Yes, now I know why Thankful Thursdays exist. Up until this point, I found myself on Thursday nights searching for something good to be thankful about. I was looking for small, selfish little things, like a tasty meal, or a good book. Sometimes I hoped to be thankful for ovulation. Obviously, I didn’t ovulate last weekend, and it was hard. Up until today.
Today, I have stopped looking in all the wrong places for what to be thankful about, as my answer is right in front of me. My father woke up today.
I have been lucky enough to have had very little by way of loss in my life (knock on wood). I have lost a great-grandmother when I was 11, and I lost my grandmother (to cancer at age 66) when I was 17. That was hard. I have lost my teaching partner, two years ago, to a car accident in the middle of the school year. That was also hard. Finally, my husband’s aunt (age 44) committed suicide two years ago as well, leaving behind her two teenage daughters. Those were all hard. But there are people out there who have lost so many people that they can’t list them all. I am lucky enough to count them on one hand.
My mind has been in a different place since last Saturday. I suppose it was a nice reprieve from thinking about babies, ovulation, and pregnancy. It’s hardly crossed my mind. Instead, I’ve been thinking/worrying about my father. As I have posted before, he had gallbladder surgery last Friday, and it turned out to be gangrenous, which, if it spreads, can be a very big problem. It didn’t spread. However, he couldn’t wake up out of anesthesia. Over the course of the following days, he “came to” a little more – only enough to fly into a rage (which is NOT him at all), ripping out his wires and hurting a few nurses in the process. He was sedated and restrained, multiple times. They kept him under, because when they lowered the sedation, he would react like that. It was not good. They ran every single test possible, and I keep having to Google the names of these tests because I didn’t know what they checked. All were normal. Blood was normal. Everything was normal. But he couldn’t wake up.
I’ve been upset and stressed, obviously, for days, and wondering if there was going to be something wrong in his brain..maybe he had a stroke, brain damage, who knows. Then I got word yesterday that my aunt paid him a visit and he grinned at her. I knew it was time to go see him.
I’m not a sick-people person, I’m not a hospital person, I suck at making people feel better and knowing the right things to say – but I am good in a crisis. There have been a few of those in my life and I rock them – until they’re over, and then I’m a mess.
I was imagining a scene out of Grey’s Anatomy – this massive hospital was a teaching hospital, after all – and I wondered if I would be saying my name over and over and trying to see if my father could remember who I was. If he would wake up at all. I thought I might have to be admitted myself because I’d be bawling my eyes out the whole time.
My sister and I went this morning (she’s 20, and oh, by the way, my father is 59), meeting my father’s GF there too. As we walked in, his eyes opened a little, but it was a blank look. Then we went over to him, and said “Hi, Dad,” and it was like a light bulb went off. I could sense the second he realized who we were – and then he started crying. It was a scene from Grey’s Anatomy.
I’ll spare you every little detail, but I’ll put it this way: He is about 50% “awake”, or “with it”. His thoughts are clearly perfectly on time, as he was making appropriate facial expressions and even chuckling at times. He cried a LOT, and also at appropriate times. (I mentioned my husband was at work thinking of him, and that brought tears.) He cried when we left, and kept trying to kiss my hand. But his speech is not on time, and his eyes, for the most part, don’t look at anything or anyone in particular. He mumbled and sputtered, unable to find the words. He was able to get out some short phrases, and one big sentence that went like this: “I had a dream that some guy put a stick up my ass.” His GF replied, “That wasn’t a dream, honey.” He smiled. He took his first drink of water, and even swallowed a pill. He asked how he got to this new hospital (transferred hospitals a few days ago). He kept trying to get out of bed. We would force him back in, and he’d sit back, frustrated, only to try it again a few minutes later. Then, a new nurse walked in, asked for a few pieces of information, including his Social Security Number. We looked at each other, and all of a sudden, he spouted off the whole thing.
I have never had this sort of thing happen in my life before. It was totally emotional and draining, and still is. I never thought I’d have to see anyone I’m close to, much less a parent, like this. I still sometimes feel like I’m a child, and I was not ready to have to face this.
But today, I am honest-to-god grateful that my father woke up, knew who we were, wanted to go home, drank some water, and is starting, piece by piece, to become the person he was before this happened.
We don’t know what happened. I am going to guess it was three factors. 1) That gangrenous gallbladder obviously made him very sick, which would mean a longer recovery. 2) He takes medications that the surgeon stopped all at once, without slowly bringing it down, and probably went through withdrawal symptoms, one of which could’ve been not waking up properly. 3) He just had a reaction to this anesthesia and is waking up from it so extremely slowly.
Either way, today was basically amazing. I’m mad I can’t see him tomorrow, and definitely will Saturday, but it’s clear it’s going to be a while before he is back to his old self. Now, though, I’m not worried about adding to that list. My dad is going to be okay. Now, I really understand the meaning of grateful.
I also have learned the meaning of another phrase – “Don’t take life for granted.” Or your family. Seriously, I would be devastated if I didn’t have my family. I don’t think of this often enough, and really haven’t internalized it until now. I love you, family.