Thursday, July 18, 2013

Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board

I've decided to finish the story in this forum since really, I figured anyone who cared enough to read those lengthy Facebook epistles may care enough to add themselves to the follower list or just lurk in the darkness of the Internet and then suddenly spring out of my bushes and say "I will slice you" since you know the ins and outs of my life.

My dad is doing wonderfully as far as his delirium goes. In fact, he seems better than he has in a year. Well, except physically. He is as stooped as the letter C, too tired to cut up his turkey with gravy, in constant pain and his sleep is interrupted during the night by pills, shift changes, third shift garbage changers. He is making progress, walking 100 feet yesterday, practicing going up a step or two, wheeling about in his wheelchair and working as hard as he can at recovering. He tries to refuse pain medication but you can see him squirming and wincing after working for three hours straight on therapy during the day. He pays for it later. The doctor has said that for every day he was immobile it will take between three to seven days of being in rehabilitation. He's 25 pounds lighter than he should be. While he worries he never should have had back surgery (well, yeah- but we can't appear and disappear into our future lives like the guy in the Time Traveller's Wife- which I enjoyed a great deal, fellow book lovers), I don't care of he is whittled down to his pinkie finger since it will just make it easier for me to pretend I am boxing with him and come really close to his face like he's done to me all these years.

One thing I have learned about my dad through this whole ordeal is that he is not a complainer. He told me tonight he couldn't believe that was true. He feels like he asks questions constantly, can't get himself fresh ice water at will, and bothers the nurses for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at 4 a.m. since he has always loved a good midnight snack. He must have been in so much pain before his back surgery and we were hounding him about not organizing the extension cords in the new garage. I'm surprised he didn't wheel around and strike all of us with one of the terra cotta pots.

The other thing I have confirmed through this ordeal is, again, I would not be an inspiring disabled person. I would complain non-stop, hit people and require constant massages and Hershey bars. Through my feeding tube if necessary.

The recovery has taken, as Hillary Clinton said, a village.

Dean stayed up with my dad all night while working 88 hours in a week and filtering through enough medical information for us to be granted our MDs without argument. Fluid balance (my brain was hurting trying to remember the causes of hypervolemic hyponatremia versus hypovolemic hyponatremia, versus hypovolemic hypernatremia, versus hypervolemic hypernatremia, versus just take a salt tablet and don't bother the nephrologist anymore), differentials of anemia, mental status changes, fever with myoclonic jerking and elevated CBC with left shift and hyperhidrosis, coagulapathies, arterial blood gas abnormalities, blah, blah, blah, why didn't I become a lawyer or a lawn mower.

My mom sat at my dad's bedside for hours, sits with him and when he said a nurse was unkind in rehab, she swelled up like a peacock and pecked. She also gave him a sip of Diet Coke when he was under strict orders not to ingest any fluids by mouth, but hey, at least he'd go out caffeinated.

Molly, or as she is known in this family Big Old and In Need of Replacement Molly, abandoned her life in Philadelphia and has helped juggle the five complaining and bored children who couldn't enter the ICU for three weeks.

Matt drove here, drove to Detroit to park the car at the airport, flew back to Philadelphia, worked, flew to London for a while, flew back to Detroit and drove back here again last night. He also took all five children fishing tonight, calmly walking to the pond by my parent's new house hand-in-hand with four little girls and the world's most adorable four-year--old boy.

Molly's mother-in-law, Suzi, flew from Texas to Philadelphia to care for Sylvie and Jude and then hopped in a car with them to Michigan to make meals, clean, and do art projects with children.

 My aunt Jackie used her vacation time, traded in her flannel pajamas since she works from home, and got on a plane from Florida. Actually, since she works in Florida and I suspect the oppressive heat like a big wet woolen blanket that we have today here in Michigan is worse there, I myself would have a full beard and mustache of sweat if I were wearing flannel pajamas. And I am being incredible literal about the sweating. I come by it honestly from my own Opa, who despite the relatively cool temperatures in the church when we married, has a bib of dark blue sweat on his light blue shirt in the pictures.

The following week my nieces, Emily and Anne-Marie, came from North Carolina for over a week and played with my kids, loaded the dishwasher, did lots of laundry (ahem) and even cleaned out my refrigerator.

 My dearest friend Carley made a meal while in the throes of back pain herself, while babysitting nine children (three of whom were mine) and saying as usual, "Oh, it's no big deal. I'll just make some mini donuts with them and I've set out supplies to paint ceramic figurines while they are making a tepee in the back yard."

I met Sarah at the park, who distracted me by giving in to my pet paranoia and boldly went up to ask a family if the creepy staring man with the sunglasses had a child with him. Mom, keep reading after you call me to tell me to stop reading The Daily Mail.

My friend Jaime, in the middle of moving, took my children within ten minutes of my calling to say I needed somewhere to drop the kids while I raced to meet the ambulance at the emergency room. She even wrestled two 2 1/2 year olds, Susannah and her friend/nemesis Antoine.

 My insane friend Tudor (which is fortunately spelled this way, but rather unfortunately heard verbally at first) kept calling to invite my kids over while she is nursing newborn twins and has two toddlers and a husband stricken with panic at the thought of four girls getting married someday.

Tudor's parents, who have met me possibly twice, invited all of our children, Matt and Dean and Suzi, to the Muskegon Country Club for July Fourth dinner, bounce house, candy scramble and fireworks (Frankie declared it the best night of her life- so much for Sea World and ninety-dollar-an-hour horse carriages on Mackinac Island).

Our childhood friend, Sarah, who cackled her way through our childhood practically since she and Molly were born on the same day in Hackley Hospital, arranged from California to bring the world's biggest bag of Panera which had to have sent her back to work full-time.

