One year after the Big One
A year ago, my dad had a major stroke and became paralyzed on his left hand side. Our entire lives changed.
If you had shown me the totality of what we have experienced within the last year, I would have told you there is no way we would have made it through intact as a family. I would have laughed in disbelief if you told me that my dad, the head of the household and primary breadwinner, would relinquish his role to my mom and she would reluctantly take the reins on this whole mess. I would have doubted that my sister and her husband would uproot their family, move in with my mom for six months in Plano to help her try to adjust to the new normal.
Last fall, at the hospital after his stroke, it took my dad over two hours to eat half of his dinner (all liquefied because they were afraid he couldn’t chew). He did not have the attention span to finish an entire meal without someone sitting by his side and prompting him. We were fighting a feeding tube installation and hoping to get a catheter removed. Last fall, at the acute care facility, my dad thought he was in California and when I came to visit him, he couldn’t recognize who I was unless I gave him clues. Last fall, my mom was sleeping 1-2 hrs a night because of the stress and anxiety from my dad’s health condition. She didn’t know how to pay a single bill and we didn’t even know how much money my parents had.
My dad has now been at home for four months. My parents have a morning and evening caretaker that comes for 4-5 hours a day to help. My dad can kick his left leg, move his left shoulder, stand up and walk with a walker - with him lifting his left leg by himself (that’s a big one). He mainly still uses the wheelchair but we're working on his strength and stamina. My mom pays all of the bills, takes care of my dad, and manages the entire household.
My parents would not have been able to get through without the constant and endless amount of help that we get from my aunt and uncle and their friends. They come over if a caretaker isn’t available, take my parents out to eat, and warm the home with the food they bring over and the laughs they share together.
We still all have our up and down days. My dad’s mood is erratic - some days he’s very down and others he’s very positive. Some days my mom can grin and bear it and others, she’s at her wits end.
We laugh a lot more than we used to. And cry a lot more than we used to. We are more resilient and hopeful than we were a year ago. My dad doesn’t remember anything of the weeks after the stroke and doesn’t talk about his feelings (this may have been true before the stroke as well).
It’s easy to look back at the last year and remember it as a blur. I can gloss over the sleepless nights, the endless hospital visits, and the 6 month stretch where we barely saw him at all because of COVID. It was so freaking hard while we were going through it. But we made it. All of us.