then, life is not often tied up in neat bows, is it? It's messy and unpredictable, but full of good gifts, nonetheless.

Goodnight, my friends. Thanks for reading. I'll try to be back tomorrow ...


O'Quilts said...

I think you are brave and wonderful...Life does happen, doesnt it....
i am thinking about you and your daddy..xxoo

Lisa said...

Good to hear from you again, beth. I've been checking in and was happy to find several new posts. This was a beautiful tribute to both your parents and I'm so glad your dad is doing so well, even with the long road ahead. What a gift to be able to walk with them through these tough days. Love you. Let's catch up when things quiet down.