This is the time of our lives
I don’t think you ever quite forget those words. The phone call telling you your dad is having a massive heart attack. And then you realize you are three hours away and helpless. But then you, somehow, by the grace of God, find a way home. Rush to him as he is being pushed on a stretcher for a quadruple bypass, and say “good-bye” just in case. You beg the doctor to promise you he will be okay, and he will be a survivor, and all they offer is “I will do my best.” What is that supposed to mean? Your best ever? Your best of the night? Your best you can, even though you are exhausted because this is the third or fourth surgery of the night? But then, after long hours, nine hours to be exact, your dad survives.
This is my story. This happened to my family two years ago, and my dad is now in great condition. I share this with you for a few reasons, which I want to dig into. Understand that this is personal, and very emotional for me still.
Luckily, the surgeon did do his best. And my dad is recovered. At the moment, or perhaps those several hours, and for a long time after, I really felt alone. I really felt I was one of the only 19 year olds who was having her dad ripped away from her. Her best friend, her support, her strength. And sometimes, I still feel that way. I still feel that my dad isn’t the same— that his recovery is still ongoing, and will never end (which, has a lot of pros, and cons, too). But as the summer went on, and the fall and spring passed I realized something. I am not alone. I looked around for just a minute, stopped being absorbed in wanting my dad back, which is okay to feel that way, and realized all of my friends at one point or another were experiencing the reality that their parents were not and are not invincible. You see, we grow up with the idea that our parents will live eternally. We are told that our parents will one day pass, and we have occasional friends who suffer through this much earlier in life, but it isn’t until you see them, your own mom and dad, for a moment in their life, weak and completely relying on you to help them survive do we realize this. And while 19 or 20 or 21 feels so young to experience this reality and often heartache, this is the age of our parents taking steps to be proactive, going to the exams to check for things, because it is that point in their life. It is not our turn to worry; it is our turn to be strong for our parents. To hold them up when they are scared. To stand by them through the long recovery, the potential depression or post traumatic stress. To hold their hands. While the fact that it is the time in their life to be proactive, does not make the facts of disease easier to swallow, it does, at least it did for me, help us to understand. It also reminds us that medicine is advancing every day and our parents are in excellent hands, to then again become invincible to us. To hold our hands and to be our support team.
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ole days, before you leave the good ole days.”—The Office