Thursday, June 14, 2012
One year ago today, I received a phone call that changed my life forever. I learned that my beloved Dad had suffered a heart attack doing what he did every morning -- put out the flag after having his coffee. No one called me until after he had been taken by ambulance to the city hospital over an hour away, and was on the table having open heart surgery. By the time I was called, my sister and I barely had time to catch the last flight out of DC home. When we had to turn off our cell phones, Dad was still in surgery. We didn't know if we'd still have a Dad when the plane touched down.
As it happened, the surgery went on for a couple of hours after we finally got to the hospital. It was right about now that the surgeon finally came out and explained that Dad had been given too much anticoagulant by our hometown hospital, and he'd had an extraordinarily hard time getting the bleeding stopped. He didn't think Dad would make it through the night.
But Dad did. And I remember being so hopeful that that was the worst of it. There was the moment a week later when he finally came off the respirator -- and the first thing he did as soon as he caught his breath was sing Happy Birthday to me. (As he had done on every birthday I could remember.) Best birthday present ever!
But soon after came the setbacks. Mixed with triumphs here and there, to be sure -- but ultimately, a hospital-acquired infection got him, and after a brutal struggle to the end, we lost him on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Since then, my own health has been seriously compromised, and I've had to try to manage severe chronic pain, loss of function in my limbs, and just plain exhaustion while trying to keep up with the worst log-jam of work I've ever experienced (it's not even all the way through June and I've already nearly hit my billable target for the entire year. Seriously.) And I'm sure I could have passed some of it off to someone else if I'd tried -- but then I would have been stuck with my thoughts. And my grief. And I'm not sure I'm quite ready to process all of it.
Next Thursday, I turn 40, and for the first time, Dad won't be there to sing me Happy Birthday. He won't tell me again about the horrible rainstorm they had to get through to get Mom to the hospital the night I was born. And he won't tell me how ungodly loudly I cried in the hospital nursery (apparrently I was quite something), or how I kept them up for months with my screaming until they figured out I had a horrible ear infection.
But I do have the life he gave me. And I hope I lived up to the strength that he showed last year, and every day of his life. I hope that someday I learn to accept adversity with the grace that he did -- for while I am strong, I am not quite the genial and kind person he was.
I hope he is proud of the things I've accomplished, and that he thinks I've done well with the gifts he gave. I am proud that I managed to stick to my health goals this year, even with all the curve balls thrown my way. Maybe it's because I've seen how important health is, and how quickly it can slip through your fingers. Or maybe it was one of the very few things in my control this year. I am about 18 pounds lighter than I was on this date last year, and have maintained a loss of 111 overall since December, so feeling cautiously optimistic that I can keep it up over the long haul -- although that remains to be seen.
So, a new year begins. A little wiser, I hope -- definitely a lot sadder. Next year I welcome a new decade of my life. Here's hoping I make the most of it.
To end on a happy note, though -- two weeks from tomorrow, I celebrate 15 years of marriage to my wonderful husband. Things have been, honestly, tough in our marriage for the last year or so. Given the situation with Dad, my health issues, my near-constant absence due to work and family crises, loss of his job, and (to top it all off) our infertility isssues, that's not so much a surprise. But we've committed to working things out -- we still love each other, and he's still my best friend. So planning to make our marriage a top priority again this year -- starting with a much-needed vacation together! Looking forward to that, and making sure that the best is truly yet to come. Wish me luck!