I've been feeling kind of bad for some time now that I never really wrote any further about how my Dad is doing. It's funny how when the hemorrhage occurred I was able to just drop everything in my life and live at Rhode Island Hospital for four weeks. I remember thinking about how at a time like that all the things in life that seem so pressing and important melt away and you find that you really can just disengage from the world with little consequence. But now that things are "back to normal" - life has snuck right back in there - seeming all important and in-my-face all the time.
Tonight Mom, Dad, G, the kids and I went to the house of some new friends, N & J, and had a lovely time. It was a funny get-together because although Mom, Quinn, Gordon, Lily and I all know J and feel quite close to her - she had never met my Dad, we had never met N and my Dad and N had not met. You see N was admitted to the INCU at RIH the same day as my Dad - he also had experienced a SAH and lived to make it to the hospital. He was in the bed next to my Dad's. While my Dad and N were lying in that room, practically roommates - but never speaking or interacting, we were sitting in the waiting room with J and N's family - every day, all day, for four weeks. We lived through good news and bad news together. We cried and made each other laugh. We got there in the morning looking forward to see each other - to find out how N was doing to distract us from our own sadness and worry. When N had a good day our spirits were buoyed. When my Dad had a bad day they were there and they understood what we were feeling. We shared our stories and our fears. "Can you believe N got up in the middle of the night and removed his tubes?" "Dad is talking crazy about canisters on Pleasant Valley Parkway again". We watched their belongings while they were visiting with N. They held Quinn and soothed him while I was visiting with my Dad. When N left the INCU - and was sent home just a day later - J came to find us with tears in her eyes and her email address in her hand. We were so happy to see them go - and sad as well. We said we'd get together when N and my Dad were better - we hoped that would happen.
Well tonight, tonight we got together - and N and my Dad are better - they're great actually. The last post about my Dad back in October was intentionally vague. I said he was home and recovering and that we were "waiting and seeing." And that's where we were for a long time. We were so happy to have him home, but he really was not himself. My Mom couldn't leave him alone really at all. He was confused by the telephone and the TV remote. He got lost in their 2-BR apartment insisting that there was another floor and searching for the stairs. He confused the toaster oven and the microwave. He couldn't really use the computer. He had no interest in the computer. He was there, but he wasn't himself. My Mom took an extended leave of absence from work. We went to visit nearly every weekend. I was still doing their finances. We started looking ahead and wondering what would happen if he never went back to work - if this was the way things would be from now on. I couldn't stand the grief that threatened to engulf me if I took that thought too far. I had watched my Grandma leave us piece by piece - I was not ready to say goodbye in that way to my Dad. So I kept my head down, kept doing their finances, planning for the worst, but not really thinking about it. My brother and I pinned our hopes and our focus on the next doctor's appointment. We all held our breath. I avoided writing about it.
Then we saw the neurosurgeon and he thought Dad maybe still had hydrocephalus and that's what was causing his confusion. They did a spinal tap - and that helped a little. So they scheduled surgery to put in a permanent cerebral shunt. The surgery took place on Gordon's 40th birthday, December 8th. It felt like a miracle. Once the shunt was in place Dad just came back - he was just suddenly him again. Now, over two months later he is driving. He is back to work. He went on a business trip to Atlanta. He is doing their finances and cooking dinner again. Life is literally just back to how it was.
He drove my Mom to N & J's house in Providence. I have to admit, I was a little unsure going into the evening. I had been emailing J on and off since we all left the hospital. It was great to hear the news about the progress that N was making and share the news about my Dad. Mom and I were excited to see her again, but Dad was unsure at first - he didn't realize that he had never actually met any of them and it bothered him that he couldn't remember them. I can't imagine how disconcerting it must feel to have such holes in your memory. I wondered what it would be like to spend time with J outside of the emotional roller-coaster of the INCU waiting room? What if N and my Dad totally didn't hit it off? What if Q puked on their floor?
But of course, it was lovely - we all had a great time. My Dad met N. They shook hands, smiled and laughed easily. They talked about their experiences. We ate Caserta's pizza. We talked about the hospital, the recoveries and the crazy world of brain injuries. We talked about "normal" stuff too. Quinn practiced crawling on their carpeted floor and tried to empty their bookshelves. Lily tried her best to befriend their sweet new dog and cried when it was time to leave. I sat there for most of the night marveling at how lucky we all are. Mom and Dad made plans to see them again for dinner. We talked about having a big barbecue in the summer.
It's still a little weird when I think about it - living through a crisis like that - coming so close to losing someone so important too soon. I feel like we've been given this huge gift, this second chance and I'm not quite sure what to do with it. For months I talked to my parents multiple times a day every day - now it's kind of back to how it was. We still talk a lot, but not daily. Sometimes a few weeks go by before we see them. But I'm trying - trying to hold on to that feeling of gratitude, to remain present and to treasure this bonus time we've been given. I have not yet - and probably never will - grown tired of getting emails from my Dad again. I love watching him with his grandchildren. I am so so so happy that Quinn will get to know him - the real him. I'm glad that his relationship with Lily will continue to deepen and grow. Sometimes I feel like a little girl again - just so glad to have my Dad around.
I love you Dad.