One Phone Call from Our Knees

There's this song on the radio "Closer to Love" about how we're all one phone
call from our knees. We all know it. Why would anyone sing about it?  

A few weeks ago on a Wednesday, I was at work when I got a phone call from my brother Matt. Dad had had a minor stroke Tuesday night, but everything was okay. He'd been out in Vancouver on business. At dinner with co-workers, his side had gone numb. He'd been unable to find the words he wanted to say. His friends had recognized the signs of stroke and rushed him to the hospital. Now, the next day, he had his words back.

I called my dad from my desk. We had a conversation. I heard his voice. He reassured me it was all fine. No need to come up. His wife Susie was on the way. But he still had trouble still finishing his sentences. I worried, but didn't get on a plane.

The next day, Susie arrived. I guess on that day it became hard for him to find words again. His condition was getting worse, but he didn't get that out to us. He may have been afraid. He and Susie met with a doctor. His carotid artery was 90% blocked. This was Friday. The doctors recommended surgery right away. I talked with Dad again on the phone. He still said no need to come. He was comfortable with the doctors. He decided to have the surgery, carotid endarterectomy (CEA). 

While in the surgery, some plaque broke free and my dad had a major stroke. His arteries were very clogged. The doctor had never seen one so clogged before. The doctor did his best. We got the call on Saturday night. The surgery had not gone well. There was a 10 - 20 % chance his brain might swell, which is terminal. We could lose our dad. I got on a plane.

In Vancouver, my dad slept in recovery while we waited to see if swelling would or would not happen. Thankfully, his brain didn't swell. But his speech might be forever impaired and his right side was now numb. He might not walk again.  So much lost.

And yet, there's a bright side. My dad is lucky to be alive. My dad runs around the country and world at 100 mph. He loves his work and doesn't stop for long to take care of his health. So truly, he's lucky to have these years. A chance for some time to enjoy life, his grand kids, his music he loves, art and more. He's lucky to have a chance to get it all back, his speech, maybe even walk. Time will tell. Because though his speech is limited, he is still the same guy. He smiles at the same jokes and is interested in the same news, stories and music as before. My dad is there. He just can't talk. Not yet. 

Here's What I Learned That I'd Like to Share


I've noticed Dad makes time with each kid.
 Make Time Every Time
In December my dad had been in town on business. It was a Friday and his work was done. He had some time before he was scheduled to fly back to Charleston. I had to go to work. I was out of vacation for the year. We talked about going to see the trains at the Museum Center in Cincinnati, a fantastic display he would love. Instead, we'd go in March when he was here again. I'd have vacation time then. Damn. 
Lesson Learned: Take your sick days in life. Work will be there.

Check Up on Your Parent's Health
Dad had mentioned he'd been in for some MRIs because he was having shortness of breath. But in our family, we don't really talk about our health. So we never discussed it. But sometimes all it takes is a nudge, someone with a suggestion. Lesson Learned: Stop and sit down with your parents and talk about their health. Ask them if they are getting the screenings they should get at their age. You may not know a lot, but you may have different knowledge then them. Find out what's bothering them and do a little research.

Know Your Family's Health History
My dad's mom had "hardening of the arteries." So for us, our kids, and Dad that means it's in our genes. Having a vague idea of your family history is not enough, it's like shutting your eyes to a big fat overhead sign on the highway. If it impacted them, it can impact you and your kids. Here's an article on how to do just that: Will You Inherit Your Family's Health

When the Call Comes Drop Everything
When it's a stroke. Just go. What can it hurt? Sure he could have been back to work the next day. But just go. Say hello. Why not? Work will wait. Your spouse will be glad to pitch in and run the family a while. You'd do the same for him. You married him because he's that guy. Just go.

So, I'm hopeful and optimistic. Much was lost. But there's time for recovery. Dad's really type A. So if anyone will be walking again, it's him. He'll have years with his grandkids, time to go to concerts and enjoy his home in Charleston. He's lucky. God wanted him to slow down and enjoy life.

So back to the song. I've recently read another interpretation. It's that we're one phone call from being brought to a place of prayer. One call from waking up to the fragility of life. From seeing the world as it is. A brief gift. It's good to love your work. Life's too short not to do what you love. But life is fleeting. Make time for the trains.   

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