Stroke

 

Dad and his Kayak.
Dad and his Kayak. Harding Lake, Fairbanks, Alaska. ca, July 2010. Photo by JAH.
Note: This essay was written on September 19, 2010. I was in graduate school, and my Dad had just suffered a stroke in July 2010. The stroke changed his life, and he was lucky that it occurred while he was at the hospital for an appointment. I can recall my life at that time as “the time before Dad had his stroke, and the time after.” My Dad is a survivor, and continues to live his life. This essay is encapsulated during that time. 

Stroke.

A perfect Sunday morning at the lake with the blue skies hinting at the end of summer days. I told him 10 minutes and that’s all! He looked back to nod at me that he understood my orders. I yelled at him again. Dad, I mean it! Just 10 minutes! He strokes the paddle. The first time in his kayak. One stroke to the left. Switch. One stroke to the right. Rest in the center. I looked to the skies. I looked out to the lake. Perfect. Pristine. A perfect Sunday morning at the lake a perfect way to end a summer day.

Stroke.

I drove to the hospital carefully and fast as I could. It happened while he was at his doctor’s appointment, the doctor said.  I asked how? Her answer was it happens. I rushed on a Monday afternoon to the hospital. Impossible. I said in my mind. He was just fine yesterday. I got to the hospital and in the emergency there he laid on a bed. No control over his eyes. No idea of his surroundings. Dad, it’s me. I said. He looked to his left, and tried to focus on my face. Where’s my keys? He asked. I have them, Dad, it’s in my purse. What happened? I asked. Stroke. He attempted to say very slowly.

Stroke.

9-years old and we were taking a nightly walk. Where do we move from here, Dad? I asked him. We will go everywhere in the world, he says. Like, where? I insisted. We will go to Germany, Hawaii, Italy, London, he answered. Will I make new friends when we move all the time? I asked wondering. Of course, you will! You have the stroke of genius when it comes to making friends, he said as he looked down at me smiling.

Stroke.

You need to sign the TPA authorization, the doctor told me. This will help prevent any further damage, she said. I took the pen that she included with the clipboard, and I did not read the consequences of what may happen should I not authorize the medication. The window of opportunity to prevent any more damage was 3-4 hours and that was it. I signed with the quick stroke of the pen with the wish and hope that a simple signature would lead to a significant amount of improvement.

Stroke.

7-years old and with the rosary in my hand for the first time. I looked at my grandmother as she prayed for something; always for something. Lola, do you hold it like this? I asked. She looked down at me as I knelt on the pew. Yes, you hold it like this. She showed me her hand with her rosary. Then, with each bead you stroke you say your prayers, she said. Always remember to say each prayer as you stroke each bead, ok? Remember, 10 Hail Marys and the Our Father prayer, ok? She instructed. I understand. I’ll remember for next time. I nodded.

Stroke.

The Priest came in and gently stroked the sign of the cross on my Dad’s forehead. Would you like to receive communion today? He asked. My Dad nodded. I looked at him surprised. He was a Buddhist and had not practiced Catholicism in years. My Dad nodded at me. I understood. In sickness or in health, one must appreciate and welcome all prayers that are offered. I looked at the priest. I bowed my head and prayed.

Stroke.

11-years old and I refused to take my punishment. You know the drill, he told me. But, I really don’t like polishing your Army boots, Dad. I said. Well, then you should remember not to talk back to your parents, then. He responded. Fine. I sat down, and grabbed the black shoe polish and brush. Stroke to the left twice. Switch. Stroke to the right, twice. There, shiny. Now repeat.

Stroke.

Dad, you are leaving for Seattle. I told him. The Swedish rehabilitation center is the best place for you to recover, and you will work on your left arm to get it moving again, ok? He nodded at me. I’m tired. He said. I know, but you have to fight to get better. I comforted him. Ok. He said slowly. The nurse came in the room with a damped washcloth. She walked over to his bedside, stroked his hair, and wiped his face. You have to remember to wipe this side of your face. She said. You don’t have control over this muscle yet, ok? I looked away to pack his things.

Stroke.

A perfect Sunday morning at the lake with the blue skies hinting at the end of summer days. I told him 10 minutes and that’s all! He looked back to nod at me that he understood my orders. I yelled at him again. Dad, I mean it! Just 10 minutes! He stroked the paddle. The first time in his kayak. One stroke to the left. Switch. One stroke to the right. Rest in the center.

I looked to the skies. I walked back to the cabin. A Sunday morning at the lake with blue skies, I thought. I looked back. My Dad waved at me with his left arm perfectly.

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