“You Learn Something New Every Day”
On July 26, 2014, I learned something new.
I learned that there is a monster called Intracerebral Hemorrhagic Stroke.
It is possible I had hear of it in passing, but until that day, it lurked elsewhere.
It wasn’t when I went to my father’s apartment because he didn’t show up to the planned picnic.
It wasn’t when I was knocking loudly on his door, or after I heard what I thought was loud snoring.
Or once the door was open and the firefighters and I discovered my father on the floor fighting to breath.
It wasn’t on the ambulance ride to Mass General Hospital, or in the waiting area of the emergency room.
It wasn’t among the myriad texts and conversations with others trying to find out information from me while my phone battery was slowly dying.
But, later on in an exhausted moment, that I learned of the horror of Intracerebral Hemorrhagic Stroke from a young physician who drew the short straw and was tasked with explaining to my Sister and I, that our Father‘s life had been irrevocably changed.
However, that wasn’t the only thing I learned.
I learned that despite the irrevocable change to my Father, that there resided small graces and victories within the experience as it unfolded.
I learned of the extraordinary compassion and care that can be delivered by nurses, doctors, and staff.
I learned of the lengths and actions to which family and friends would go to support us, and my Father.
I learned that it is imperative to create a healthcare proxy and designate people to make decisions about your health if you ever end up in position where you are unable to do so for yourself.
I learned that when you suffer and Intracerebral Hemorrhagic Stroke that if you can survive past 30 days, then the chances of a long hard road to recovery could improve.
On August 23, 2014 I learned something new.
I learned that 29 days can seem like a lifetime, and that nothing is promised.
I learned how fast I could get to a hospital from my home. 15 minutes 20 seconds.
I learned after years of working at a hospital, what it was like to be brought to a family grief room before you could be brought into the room of a dying parent.
I learned that death doesn’t happen like it does in the movies, or in books, that it is actually quite anticlimactic and that sometimes it is unclear when the actual moment of death occurs.
I learned that when an attending physician asks you as a healthcare proxy, what you want to have done for your Father, that all else falls away and you are locked in the eye contact of a moment, and you need to decide hard for the life.
I learned that I could do what needed to be done for my Father, as he had done for us all his life.
I learned that when the dust settled, and the doctors and nurses cleared the bay to give us our last moments with our Father, that it wasn’t the words I love you, or that it’s okay Dad, but just two words forever: Thank you! Thank you!
I learned that in the staged moment of death, that whatever I brought to the table in the way of preconceived notions, it all succumbed to a need to express my sincerest gratitude to my father for so many things, and a simple thank you was all that was needed.
On June 25 2016 I learned something new.
At my son’s pre-school graduation, I learned that Atticus wanted to be a ninja when he grows up.
On December 7, 2018 I learned something new.
When I was cleaning out Atticus’s first grade folder of the weeks completed work, I found a butterfly craft that had a number of paper folds with a question on one side and the answer on the other. As I went around the butterfly wings I saw a familiar question. What do you want to be when you grow up? And I was certain that it was going to say ninja, but when I turned the flap over, it simply read: A Daddy. I feel nothing but the sincerest gratitude that I learned that today.