Well, time just seems to fly by when your life gets crazy, doesn’t it? The last six weeks have just been insane, so grab your favorite beverage and let me catch you up on what’s been going on, and why I haven’t been here since mid-August.
Let’s start with work. You may or may not know that I work for a large mostly online retailer. I love my job. It’s hectic and sometimes feels like I’m riding a roller coaster without a seatbelt, but I really love what I do, and the people I work with every day. One of the things I love most about it is that while I have some things I absolutely need to do every day/week/month, I also have a lot of autonomy to follow my instincts and dig into things that a lot of people in my position don’t get to investigate. I manage all sorts of cool things, from labor planning to cost management, to productivity. My job is never boring, and it’s probably the first place where I feel truly able to contribute in a meaningful way.
Back in August, I found out that my building is transitioning to a different type of building in the supply chain. This particular building will no longer be customer-facing, as we have been since it opened about four years ago, but will instead be on the back end of the customer experience. In other words, we will be part of the returns organization. While some people might not like that idea, I’m pretty much a go with the flow kind of person when it comes to work, and I’m actually pretty excited to get to learn a different part of the business. This is, in my opinion, a great opportunity to learn new things. And so far, I have not been disappointed, because I’ve been learning new things since the day I found out about the change. Work is crazier than ever, but I’m having fun, and I find it all to be very exciting. I love change at work, and yes, I know how odd that makes me, but I feel like if things never change, your career is stagnating.
These changes have kept me super busy, and when I get home from work at night, I am exhausted, but I’m also very happy and content. I’m learning new things, I’m meeting new people, and there’s an energy in the building that makes me feel like good things are coming. I think a lot of my colleagues are feeling the same way, and many of us are seeing this as a positive change.
About three weeks or so after I found out about this change, I got a text message from my Mom with one line of text. It said, “Your Daddy has had a stroke.” I was at Home Depot, buying houseplants with Chris when I got the text, and of course, I immediately called her. Mom has had three or four strokes herself (there’s debate on if the fourth one was actually a stroke), and she knew right away what was going on, and called 911. The firehouse is right down the street from my parents’ house, and the EMTs were there in less than five minutes after Mom called 911. They got him to the hospital in less than 30 minutes, and he was in surgery to remove the blood clot in less than 90 minutes. The doctors told Mom that if she hadn’t acted so quickly, he likely wouldn’t have made it through the night.
Mom had her first stroke when she was 30, and I was about 7, and I remember what it was like for her for a couple of years after her stroke. Her face drooped on the left side, she had issues with using her left arm, and her left foot dragged a little bit. She also had a little slurring of speech, and she drooled a lot because of the temporary paralysis in her face. So I was more than prepared for Dad to have similar symptoms, but surprisingly, he’s had none of that. If you didn’t know him before the stroke, you would never know now that he had a stroke. His speech is unaffected, his face is fine, and his arms and legs are fine. You’d seriously never notice. If you don’t know him, that is.
His memory isn’t as good as it was before the stroke. Now, that isn’t a surprise to me at all, because like I said, 47 years of knowing Mom’s issues prepared me for that sort of thing. The problem is, though, that Dad already suffered from dementia before the stroke, and dementia is a cruel bitch. Dementia coupled with memory loss after a stroke is a cruel, heartless bitch. And dementia coupled with memory loss after a stroke is a cruel, heartless bitch who will torture a man who never spent a single day in the hospital before his stroke. And God bless him, for the first three weeks after the stroke, he spent more time in the hospital than at home, not due the the stroke itself, but all the other medical issues that were on display, yet not related to the stroke. How long those medical issues have existed is anyone’s guess; I’m not even sure he knows, to be honest, because if they existed before his stroke, he never mentioned them to anyone, including Mom.
Thank the Lord for my sister, who has been there every step of the way. She lives very close to our parents, so she is there often, and is able to help with things like groceries and meals. Mom said that they were never in danger of starving because my sister kept them well stocked with meals. We’ve leaned on each other through all of this, too. We’e commiserated, groused, planned, plotted, schemed, and in general been a good team through all of this. My brother has also stepped in and helped with things around the house, checked in on them, and in general, tried to keep things on an even keel. We have pulled together to get our parents through this, and we’re stronger for it, I think.
Mom has been wonderful through all of this, too, because if you don’t know what dementia does to a person, well … it’s bad. It’s more than just memory loss; it’s the loss of the person you know and love. It’s the loss of the gentle personality, the loving spouse and parent, and the loss of the future you once thought you’d have. It turns the sweetest person you know into a total jerk, not always, but often enough that it’s painful to witness. And it will continue to get worse, but we aren’t focusing on that. We’re just focusing on the day by day, because that’s how you manage something like this, and how you navigate life when someone you love is affected by something like that. She’s been there with Dad through all of it, taking care of him, making sure he has everything he needs or wants, and that he’s getting to doctors appointments, and the hospital when it was warranted. She’s a rock, which is where I think the rest of us got it. Really, both of my parents have always been rocks. I grew up with two of the strongest people I have ever met, and I’m better for it.
And that’s where I’ve been for the last couple of months. We’ve made more trips to the other side of Houston in the last six weeks than we’d made in the six months prior to that. Before you judge me, realize that driving across Houston is not the same as driving across most other cities. It takes me, at a minimum, 70 minutes to get from my house to my parents, and that’s with no traffic. If you add in Houston traffic, it could be 90 minutes. If a freeway is closed, which is frequent, I’m basically camping in my truck for the weekend.
But we persevere. We all are pushing on, grateful for one more day on this planet, one more day with each other, even if a city stands between us. Because that’s what we do, and I don’t think we’d have it any other way.