Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Like Father, Like Daughter

My father recently survived his third stroke. My siblings and I decided he could no longer live alone amidst the cows and corn of rural Wisconsin. My sister located an assisted living near her home in Houston. My brother flew to Wisconsin in a snowstorm to pack Dad's treasured things. And I joined Dad last week in Houston to help him settle in.

After my stroke Dad stayed with me my first month home from the hospital. He chauffeured me, helped me shop, and bore the emotional upheaval as I started to adapt to this huge change in my life.

I flew to Houston on my own, drove a rental car, stayed in a hotel. I did little exercise. By the end of the week, my left side was in spasm and I could barely walk. After working so hard at recovery, I was disheartened to realize I could lose so much of what I've gained during times of stress and exhaustion. Sitting with Dad in the home's communal dining room, I sometimes felt I fit in better than he among the walkers and wheelchairs.

Dad still has physical abilities; he lost his driver's license and has trouble communicating. I chauffeured him and helped him shop. During our final excursion to Best Buy, I plonked down in the store-provided wheelchair and Dad pushed me around as we sought to locate a corded phone without too many confusing buttons. "People probably think I'm here to help you," Dad said. "But you're really here to help me."

Being able to help made my discomfort bearable. While I wasn't able to carry boxes or assemble furniture, I was well-equipped to share the emotional upheaval as Dad started to adapt to this huge change in his life.


  1. Beautiful. Thank you for posting,

  2. American families are so spread out that half the battle when handling a crisis is just showing up. It was heart warming to read how you and your siblings rallied around your father after his stroke. Having him push you in a wheelchair at Best Buy while you helped him with his communication reminded me of something that happened to me in rehab. My roommate who had a stroke and I used our sound hands to pry open a small milk carton. If I had waited for an aide to do it my coffee would have been cold.

  3. One time at an aphasia gathering that my dad and I attended, we had the chance to go out in an adaptive canoe. I asked for help getting in and out of the boat. It took a few seconds for the coordinator to realize that *I* was the one who needed help, not my dad. Confusing!

    I'm so happy for you--and your dad--that you could help.

  4. so lovely Marcelle...your words absolutely sing...I'm so glad you are able to be there for your dad...

  5. It is nice that you could be there for your dad. It sounds like you had a LOT of activity while you were there and you did a fantastic job of coping with what must have been an emotionally traumatic time for both you and your dad. I was very touched by your post.

  6. What a gift you gave your Dad by being there and supporting him. Sometimes the greatest thing we can do for others is to listen with compassion. Your blog reminds me always of what's really important! Thanks!

  7. I've felt a parallel of that easy it is to lose the peace, calm, and coping skills that we once found. In the midst of stress they seem to just slip away. It feels like we regress.

    But once, a friend told me that we move in a spiral. The same issues and challenges crop up for us again and again, but we aren't circling back, we're circling in...moving, changing, and getting closer to the center. This idea feels right to me. And helps me to not get as scared when I find my health slipping because of stress. I still have those coping skills, I don't have to learn them all over again...I just have to remember them.