I hate talking on the phone. I hate being woken up before 7:00 AM (OK, 1:00 PM). So, imagine my discontent when my phone rang very early last Wednesday morning. Turns out the inconvenience paled compared to the content:
Mom: “I think your dad’s dead in there. I see his feet sticking out.”
A little background: I’m 42 (294 in dog years, but only 23 in immature jackass years) and my parents were fairly old when they had me – saving the best for last, practice makes perfect, etc. They have already pretty much run the gamut of major health problems (heart attacks, cancer, mini-strokes; mostly from my mom) so I have been preparing myself for some ominous phone calls. But I didn’t really think I’d get the call the day after a hangover-recovery Tuesday where my most stressful situation was what mindless shit to watch on NetFlix Instant (I went with Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day, not my best selection ever).
So out of the fog, one day removed from a fairly stiff hangover, I was faced with helping my mom navigate through a terrible situation. Problem number one was that I don’t live in Arkansas, I live in New York , making me a pretty poor choice in a time-sensitive emergency. But after deducing that she’d already called 911 and banged on the neighbor’s door, I told her to relax on the couch with her dogs until the paramedics got there, lest they’d need to send two ambulances. (Turns out that the 911 operator asked her if they needed two since my mom was seizing that opportunity to tell her how many heart surgeries she’d already been through. They sent a fire truck, too, so maybe they thought he was one of those fatasses you have to cut a whole in the wall for or something.)
Anyway, my dad was not, in fact, dead. After a series of small strokes over the years (the first several of which he didn’t even acknowledge), this was finally The Big One. All kidding aside, strokes (not The Strokes or “The Stroke” – both of which are fantastic) are probably the most horrific medical malady that I can imagine. Alzheimer’s, ALS and I’m sure many others are also terrible, but strokes are capable of taking away your memory, your movement and your dignity, all in a brutally swift fashion. And the stroke victims are not the only ones who suffer. What of the stroke caregivers? That’s no walk in the park either.
The Ten Worst Things About Being A Stroke Patient’s Caregiver
10. Turns out feeding someone is nothing like 9 1/2 Weeks
9. His mumbled preferences for every other sibling seem particularly lucid
8. Poor time for him to express an interest in the tensile properties of catheter tubing
7. Apple sauce becomes a major part of the daily conversation
6. Previously private bathroom activities become matter of public domain
5. Memento-style tattoos become attractive options for retention of short-term memories (names of dogs you had 31 years ago are easily recalled, however)
4. Constant need to reiterate how not being able to move the left side of his body makes trying to get out of bed a poor idea
3. Realization that “this is me in 35 years” means I will have to make constantly ensure my legs are nowhere near as pale
2. The typical hospital waiting room in Arkansas looks like the dressing room at a unisex Dog the Bounty Hunter lookalike contest
1. Can’t tell if he really likes the mashed potatoes or if he’s just doing a spot-on Sling Blade impersonation
P.S. Hang in there, Dad, you’ve got another big comeback in you.