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.