Monday, August 10, 2009

A Weekend from Hell

I talked to my mother on my way home from work on Friday night and my stepdad and she were doing well. At 8:00 pm, she left a message saying that he’d had a stroke and that she was on the way to the hospital. We called my stepsisters, etc. They made it to the hospital okay and he did indeed have a stroke. They had caught it early, partly because he was able to tell my mother that he felt one coming on. 911 was right on time and the emergency room gave him an anti-coagulant to break up the blood clot very quickly. When we saw him the next day, my stepdad was in the emergency room. His speech was affected, but it wasn’t a strain to understand him. A couple times, he tried to scratch the right side of his face with his right hand. He’d bring his arm up, get within a couple inches, then switch over to his left hand.

For an 85 year old man, a stroke is a very serious matter, but this was pretty good as these things go. I have to say though that you don’t really know how it’s going to go for a while. They have gotten him to stand and he’s going home very soon.

The scarier thing is that my mother is 79. She came back to the hospital at seven in the morning. The nurse in the emergency room accidentally sent my mother to the wrong room where a man with my stepfather’s first name happened to be. He had a breathing mask on, but other than race looked completely different from my stepfather. My mother spent four hours tending to, comforting, and talking to the man in the mask. She was laughing about it as was my stepfather, but it’s scary. When we left that evening, I think we were at least as nervous about my mother as we are about my stepfather. Making matters worse, my mother couldn’t find her car in the parking garage that night. She wound up flagging down a group of three strangers who offered to take her keys to look for her car then call the third stranger who stayed with my mom to let her know they located the vehicle. Fortunately, they were honest folk.

I was very impressed with the level of medical care available for my stepfather. Some of the other stuff, I’m not so sure about like taking 10 hours to find him a room (they left him on a gurney the whole time). I’m also not sure about my mom being taken to the wrong room. Still, these episodes always make me think about how much is involved in providing any individual with health care. I can’t imagine having to make any of these decisions without it. It strikes me as barbaric that so many people in this country don’t have coverage.

Earlier in the day, I had played basketball just before we left for the hospital. I rarely shoot much in my games, but on a whim I took a shot from just inside half court on game point. It’s pretty much the opposite of smart basketball, but the ball went straight through the basket. I had thought that might be a sign of a good weekend. Instead, late yesterday after we’d had dinner with two of our friends, my wife decided to take Belle our Sheltie out for a walk after dark. Just before she could get the leash on the dog, Belle saw a couple kids across the street and ran towards them. A truck came up the street and hit Belle, apparently never saw her.

We put her in the back of our station wagon and tried to get her to the vet, but we both knew there probably was nothing that could be done. There’d been too much blood. After first leaving her with the vet for cremation, my wife decided that she wanted to bury the dog in our backyard, one of the dog’s favorite places. I wound up spending the first part of the morning digging a big hole in the yard until my wife returned with a cardboard coffin. I got a blister from the digging and as I sit here that blister feels strangely reassuring and I don't want it to go away for a while. One of the saddest moments of the morning came when Chance (8 years older than Belle) came up to the porch to eat. She kept looking towards Belle’s bowl wondering where her companion had gone. Lucky, Chance’s original companion, died two years ago.

It’s an understatement to say that my wife was attached to Belle. I used to tease her constantly and tell her that none of the rest of us liked Belle. She was a mischievous but very sweet dog. She stole a lamb gyros off the table from me once a couple years ago when I left the kitchen. She also used to run around in tight circles when she got excited. Of course, she also ate our daughter’s Ipod, several pairs of shoes, and a bunch of underwear (ickk). She also used to sneak onto the living room couch and sleep upside down, then when we’d caught her she’d pretend like nothing had happened. She was one of those dogs that always wanted to be near us physically, assuming she wasn’t trying to steal cat food. For some reason, she had an obsession with the cat food. I insisted it was because she wasn’t quite as bright as our cat who had learned to open both the front door and the cat food storage container and she had thought that it would make her smarter to eat like a cat.

Now that our kids are all out of the house and on the other coast, I think we saw Belle as the critter who’d keep us company in the meantime. It’s funny what you assume sometimes and how quickly things can change. I’ve seen so many sudden changes and all I know is that the practice doesn’t make you any better at getting through the rough ones.

I hope that Belle has moved on to some place where she is smarter than all the cats. They used to wrestle with one another in our living room. My stepdad started physical therapy today and my mom didn’t have any memory lapses when we talked. These are small things, but I’m grateful for them. My wife seems to be holding up well. I broke down crying last night after I came to bed and in the weird way things work, that seemed to make her feel better than anything I did to overtly comfort her. I just hope the next several weekends are better than this last one.


At 8/10/2009 04:53:00 PM, Blogger Marianne said...

I am relieved that your stepdad was OK. Your mom is 4 years older than my mom; their situations sound very similar. My mom is very proud, and everyone around her in Manila is in denial . . .

At 8/10/2009 04:58:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I think it's lucky in a way, my mom's been willing to share her own concerns and fears about her forgetting things.

At 8/12/2009 01:05:00 AM, Blogger Marianne said...

Yes, that is lucky.

At 9/12/2009 11:27:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

Weekend from hell is putting it mildly. I'm glad things weren't too serious with your stepdad. I'm sorry again to hear about Belle. I read about the problem with the cross in your later post earlier today.

At 10/01/2009 10:12:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Marrianne.....I agree


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