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A Daughter Sighs

March 7, 2013

I walked in the doors of the VA Rehab center muttering to myself, breathe Kim, just breathe. In the two days since I’d seen my dad, anything might have changed. He might have backslid, he might be ranting, or he might be completely zonked out and not able to talk to me. It was only 7:30 in the evening but the halls were mostly empty and the common areas dark. I was relieved to see some other adult children visiting their parents.

I hadn’t been able to get over during the day and I couldn’t visit again for two more days and I really needed to see what mental state Dad was in during the evening. My visits had taken place during physical therapy and and speech therapy, when he was trying to get back the pieces of himself. During those times, he was often frustrated, frequently depressed, and somewhat confused. Most of those days, I’d left the rehab unit more concerned than when I arrived.

I’ve been around a rehab wing a day or two in my life and understand the process well, but when I counted back I realized it had been close to 15 years since I’d worked with someone so soon after a stroke. As the speech pathologist, I knew my role. As the daughter, I was searching for the dad I knew.

Every time I went to see my dad, I cheered him on but I was watching him closely for signs of the man I knew to be my father. Even his crotchety side was welcome since that seemed more like him. His silent acquiescence to the rules of the VA was what bothered me the most. My father had never silently acquiesced to anything. I knew how common depression was in those who’d suffered a stroke and the fear of it hung over every moment I spent with him. I stuck pretty close for the first week or so and then I took a break for a couple of days, knowing he needed some space to flounder on his own.

Tonight, when I walked up the hall, I practiced a neutral reaction to what I might see. I kept telling myself it didn’t matter what was going on or how he was. Since he had fallen or climbed out of bed a couple of times, I had every right to be worried. The nurse saw me and smiled, “He’s having a good day today.”

I thanked her and peeked around the curtain to see my dad cuddled under the covers with his eyes closed. I patted him on the shoulder and said softly, “Hey Dad.” His eyes fluttered and he said, “What?”

“It’s me, Dad. It’s Kim. I just came to see how you were. I can’t come tomorrow and I didn’t want to wait until Saturday to see you.”

“Oh, okay.” And he opened his eyes and shifted in the bed a little. “What day is it?”

“It’s Thursday, tomorrow is Friday. Aunt Shirleen is coming to visit you tomorrow.”

We spent 20 minutes with me asking him questions and him answering. Once in a while, he’d ask a question or make a request. He was getting better at asking for things. Tonight, he wanted that bright light off so it wasn’t shining in his eyes. And, he admitted the problem is that I am cold. I went to get a blanket so I didn’t bother the nurses but they waved me off and upgraded him with blankets from the warmer; amazing cotton flannel warmth that made the whole bed seem like an oasis. He snuggled in deeper and pulled them around his neck.

We visited a little more, but his roommate was also trying to sleep and I didn’t want to bother anyone. When I told Dad goodnight and said that it was best if I didn’t stay too long, he told me. “Short and sweet, I like it that way.”

On my way out, I stopped and asked the nurse if my dad’s roommate could also have a blanket. Obviously, he too was cold since he was huddled in bed with his coat spread out over him like I’ve done on a few nights camping on someone’s couch. She nodded, she’d get him a warm blanket also.

For the first time since my dad’s stroke, I walked out of the hospital with a contented heart. No doubt, there would be some difficult days ahead, Dad had a long way to go, but tonight he was warm, safe, and calm. We had had a nice chat, a short and sweet chat, and the nurses were watching him closely so he would stay safe and not take a full gainer out of the bed.

Tonight, that was enough.


Note: And, tomorrow I’ll be giving Feldenkrais lessons and teaching class. Keep checking the online calendar, classes continue weekly except Spring Break. 

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One Comment
  1. Jack Rayment permalink

    Thank you for the email and happy to hear he is doing well. Please send emails to Pastor Bill. He would also like to be kept up on your Dad’s progress.
    Some of us are coming to visit this Sat. (3/16) after church breakfast. Call if this is not a good time
    or day.
    Blessings, Jack Rayment

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