Monday, February 27, 2012

My Dad

"In our most trivial walks, we are constantly, though unconsciously, steering like pilots by certain well-known beacons and headlands, and if we go beyond our usual course, we still carry in our minds the bearing of some neighboring cape; and not till we are completely lost, or turned around--for a man needs only to be turned round once with his eyes shut in this world to be lost,--do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of Nature [...] Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations."
-HDT, The Village

Over President's Day weekend, I flew out to see my family, but most specifically, to see my dad after his stroke. He'd been in a rehabilitation center for about 10 days, and out another few days when I arrived. My excuse was to go out and help my parents in whatever way I could. Really, I have no doubt that the trip was more for me than anyone else, and the only thing I probably really did to "help" was to diminish my own feeling of complete helplessness that comes after such an event, especially when one lives 1000 miles away at the time.

One of the biggest struggles I have had, aside from this penetrating helplessness, was the inability to understand what condition my father was in. There's a lot of funny things about the brain, I'm learning...both as it is affected by a stroke, and as it's affected by emotion. There is only one way I know Dad. He's always been a constant, and to hear about this altered is very hard to imagine. I understood that he was having a great deal of difficulty speaking, that he couldn't read or write, that he was quiet and struggling through conversations. The problem was that my brain simply couldn't apply those descriptions to my dad. I alternated back and forth between assuming he was exactly like normal, but perhaps a bit forgetful and imagining he was much worse off than I knew he was. I was able to Skype with him about two weeks before I flew out, on his first day of rehab, and I have to say I was really shocked. There he was, right in between these two fluctuations, in a place my imagination had been unable to take me. He was still him, but he was really struggling.

Going out to see him was such a blessing. I think in some ways, I have it easier than my siblings and mom (and Dad!) who watch the progress more closely and see it day by day. For me, to come out later and see him was a huge blessing because he was doing much better than last I had seen him, and it again gave me some perspective about where he was. All the therapy (speech, occupational, and physical) he had received in the rehabilitation center had obviously done a lot of good (as much as he claimed to hate it). He can hold a conversation better, though he still halts and has to search for certain words. He's got a lot of work to do, but he's come such a long way, too. The kids and I already had plans to go out in March, before this other trip, so I am looking forward to seeing even more progress.

That said, it's funny how the brain works. I got to take him to some of his therapy sessions while I was down, just to kind of see what's going on, and also to let Mom have a break (though, as an aside, she is just go-go-going. I don't know how she's held up so well, considering her own health and some other news she got around the same time). It was really fascinating to hear the sorts of things he struggles with (on one day, if you asked him a yes/no question with "after" in it, he could get it right, but if you re-worded it to have "before" in it, he'd get it wrong), and to wonder how that miraculous organ up there works at all. At the same time, just in the five days I was there, I could see improvement in lots of areas--physical, linguistic, emotional, etc.

It's funny too--I love my dad immensely, and have always had a sense of pride to call him mine, but I am really proud of the way he is working too. Sure, he's still my favorite cantankerous old goat that doesn't like to do certain things, but at the same time, he is working hard too, and I would watch him think hard in speech, or sit and do his therapy homework forever if I could, because it gives me so much joy that he's working so hard to get back where he was.

My favorite part of the trip though was probably his birthday, which was the same weekend. It was so nice to celebrate a man who has lived a quiet life full of goodness and faith, teaching and learning, giving and love, to be there with all my siblings and my parents and recognize what a blessing it is to have this good, good man in our lives another year, and, God willing, many more to come.

Happy 68th to an amazing man! 


1 comment:

  1. Kierra,
    I just wanted to tell you that I love you...thanks for this great always write exactly what I want to say.


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