Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I Don't Know Where To Begin

Life In the Stroller Lane
My last entry was nearly a month ago. The month of May has been such a whirlwind, I really don't know where to begin. I am not sure if I am writing this for others to read or as my own way of putting everything into perspective. Either way, I will just tell it as it happened and let the story unfold in it's own way.

On May 2nd, I received a call from the apartment where my dad lives that he had taken a fall and was taken to the hospital for observation. By the time I returned from the morning errands, the hospital had called to give me an update. Upon returning their call, I learned that this was much more than a simple fall. In fact, my father had suffered a major brain bleed or the equivalent of a major stroke. They had stabilized him in the ER and then helicoptered him to the neurological ICU at the main hospital in downtown Orlando.

I booked myself on the evening flight to Orlando. However, Friday evening flights are notoriously delayed. I didn't arrive until 3AM. I got to the hospital around 4AM. My dad was stable, but on a myriad of life support systems. The next morning, I spoke at length with the doctors. My dad's prognosis was grim. Defying the odds, that day he opened his eyes, turned to me when I spoke his name, and squeezed my hand. I had a chance to say good-bye, which based on the severity of his injury, was truly a blessing for me.

Over the next few days, I stayed in Orlando. I sat with my father and also took care of some of his affairs. During that time, he slipped further and further away. I am my father's only living relative, but I was fortunate to have support and prayers from not just my family but from Sally's family too. Sally, who passed away in 2006, was my father's companion of nearly 20 years.

I returned home on Monday evening, to take up my role as mommy. The next week, was a blur of paperwork and phone calls. All the while, my father continued to decline without hope for recovery. Lucky for me, my father had a living will, which clearly stated his wishes. In addition, we had personally talked about his desires in such a situation. So, I knew with conviction what he wanted me to do. However, knowing and doing are two different things. Signing the papers to withdraw life support, was the hardest things I have ever done.

I flew back down to Florida the next day. It was a crazy trip, that wasn't well planned out. We put together this really complicated plan to have Jan & Mike watch the girls while I was away and Scott went on a business trip. However, what ended up happening was Scott drove a million hours in the car to end up postponing his business trip and arriving back home 24 hours later.

I once again arrived in Florida in the middle of the night. To the surprise of everyone, George was stable though he remained in a coma. Sally's sister, Beth, was already at the hospital and she continued to stay there with me all night. We shared tears as well as some funny stories about my dad. But mostly, her support and companionship gave me strength in this difficult time. The next morning Beth left and I just sat quietly with my dad. A few minutes later he passed away.

I held his hand and he went peacefully on May 10th. It seemed like it was just they way it should be, me and him. He held on for me to return to Florida to have a final good-bye which once again was truly a blessing for me. Looking for support, I returned home that evening to be once again with my family.

The next two weeks, were another blur mixed with grieving, planning, some irony, and a bit of good news too. My father, always the planner, had most of his affairs in order. It was like his last gift to me. Not only were his will and such in place, but he had already made arrangements for his final arrangements including a memorial service. I just called the funeral home and they took over most of the details from there. As I called friends from throughout his life, they shared stories and tales. It was so nice to hear all these wonderful things about him. There were stories from his youth that made me laugh out loud and tales of compassion that made me so proud to be his daughter.

No matter how much I wanted the world to stop spinning for a few weeks, the rest of life didn't take a break. Scott spent the first week in town, keeping work to a minimum, so that he could give me a hand of help and a shoulder to lean on - I needed both. And because, life always throws things out in three's the second issue arrived on May 11th. I have been having all this pain in my left side. I just assumed it was bad PMS (we ladies can blame any and everything on PMS). But when the pain was lasting all month, it was time to get a more medically sound opinion than my own. So I spent half the week visiting a whole gaggle of doctors and the rest of the week filling all the prescriptions they wrote. If you need any good pain killers, stop by our house - my medicine cabinet is now stocked with high quality drugs. After most of the results were in the best guess is an Inguinal Hernia - yes a man-hernia. I birth two kids and have the hormone swings of a teenage girl and I get a man's problem. The irony is epic.

The next week, Scott traveled to CA for his postponed business trip. With him away, it was time for the third issue to arrive. This one was actually quite joyous. In the last months I have yammered and yammered about the rentals and it seems that chapter is coming to a close. On 5/19, we were scheduled to close on one of the rentals and that very day not one, but two offers came in on the other house. However, things never go quite a smoothly as we hope and the closing was delayed until 5/20 because the buyers didn't bring a check to closing. Who doesn't bring a check to buy a house? You can't even buy a gallon of milk with a smile, so why they think they could close on the house, I will never know. However, the issue was resolved the next day and by the 20th we also had a signed contract to close on the final rental on 6/12. Like I said, there was some good news through this difficult month. Although, in my state of mind I honestly didn't savor as much as it deserved.

Last weekend, was a final trip to Florida for my dad's memorial service. Unlike the prior two trips, this one, though sad, had a happy side. I saw friends and family from my childhood. I met some of my father's friends that I only knew in name. It is funny how much you learn about a person once they are gone, my dad kept in touch with folks throughout his entire life - his good humor and love of life touched more lives than I ever realized. He will be missed by me and so many others.

Now I am home. Fighting a cold for the past week, I pretty much collapsed for two days - mind, body and spirit - I was completely exhausted. As the month draws to a close, I am putting the pieces back together again. Grief is a funny thing, you think you have it under control, but then it jumps up and bites you. Sunday night I was waiting for the phone to ring, when I realized it wouldn't. Ever since I went to college 16 years ago, my dad and I chatted on the phone every Sunday. Yes, we spoke other days, but you could set your watch by our Sunday calls. This Sunday the phone was silent and will be forevermore. The father's day cards are out at the store, and it hit me that I am no longer daddy's little girl. Yes, I have been an adult for many years, but with my dad gone it seems that another bridge to my childhood was taken away. So when the grief comes, and I know it will, I will remember all the wonderful time, the fun times, the loving times I shared with my father. By remembering him, I guess a piece of me can always stay as daddy's little girl.

That is life in the stroller lane. Lots of Love


Di said...

Gigi...my heart is breaking for you. But it sounds like the stars were aligned to allow you to be where you needed to be...for you and for your Dad. I'm sure the grief will creep up at unexpected times. And it doesn't matter when it happens. My Dad was 64 when my grandmother died and he sadly said, "I just realized, I am an orphan."

Priti said...

Gigi - I am so sorry for your loss... I was just thinking of you the other day bc I noticed your absence from your usual update. Had no idea what was going on - so much can change in just a few weeks. Thank you for sharing such loving memories about your Dad. My thoughts are with you, and I will try to give you a call this week/end. Sending you a big hug from down here!

Beth said...

I'm so glad you had a chance to say goodbye, and I hope all your good memories will ease the grief whenever it appears. All best.