"Not again..." that is all I could think as I felt my heart sink to the pit of my stomach when my mom called me last night to tell me that my dad had another stroke. All I had to compare it to was what his first stroke was like - a terrifying and miraculous journey that strengthened our family as it tore apart everything we knew and loved about a man who we thought was indestructible....a man who always took on the world, and now this world threatened to take him.
Everything changed that day. Everything continues to change. It truly is the only constant. Some days I find myself wishing there was some way to go back to the 3 months prior to the stroke, when he was happy, when he would call me to tell me he was proud of me, when he would open the door and say welcome to the jungle to my boys. I am grateful that he is still here but there are days that I miss him terribly.
I never thought I would be thanking God for a small stroke. Today I was doing just that. I didn't know what to expect when I went to see him today. I was happy to see him stand and move his legs and talk. They have been running tests all day to figure out the fine details and we really don't know much more at this point, other than it was another stroke. He had all the nurses laughing. The therapists who were working on the floor today, many of them came by and what they said all sounded the same, "when we saw your name we had to stop by and see you." They complimented him on his progress and how well his speech has come along. It's not really a place you want familiarity but yet that familiarity is strangely comforting. Here we are trying to figure out this stroke and get our feet under us and here they are in awe of how far he has come along, even including the weakness this stroke has brought on. Talk about perspective?!?!
Two weeks ago he was in the hospital with seizures. Anytime I see an ambulance go by I panic, run to the front window and when I see them slow down at my parents house I say, 'no, no, no, just keep going'....Even though the ambulance has been to my parents house a number of times, it never gets easier to see....now my panic has spread and when we are out and about if I see an ambulance leaving our street I call mom to make sure its not for dad. The odd thing is I did just that Sunday morning and Sunday evening they had to take him to the ER. Thankful that he alerted them of the need to be checked out. Thankful it wasn't four hours later when he would have been in bed asleep. Thankful for medications that can break the clot and give him a much faster turn around.
Tomorrow is Valentines Day. It is not a day that I like. Love is about so much more than flowers and stuffed animals and chocolates. I guess that stuff is nice but to me it looks like superficial love. A way for people to show the world how much they love you when love is such an intimate private thing, something that should be conveyed more than once a year in kind deeds, soft words, showing up, helping with laundry, spending time with one another. True love, that is what I see when I watch my mom sit beside my dad and hold his hand as he wakes up the day after his second stroke. True love is what I hear when my mom says, "His right side was not moving at all last night and my heart was breaking all over again, I felt like we were starting over." True love is what I see when I watch my mom push on every day when life is so different now. True love is what I see when I watch her look at my dad and still see his beautiful soul and amazing spirit, unchanged by what the world has done to his physical body. True love is what I see when I watch my dad look at my mom, and even with the inability to find the words.... he speaks volumes about his love for her when you see the peace in his eyes as he looks to her for comfort. In sickness and in health....when its not always fun or comfortable or easy....they live a great example of what it looks like to love one another against and in spite of all odds. I have so much respect for people who lead by example. Words can be empty shells of promises and good ideas, but seeing it in real life, before my very eyes -- brings with it lessons that will be ingrained in me forever. Love unconditionally. Love what you can't see. Respect one another. Never give up. No matter what, you stand beside the one you love.
I will be incredibly honest here and say that no part of this feels very fair. I know we are walking this path for a reason but it sure is exhausting at times. Today I was able to be there for a stranger in a unique way, who knows if our paths would have crossed if it weren't for my dad having this stroke. I guess I was where God needed me to be, even if it was not where I wanted to be. That is always a difficult pill to swallow.
Something good will come from this.
In the mean time -- for my family -- listen to this song....