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One Heck of a Week
Trials and tribulations of the twilight years.
I’d feel remiss and frankly unprepared this week to write about any topic other than the one that has largely consumed my life since about an hour before last week’s Daly Grind newsletter was sent out to subscribers. So, if you’d rather not read a story about personal family drama, please feel free to skip this edition. I won’t be offended.
At three-something last Monday morning, my wife and I were awakened by a hang-up call on her cellphone from my parents. I soon realized, as I called back repeatedly and got only busy signals, that they had been trying to reach me on my phone for some time, but my ringer was turned off.
Next, I saw that I had a text:
In under two minutes and with a racing heart, I was in my car and on the way to my parents’ house (which is thankfully just ten minutes away). I tried calling again, and this time I got through. I learned from my mother that my 88 year-old father, who’s been dealing with multiple health problems over the past couple of years, had gotten light-headed when climbing out of bed, and had collapsed. Lying in his own blood, he remained conscious, but the dizziness wouldn’t go away and kept him on the floor for the better part of an hour. My mother had fallen asleep in another room, and hadn’t heard his shouts for help for some time.
Firefighters arrived just before I did, and paramedics soon joined us. He was taken to an emergency room, and remained in hospital care for the next five days as doctors worked to identify the issue, address it, and monitor him closely after his procedure. I was by his side for nearly all of his stay, in what was a surreal, sentimental, and exhausting week that would have otherwise been highlighted by celebrations of my daughter’s birthday and my wife’s and my wedding anniversary.
I’ve probably spent more time with family in hospitals than most people my age, but this episode was different, not just because my father was at the center of it, but also due to the wide range of emotions I witnessed throughout the week, both inside and outside of the hospital. With topics of mortality and quality-of-life front and center, I saw the best in some people, and the absolute worst in others. My eyes were opened in ways I wouldn’t have wanted them to be, but I suppose needed them to be. I also found myself feeling overwhelming gratitude for the blessings in my own life, first and foremost the people I love.
My dad’s now home and is feeling much better. We had a little health hiccup yesterday, prompting another trip to the emergency room, but things improved pretty quickly and he was released.
I won’t get into his diagnosis or treatment (which is ongoing), but will say that at least the short-term prognosis is good. I’m very thankful for that. I’m also thankful that I was in a position to spend so many hours with him, talking about the old days, watching reruns of Gunsmoke and Andy Griffith, sitting in quiet companionship, and serving as an advocate, confidant, and physician-interpreter when needed. My father, to his great testament, met the challenge with dignity and even charm (he was a big hit with hospital staff), and I suspect he’ll do the same as we move forward with future appointments, treatments, and some heavy discussions.
My parents moved up here to Greeley in 2018, in part to be closer to family in their later years. I saw them rather infrequently before that, and in some ways I’ve gotten to know and understand my father better over the last five years than I did the 45 that preceded them. Generally speaking, how a son looks at his father during childhood is much different than how he looks at him as an adult with children of his own. I’m no exception. My father hasn’t changed much since I was a kid, but I have. I’m now equipped with a good deal of life experience (including almost a couple decades of fatherhood), and a different outlook and perspective on all kinds of things.
I notice stuff I didn’t pick up on when I was younger, like how well respected my father is by those who’ve known him the longest. He comes from a large family, and is the oldest sibling and cousin of that generation. On those rare occasions when the clan or some of the clan gets together, it’s both fascinating and heart-warming to see how those he grew up with — interestingly all now intellectuals who’ve achieved extraordinary academic and professional success — look up to (and even seem to idolize) my blue-collar father, a former high school athlete, Navy sailor, and career-long construction worker. One of my uncles said as much in a very nice letter he sent my father while he was in the hospital.
Also in the letter was a reference I’ve heard a number of times in recent years, from siblings and cousins alike: “Thanks for seeing to it that the little kids also got a turn at bat.”
I’ve discovered this to be a cherished childhood memory of my father — one that’s shared by many. As the oldest child in the family, and later as a young man, he had a strong sense of inclusion. He got the younger kids involved in the older kids’ games, and often played with them one-on-one. It really meant a lot to several of them.
I’ve always known my father to be a man of strength, moral character, kindness, and patience, and I’m glad so many others have as well. I could go on and on about him, and assuredly will some day, but for now I’m just happy he’s back home and feeling reasonably well.
Next week, I’ll get back to a more generalized topic for the Daly Grind, as the family and I hopefully recapture some normalcy.
One last thing. If you’re the praying type, I’d certainly appreciate you directing a prayer my father’s way. Thank you.
Obligatory Dog Shot
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