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Post op day 8. Dad’s hip replacement recovery is going fairly well, but he doesn’t understand why he isn’t 100% already. If you know Dad, this is no surprise. I am here with my parents mostly to provide comic relief and a respite from the boredom of convalescence, to prevent Dad from torturing Mom, to reassure Mom that Dad wasn’t going to fall or die, and to make the 11th hour Wawa run in the snow.

A few weeks ago, as we were enjoying a kid-free lunch after Church, Bernie voiced the inevitable: you should be there after your Dad’s surgery. Most moms—even those with young, independent teens—assume we’re absolutely essential. Bernie assured me I wasn’t. In, like, the best, I’ve-got-this way. So we booked a one-way, not knowing how Dad would fare surgery, and I told the boys I was going home for a few days, maybe a week.

Brodie was confused.

“Wait. You said you’re going ‘home’ instead of ‘to Philly.’”

And I had. Home is where your parents live, I told him. I guess that never changes. I’m home: here in the Over-55-on-a-Golf-Course condo complex where I didn’t grow up and where the only vestige of my youth is this trio of high school graduation pictures.

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Paige and I rocked the ’80s scrunch and mousse ‘do.

Home is where I spend the first hours of the day working the crossword with Dad and making him an egg sandwich while Action News announces anticipated weather that mom will fret over for the entire day, even if we have no plans to go outside. Home is also where Wawa is on the corner, the accent is hilariously homey, and I can order a hoagie.

After marriage and kids, it’s rare to spend this much quality downtime alone with your own mom and dad… rarer still when everyone is pretty much healthy. This is lucky, stolen time. On Sunday night, two Proseccos into a Feast Day cocktail hour, Dad and I predicted with stunning accuracy the scores of flipping snowboarders, marveling at the “big” mistakes that cost Olympians a hundredth of a second and a medal. We’ve also logged 6 hours of golf tournament napping, entire mornings of talk show programming, 60 Minutes, and naturally, a lot of Fox News. We haven’t missed an episode of Jeopardy and dammit if that Vanna White isn’t still stunning.

This is 75. I’m writing the screenplay.

Surgery is no fun and being on the other side of it for the second time (albeit, a bit removed since it wasn’t me getting the new hip), I’m ever more aware of how ill prepared patients are for what comes next. Dad only heard that the pain of recovery would never match the agony of an arthritic joint. Well, not so fast, amnesic advice-givers. This was, and continues to be, plenty painful. Dad needed every single pain pill… and they only gave him a handful of days to wean himself, never once preparing him that weaning would be necessary, or that we might feel like dope peddling criminals to want more in the house, just in case. I snort-laughed at the 20 year old secretary who handed me a ‘script for a measly, additional day-and-a-half of pain relief for my dad who was dutifully doing his laps around the condo, icing and elevating, and choking down an entire fruit basket to ward off the inevitably awful effects of Percocet. I stopped short of demanding more. I’m here as The Daughter, not The Doctor.

Because he’s not 100% yet, Dad doesn’t feel like he’s turned a corner. But yesterday, his pedometer counted a good amount of steps taken with little more than Tylenol on board. So I’m going back to my boys in the morning—back to the house where I’m the one who birddogs the laundry and dishwasher, plans the meals, and knows the status of the pantry’s snack reserves. My boys spent the past week in an extended culinary celebration of Chinese New Year, eating an insane amount of noodles and dim sum and fish jerky, and getting taller without me. Their stories will hint at how independent they have become, but their hugs will betray them. As we’ve all witnessed in the past week, teenagers are awesome, and I miss mine.

But until I know my own Dad is feeling like his return to 100% is somewhere on the horizon, my heart will still be… home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I get it… by Dan Hines

Danny walks. An update from Dan, who is kind of miraculously, and certainly inspirationally, recovering from Guillain-Barré syndrome. He posted this video a few days ago, which prompted our exchange:

ME: You. Are. Walking

Dan: Sort of. The video you saw was the third try. The first two I fell.

ME: You know I want five paragraphs about that.

And here they are:

 

There’s a scene, a few actually, in the movie ‘What About Bob’ where a young boy stands on a dock. He’s staring at the water and all he wants to do is learn to dive. He wants it, doesn’t know how to do it, and is scared of it. Despite encouragement from Dad, Mom, Sister he continuously backs away, making excuses, and goes back to the house.

I get it.

Some of you know my story so I won’t go through it all, but it was 16 months ago when I last took any real steps on my own without some form of help. Whether it was a wheelchair, a walker, a cane, a therapist’s arm, or even a kitchen counter or wall. A few times in therapy, I was able to do it for, like, 5-6 feet– my therapist waiting in front of me, open-armed, like a mom teaching her baby how to walk. “Come on, I’ve got you’” ‘Cause I am, in fact, a giant baby.

When you go through something, anything really, you go through “the stages.” You know ’em. But there’s one they rarely mention, the one that really matters. It’s the, “Fuck it, I’ve had enough of this” stage.

December was a bit sad for me, personally, which made Christmas a bit tough. New Year’s Eve hit and I made the same declarations as everyone else, “This year will be different!’ I woke up January 1st, and I played the daily game:

“Am I wearing socks?’”

With peripheral neuropathy, you gotta check. I look down…I guessed wrong. Shit. This year is the same.

So January 23rd was a big day. I was growing frustrated. The wheels in my head were spinning. I was missing the things I once had: life, love, ability, purpose. I know my value, but was obsessing over my weakness. About 8:30pm, I reached the unspoken last stage.

“Fuck it. I’ve had enough of this.”

I get up, turn on the lights and set up my phone at the end of the hall. I head back into the kitchen, and turn around. I let go of the cane and the counter. And I start. I get 5 feet and BOOM, I’m on the ground. Now, since I can’t stand on my own, I crawl into the kitchen so I can use a chair to get back on my feet.

2nd try. This time, ten feet and… BOOM. Crawl to the kitchen, grab my cane, and head towards the phone. Like a coach at halftime, I need to review this. I think I see my mistake. I re-set the phone, press record, and start again. Third try’s more than a charm. It’s history.

 

So there the boy stands, on that same dock, with that same view, and those same fears. He knows what he has to do; it’s run through his mind a thousand times. Just dive, just dive, just dive. And from somewhere courage builds. He bends his knees, puts his hands in front him, takes a deep breath. And dives. That dock (the hallway), the unwitting stage.

“Fuck it. I’ve had enough of this.”

And I get it.