Thursday, June 29, 2017

Dad And The Blue Ball

I mentioned several days ago in a post about Dad and his billfold that we are approaching the ten year anniversary of the stroke that eventually took his life. It was a strange and twisting path our family followed the final eight and a half months he spent on earth, complicated by the distance from our folks that the five of us lived AND the twin issue of Mom being deep in the clutches of Alzheimer's. I had seen somewhat the role reversal of parent and child with Dad and Grandpa Hawley but it's hard to conceive when you are twenty-one you will take that same highway. Dad really did his best to come back. I remember on my first visit, two weeks after the stroke and at the beginning of our school year. Here is my daily report from one of the five days I was there:
I spent close to four hours with Dad Friday afternoon and evening. He ate a great supper; evidently Friday night dinner is uptown! He had chicken and pasta and ate everything on his plate. Dad felt good about his afternoon therapy but was disappointed that the rehab on Saturday is only in the morning. We sat in a family area for forty-five minutes and I asked him questions. Where did his grandparents immigrate from? (Denmark) What was my maternal grandmother's maiden name? (McClure) What was the name of Mom's older sister? (Evelyn) Name Monroe and Julia's children. (Wayne, Dale, Glen, Glynda) He made about a fifty percent score which isn't great in school but I thought he did well. Even when he would get frustrated, he wanted me to keep going! Dave and Sally are back in the States from Africa and are exhausted. Dave will come to St. Louis next week. Thanks for all the continual prayers!
I just read that for the first time in eight years, I believe, and it seems like yesterday. Everyone's lives are put on hold when a family member is in crisis. We were blessed that our folks had wonderful friends, especially from their congregation in St. Louis. After awhile, we settled into a routine. We were so grateful that Karis, Scott and Karen's daughter, put her life on hold and lived in the folks' house so she could look after her grandparents and keep us in the loop. Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went. Dad would improve and suffer setbacks. On February 22nd, he was readmitted to St. Luke's and he never left. He survived a heart valve surgery but his body was racked by an infection and internal bleeding and he just couldn't recover. There were many decisions that had to be made- medical, financial, legal- in addition to how we were going to handle Mom, who had been in a nursing home since September. Fortunately, we had some time to put things in order as a family before the inevitable conclusion. On April 9th, I got a phone call from Dave telling me the end was near. All of us gathered in St. Louis to say good-bye to the man who had raised us. Dad had requested to be taken off the ventilator if recovery was seen by the doctors as impossible. He hung in there for about thirty-six hours before letting go in the early morning hours of April 15th, 2008. It was an honor to be at his bedside at the end.

As I read back over my daily updates this evening, I found myself a little misty eyed on several occasions. I had not intended that as I began with a definite end in mind. We all have different memories of traumatic events based on the angle and timing of our observations. One thing I loved about Dad was that he kept teaching us up until the last day. I witnessed something I will never forget, a snippet of his life that I have used with my students a number of times. I have no idea why but the day before they were going to take Dad off of the ventilator, the hospital staff came into his room and put him through physical therapy. My thought is that if I were Dad, I would have told them it wasn't necessary. But that isn't what happened. Part of the treatment involved that blue ball at the top of this story. I watched as my father squeezed that ball with all of his might for several minutes. He knew the score, that the means to keeping him alive was going to be removed in a day. And yet he kept fighting with every ounce of his being to survive. But he also was not afraid to let go and to let us know we could let him go. God breathed the breath of life into Adam in the Garden and that spark has never been extinguished. Mom and Dad passed it on to me. I kept the ball to remind me not to go without a fight. My time will come. All our times will come. I hope you have a ball of your own. We will all need it. 

Applicable quote of the day:
I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived. 
Willa Cather

God bless,|
Luke 18:1
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