I know this blog is supposed to be primarily about my kids and my experience as their parent, but the events of the past couple weeks in regards to my dad have been eye-opening in many ways, including in my role as a parent. Thank God all is well with him and he's now got the task of taking it one day at a time to heal up and get back to normal life. It'll be a good three month process full of many limitations and new challenges, but when it's all said and done, he should have a good, full life ahead of him. But it was a very eye-opening week, with a little too much sobering reality for my tastes. I'm just so grateful that things went so smoothly, considering the seriousness of it all.
One of the things I realized is how much I wish I would have had a chance to know my other grandpa, my mom's dad. He had open heart surgery when I was around the age that Carter is now, and while he made it through that surgery, his severely damaged heart gave out less than a year later, right before my second birthday. I'm sad that I don't have any memories of him. I'm not sure I realized how much of a hole it was until I realized that if something happened to my dad, Carter would be in the same position that I have been all these years. I didn't want that for him. I have such wonderful memories of my dad's parents, as well as my mom's mom, but to not even have a concept of my grandma as a married woman, or to have real insight into half of my mom's genes, is a bit of a bummer. And knowing now what a great grandpa my dad is, the thought of Carter not remembering that was absolutely heartbreaking.
I'd obviously have been at a loss without him, as well. Surprisingly, I didn't really panic or let myself get too caught up in everything, but I won't lie--in the quiet solitude of my car on the way to Buffalo when I thought the surgery was imminent, I had a couple moments. Perhaps it was the first time I had to really be alone with my thoughts, or where I felt safe enough to let myself think. There were a couple songs, too, that didn't help...but in a way, did. One was from Sanctus Real, from an album that was written just prior to the lead singer finding out that his unborn son would be born with a serious heart defect. The album was unintentionally sprinkled with heart references, and I'll admit I pulled it into my car just before I left, because I thought it might be therapeutic or something. But when I heard this song, I pretty much lost it for a few minutes.
And then there's this one, which is my go-to, "I can't handle this" song. It's been a comfort through all of Jacob's issues, too, but when I heard it that day, everything became pretty real.
But I felt so much better once I got to the hospital and saw how he was doing. Granted, the moments before the postponed surgery were pretty dicey, but I was surprised at how at ease he seemed considering the circumstances. He did say that he was spiritually prepared in the event that something went very wrong, but I know how nervous he can be (trust me, I am my father's daughter), and I was pleased to see that he seemed okay. Even when the surgery was postponed for a day and he had a whole extra day to think about it, he still remained calm. It was actually nice to have that extra time to hang out, too, since I barely had a chance to say hi before he went off to the eventually-postponed surgery. He called himself a wimp in the middle of it all, and I told him he was stronger than he thought. And you know what? He was so brave. Sounds weird to be saying that about your parent, but I'm so proud of how he did with it all. And while I know this recovery is going to be tough, I'm confident he will get through it.
After the surgery the surgeon explained to us that in cases like my dad's, sometimes the only sign of a problem is when someone literally drops dead from a sudden heart attack. I thought about how awful that would have been, for so many reasons. The last thing my dad's family needed was another one of those, given what happened to my uncle 17 years ago. If it would have happened on their trip it would have been horrible--both because of the shock and the logistics. He's still so young with so many trips to take, so many friends and family members to enjoy and make memories with, and so many more drives to have in his little red sports car. He may have been fine with going, but the rest of would have felt such a loss. When we were back at my parents' house after everything was over, I looked at a set of pictures from my parents' Mediterranean cruise and thought about how sad it would have been if that was the last of the fun, adventurous pictures of both my parents together. It would have been the end of a long love story, too, far too early for a couple that both seem so young.
Like I said, while a lot of my emotions surrounding this had to do with the kids, I definitely would have felt a huge loss as well. I've mentioned before how our relationship has improved considerably in the past ten years, and it would have been such a shame for that to end. What if the conversations in the hospital would have been our last? What advice would I have missed? What stories might I have never known? What skills might my kids have never learned? Heck, my grandpa was well into his 70s when he taught me a card trick I still use to impress people when there's a deck of cards handy! And of course, this has all reminded me that Craig and I both need to be mindful of our bodies and do what we can to avoid ;putting our own loved ones through this same experience (or worse). Our diets are already challenged a bit by the limitations of the gluten-free diet we're on (at dinner time, at least), but it never hurts to keep it in mind with our lunch choices and when we eat out. I, for one, need to get my butt to the doctor for a full physical. It's been far too long and I need to check my high cholesterol, among other things.
In general I suppose right now I'm more of a worry-wart than ever. I know how quickly things can change, and how serious of a twist they can take. I worry that so many tests don't show the full story. Now that we've dodged this bullet I do think about which one we might not dodge. I know God's got it covered regardless, but it's hard to think about sometimes. But I know I'm grateful for the many blessings we have, and count my dad's survival at the top of that list. I'm not sure it's all sunk in even now, but what a crazy couple weeks it has been. All I can do is pull the positives out of it and try to keep those lessons in mind each and every day. We're only promised today, so we need to make the most of it while we have it.