Another childhood friend, Heather, remembers my dad from the days when we dressed up in my aunt Jackie's old pageant dresses (and SHAWLS, my how times have changed) and packed up and sent as fast as she could a sticker book for the kids and homemade zucchini bread from Boston.

A circle of women from my church and BSF brought meals for the whole family every other day for three weeks straight. And when I say meals, I don't mean a bag of McDonalds, I mean homemade bread, oven roasted vegetables, made from scratch frosted angel food cake, roasts, pot pies, salads, bowls of fruit, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, eclair ice cream cake, veritable Thanksgiving dinners. I usually bring a 9 x 13 of spinach manicotti and feel exceedingly proud of myself. I had no idea people spent the whole day cooking and came bearing styrofoam coolers the size of coffins or for extended family picnics. The looked like the former to me in the first three weeks, the latter in the recent days.

My Aunt Jan came to the ICU repeatedly. She came bearing Subway sandwiches and chocolate shakes and left a note for us to save the infamous piece of chewing gum that heralded my dad's return.

 My cousin Kathi came with her whole family and encouraged my Dad, after her ICU ordeal earlier this year, that the thoughts that he was not in a hospital bed but trying to escape from prison and seeing white bowls in the air while he was raving were completely normal and reassured him he'd eventually sort it out.

Janice, who knows the depths of sorrow in a way she could never ever verbalize, stood silently in Oregon in solidarity.

College room-mates, keepers of secrets, people who've seen me through joys and sorrows sent texts, commented on posts, e-mailed, called, private messaged.

My brother in every way but blood, Nathan, sent flowers from California after his parents told him my dad was so sick. He sent me and Molly the most loving e-mail and we couldn't get over that this boy that we met in Sunday School, grew up at camp with and fought with in dorm rooms was old enough and mature enough to send flowers. This is the same boy that laughed until he almost peed in the front seat of my car when I said "poopy-poopy-POOPY" in a high child's voice over and over and over again during the entire four hour drive home from college. Also, in my defense about the fighting he did stab a precious childhood picture of me repeatedly with a push pin which I held against him the entire time we were at Wheaton together.

My aunt Judy and Uncle Jerry prayed over us, my Aunt Ginger texted frantically, my Uncle Lane was the one I called sobbing to tell him my dad might never be back. Friends of my dad sent flowers, sat in the intensive care waiting room, brought boxes filled with chocolates and tiny packets of Nutella which Molly Jo licked in the corner.

Molly's friends in Philadelphia staked tomatoes and arranged playdates.

Friends wrote cards to my mother, visited, hugged.

The CEO of Mercy Health Partners, where my dad spent all of his days raving, also a friend of my dad and mom's came by (I'm looking at you for any available cash rewards Char and the other ICU nurses, therapists and aides who treated my dad like they would treat their own. I'm also looking at you specifically the one and only of a hundred kind ones that made me cry on the one night I needed the most grace.

Neighbors brought cookies, got tears in their eyes, brought the cat back a block, turned off hoses, almost called 911 when I suddenly was stricken with vertigo so badly I fell and hit the edge of the bathroom door while the toilet overflowed; yellow let it mellow, but not when you can't sleep and use toilet paper about 28 times. I know my neighbor Gina knows me well, but there is a difference between knowing someone and KNOWING someone.

And people prayed. Elementary school friends, junior high school friends, high school friends, college friends, P.A. school friends, church friends, BSF friends, neighbor friends, relatives from across the Atlantic and beyond.

Oh, how I prayed. I prayed to God flat on my face in the ICU after the neurosurgeon stood and fidgeted and looked me in the eyes. I prayed the morning the neurologist mentioned compassionate care, locked-in, let's wait and see before final decisions. I prayed thinking nothing could change the hard facts of an MRI.

And then God moved. He moved in response to his people crying out to Him. He parted the seas of sadness and literally lifted our faces from the ground. Is anything too hard for the Lord?

I can't stop writing about Him. I want a hundred daughters so I can name them Mercy, Grace, Faith, Victory, Hallelujah. I want a son to name him Mighty. I want to shout His name or the rocks will cry out.

I am sure I have forgotten a million other people and moments of grace, but I know in my bones now that my dad is loved and because people love my mom, my sister and me, by extension they love whom we love.

 In junior high, at my thirteenth birthday party, we played the sleepover game called Light As A Feather, Stiff As A Board. A gaggle of giggling teenaged girls put one finger under a girl stretched out on the floor, rigid and unable to move. Then they each lifted with that single finger and the friend who was lying prostrate, a victim of the immutable law of gravity, when she should have plunged to the floor, instead rose a foot off the ground held only by the tiny weight distributed onto the one finger of each girl crowding around her.  We took turns being Stiff As A Board and lifting Light As A Feather. And this is exactly what it felt like, feeling the tiny nudge of a thousand fingers lifting us up, higher and higher.


dr said...

Dear Saskia,
This is beautiful and incredibly moving. I read it with tears in my eyes. It is so amazing how a community of love and support can lift you (indeed, stiff as a board, light as a feather... what a blast from the past). You are so truly blessed to have so many helpers and so much love surrounding you. I have followed yours and your dad's story closely these past several weeks, and you have been in my constant prayers. So moved and amazed by the recovery he has experienced. I can imagine you are forever changed by this experience. Thank you for sharing it with all those who have been concerned about you. So happy for your family - wishing you continued blessings.
With love, Dana

Janice said...

Love this, Sask. There is a very lengthy email that I've been meaning to write for ages headed your way today. So happy about your dad!

Missy said...

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful words and everything going on with your dad! Much love to you all, know that my thoughts are always with you