We left off the day of my Dad's accident. I was 11 days away from my due date, but had been expecting to have the baby early, as I had with Elliott. As my sisters and I parted ways that night they both told the baby to stay put for at least another day or two. We left dad still in the ER, but we were told he would be having a drain placed and be transferred up to the Neuro ICU within an hour or two of us leaving. They hoped that once the pressure was relieved that they could take him off sedation and see how he was from there.
The next morning Gloria and I drove to the hospital together. We talked about our expectations for the day, which were largely about how we would have to figure out if Dad would be able to attend the reunion the following weekend. It was 7 days away. Would he be out of the hospital yet? Could he maybe attend if he was in a wheel chair and took it easy? Gloria seemed very skeptical he would be out that soon, but I thought it was possible. We agreed we would have to talk it over with Dad and his doctors.
We arrived at the hospital to find Nicole with my Uncle Bob, our cousin Brandie and her husband Mike. One thing I realized through all of this is what a blessing it is to just have people show up. Friends, if you have someone close to you go through something like this, don't ask. Just show up. You don't need to bring anything. The moral support is more than enough. The phone calls, texts and messages do matter. Even when all you say is "I don't know what to say" Your thoughts, and especially your prayers, do matter.
Gloria, Nicole and I went in to see Dad together. He was still unconscious, but I imagined it was because they hadn't taken him off the sedation yet. He looked a lot better than the night before. They had him in a bed that was sort of sitting up, and his color looked better too. It helped that the harsh ER lights were now replaced with the softer lighting in the ICU. The ventilator was still breathing for him, but it appeared to be a little less mechanical than before. Our timing was pretty good- the surgeon happened to be making his rounds in the ICU and was able to show us his CT scan and speak with us about his condition. The news was not what I was expecting. They had in fact already taken him off the sedatives, yet he was not waking up. He had a significant skull fracture and two active brain bleeds. Our best guess of what happened is that he fell off his garage in between the garage and his motorhome, and he hit his head on the way down as well as when he hit the concrete. The surgeon said that the next 3 days were the most important- that is how long it typically takes for the initial swelling to reduce and they would hope to see improvement by the third day.
I guess he wouldn't make it to the reunion.
The next few days were a blur. We saw improvements, and then he would go backwards again. He barely peeked an eye open for days, but we held onto what they told us. He was improving slowly, and more importantly his condition wasn't worsening. He would respond to commands- the nurses would yell in his ears and ask him to squeeze their hands, push down on his feet and, and to give thumbs up. All 3 of us went to the hospital every single day. Each day I would leave I would tell him that I would see him tomorrow, unless I have the baby. Once he started peeking his eyes open it felt like such a huge win! We still didn't count it as "waking up" because he barely seemed conscious. He would sometimes follow you with his eyes, but sometimes not. I prayed each day that I would see him wake up before the baby came.
Each day I found someone to watch Elliott while I went to the hospital. As grateful as I was for it, it felt stressful for me. More than once I had to drive Elliott across the city, then back in the other direction to the hospital. All while trying not to disrupt nap time, and being home for dinner time. It seemed like my days were completely revolving around hospital visits. Between all the driving, then parking, and walking (ahem.. waddling) all the way to his unit from the parkade, the whole process would take 3+ hours, and I would barely get an hour at his bedside. It was emotionally and physically draining as I was approaching my due date. It's not that I didn't want to be there- I did, and I was happy to sit beside him each day because I was genuinely concerned about his recovery. I also found myself wishing I would just go into labour already. Not only to meet our baby and end my physical discomfort, but to have an excuse to stop going to the hospital.
My Dad and I have never had an easy time with our relationship, and so while yes, I was 100% happy that he was alive and improving, it wasn't as though the past was erased and now everything was going to be different. I thought a lot about the "what ifs" What if he had died after we had not spoken for 91 days? What if we weren't able to make it right? You would think that would just eat me up inside, and I would have an epiphany about how none of the past mattered and now that I realized I could have lost my Dad forever, I planned on everything being different.... but I didn't. I know that's hard to understand, and most people probably never will. I've spent a lot of time with therapists, pastors, mentors, women of faith and good friends working through my feelings about my Dad. I have forgiven him for a whole lifetime of hurts. Forgiveness however, does not equate a restored relationship. Especially in the case when there is nothing to restore it to because even your earliest memories are stained with black marks.
Regardless of all these emotions, I returned to the hospital each day. Finally, on the tenth day after his fall, I had a really good visit. The first 40 minutes or so were actually below average. He drifted in and out of consciousness, peeking an eye open once or twice, but for the most part he appeared to be asleep. I felt frustrated because I had driven Elliott to my friends house on the west end, and was actually missing a get together with our Mom's group. Because of the time constraints I was only able to sit with him for 45 minutes, and now here he was sleeping the whole time. A few minutes before I went to leave I stood up so we were eye to eye to tell him I was leaving soon and that I loved him. He opened his eyes and looked right at me, seemingly recognizing who I was. And then, with the ventilator still in, he mouthed "I love you too" and he squeezed my hand really hard. I couldn't believe it! I stayed for a couple minutes longer, but had to leave soon after that. As soon as I reached my vehicle, I burst into tears. Not just a tear or two streaming down my face, but a big 'ol ugly cry. I remember thinking to myself "Ok baby. That's good enough. You can come now."
Sure enough, on Day 11 (September 28th) I woke up at 4 in the morning, in labour, and Audrey was born. After that I only saw my Dad a handful of times before Christmas.
I'll continue unpacking this story in my next post. I hope you'll follow along!