Friday, March 5, 2010

Snow Happens for a Reason

My dad and step mom came to spend time with us over New Year's. We don't really have a holiday with my parents (either mom or dad) and New Year's has worked for them. Taj loves meeting our friends and finding out about where they are from and other things I've usually never known. Dad, for one night, loves the chaos of the people and kids and the general merriment. He even likes the banging of the pots at midnight (because he's not wearing his hearing aids as usual). So they came, we had a great visit and they went home. I didn't hear anything for almost a week. Then I got a call from Taj on Friday that dad had fallen and hit his head THREE DAYS AGO and that he had been the hospital for THREE DAYS and that they were going to keep him until probably Monday. He's fine they say. Well I discussed with both of them that I really would like to hear on the day something like this happens. Apparently Dad didn't want her to call, but being second in command as it were, I would like to know.

Now I'm leaving a big pink elephant out of this. My dad has always been a drinker and he ebbs and flows with problem drinking. (eg a drink in the middle of the night, a drink in the morning, and a steady buzz throughout the day--fine on holiday but not necessarily so on your average Wednesday, especially when you have balance issues or are diabetic and on an array of pills that would impress pfizer) He gets depressed when he leaves us or after a vacation. This has caused a variety of problems from yelling at my dear husband for nothing to drinking himself into a head injury (he was getting the mail). Taj noted that she had had enough of this crap and he was not going to drink anymore. I agreed that we would do what was needed at this end. And I wrote him a heartfelt letter. Because whatever--from drinking to not taking his meds to getting up on ladders, it seemed he was slowly and/or quickly killing himself. I love my dad and I want him around for a long time.

So back to the head injury. I got off the phone and after my initial roller coaster of feelings, I thought whoa. He hit his head. He had a CT scan. He's going to be in the hospital for at least 5 days? Oh you know there's the whole self-preoccupation about why wasn't I called and there was the DENIAL (my favorite) and there was the guilt and there was the should I stay or should I go. So there was constant contact for the next several days and he was getting better and he was coming home. He had a therapist coming to the house (huh?) and several more CT scans (huh?). We did finally convince him to see a new doctor who would reevaluate his medicines and he agreed to quit drinking. I offered to come help, no it's OK. I offered to come help, no it's OK. I offered to come help, no it's OK.

Slowly information began to chip away at the denial. Partly it was the slow gathering of information and partly it was the peeling away the layers. So the reality was that he fell. He hit his head. He was unconscious. Fortunately Taj was on alert because she was concerned by his balance (this time not inner ear but inner alcohol) and had been checking the window to watch his progress to get the mail. Now of course she had said "sit, sit there I'll get the mail" but he was bound and determined to walk to the mailbox and so it was. So she looked out the window and there he was lying on the driveway in the blink of an eye. She was changing clothes and ran out, realized her error (as in she didn't have any clothes on), ran back in threw something on and called the neighbor who called 911. (This may or may not be the complete correct sequence of events but close enough.) I would like to thank that ambulance driver whomever he may be because he said "I want to take him to Va Beach General because Dr. Ang is there and he is the best neurosurgeon I know."

hint hint neurosurgeon=bad head injury

So it comes out that it wasn't a simple concussion but a double brain bleed. The bleeding stopped on its own, there was no need for surgery. Thank God he's one of five 78 year olds who isn't on blood thinners! Again, can I come visit, can I come help. There must be more going on than I know because a physical therapist is coming to the house. no no no everything is fine

In the mean time, Milo has hip surgery, Mollie breaks her ankle, and Parker gets braces.

And one day I'm talking to my dad and he says, "What will it take for me to get you to come down here and help me learn how to use my Kindle?" That is the heartbreakingest thing to hear because it's really, "I need you." You want your parents to want you, but you don't really want them to need you.

And so the planning began. Mollie and I would go to Va on Saturday and return on Monday. She would get to skip school, but she needed to learn to walk without crutches so we could get through the airport. We needed to leave on Saturday so we could see Marc Michaelson's annual show at the Winter Club. We'd fly in we'd go have dinner, we'd see Mom, we'd see Lin, we'd go to Lin's restaurant, we'd have brunch. Fun, fun, fun!

And then it snowed. In Virginia. 10 inches. Our flight on Saturday was cancelled on Friday afternoon. We rebooked for Saturday night hopeful things would be cleared out. Dad called on Saturday morning and said please don't try to fly and even if you do I don't think we can drive to the airport to pick you up because of the road conditions. So I called Delta and they let me change the plane to the next weekend.

And then it snowed. In Virginia and Cincinnati. Actually it rained in Cincinnati and I didn't really believe that there would be snow until I woke up at 6 a.m. (after waking at 4 and 5) and saw what looked like a blizzard. Anthony and my dad had begged me not to fly out in snow and I promised if there was any kind of snow emergency I would not fly. Sure enough Hamilton County was under level 1 and Boone (where the airport physically is) was level 2. So I called Delta and they let me have a full refund. I didn't try to reschedule for the next weekend because the next week I was going to Florida for a marriage maintenance weekend and my mom was coming to keep the kids--her drive is another whole snow blog about determination and driving through the mountains in the snow.

So we began to make other plans. Dad was better, and Taj cancelled her hiking trip but was hopeful she could go to Turkey with her nephew so he could meet the rest of the family. (Social studies note, Iranians can travel freely to Turkey, Americans can travel freely to Turkey so it's a good meeting point.) Dad would come stay 5 days with us. This is big news because he was willing to fly by himself. He was doing well! Maybe Dad would stay the entire three weeks with us, maybe he got to choose, maybe he didn't--depended on how he was doing, but so for so good.

Then on Sunday February 28 as we were driving home from our basketball victory dinner, Taj called. I could tell she was very upset and she asked if I would come home. I said I would call her in the morning when I did not have a car full of screaming children and that I would be there in the next 48 hours.

The next day was my birthday. The following day some friends were taking me for lunch. So I decided to fly out on Wednesday. I was a little resentful. I thought things were going well.

On Monday, we chatted, it was my birthday everyone was happy. I'd made my reservations for Wednesday and since everyone, including Dad, sounded good, I didn't feel so bad for waiting until Wednesday. I figured, Taj is tired and needs a break, I'll fly down and help her out and we'll have the visit we were supposed to have three - four weeks ago.

And so, third time's a charm, I got off without a hitch and landed 1/2 an hour early. Taj picked me up and said she'd called the doctor because she was worried about Papa. When I arrived at the house I was shocked by the old man who greeted me with some weird glasses askew. He was not the man who left my house on January 3rd. We said our hellos and he said let me go upstairs to my room where I feel more comfortable. This was not a simple climbing of the stairs. This was not what had been described the several weeks before. This was about 11:30 a.m. I went up, we chatted. I asked him if he'd put his hearing aids in. And things steadily went down hill.

Layers began to peel away. He'd been on a roller coaster of behavior over the last 4 days. The most significant thing to Taj was that he wasn't fussing anymore. Then the word salad started. I mean complete mumbo jumbo coming out of his mouth.

The long and short of it was successful brain surgery which I can describe in detail, an early discharge from the hospital, rehab, more word salad, back to the hospital because of fluid and swelling, Hester back to VA, success in the hospital, bad rehab, switch to good rehab, and now he's home.

Thank God I was there. Snow Happens for a Reason.