So, I probably should have explained WHY I wanted to share this journey with you. (Damn concussion!) I’m not that person who loves to be the center of attention. Actually, I’m the exact opposite. I’m that introvert who even on a good day needs to have a good friend with me to walk into a crowded room or party situation. I would prefer being in the corner people watching than on the stage. I’d rather host a party so I can go upstairs and hide for a few minutes when I’m desperate for some me time and physically need to get away from people. Plus, it’s much easier to hang in the kitchen looking busy than to talk in a larger group setting, right?
I want to share this journey with you because I know I’m not the only one who has needed to take a break from the active things I love to do. Maybe your break is because life has gotten too crazy to make time for these activities. Maybe your break is because you are having a baby! Maybe your break is because of an injury. Maybe your break is because you are taking care of someone you love who needs you. My break just happens to be because of a concussion, but when you see that word, just fill it in with your reason. My frustrations, sadness, anger, fears, and many other emotions are common to any of us going through stuff that takes us away from things we love. Makes us forget the strong person we used to be. Makes us feel less like the person we felt we were.
We are still in there. . . . it’s a journey. . . . sometimes a long, slow, painful journey, but we need to go through it and come out the other end. I’ve decided to call my journey Operation Phoenix Rising (OPR but sometimes I forget what that means, right, Mama J?) So, whatever is your “concussion”, join me in Operation Rising Phoenix.
A gift my concussion has given me has been the gift of time. In the beginning of June, I had to make that phone call that no parent wants to get from their kid no matter how old the kid is. “Mom/Dad, I was in a car accident.” Of course, that was followed by I’m fine, just a little achy. Yes, I’m getting checked out today. Yes, it happened yesterday. Yes, I promise, I’m going to be seen today. Yes, I promise. Then the next day, I checked in to follow-up. Well. . . I don’t feel quite as good as I did the day before. . . maybe some whiplash and a concussion.” Then we got into a routine of talking every day because I could hear the worry in their voices. They live in Florida so it’s not like they can pop over and see that I look just fine.
My dad and I had yet another thing in common – brain symptoms. He had dealt with lung cancer since 2011 and had developed brain metastases in the last few years. Although he was doing remarkably well considering everything, he was definitely developing some symptoms at that point. So we had some serious chats about feeling foggy, difficulty finding words, etc, but we also laughed at our deficits. I felt especially close to him because I got it.
I physically understood some of the ways he was now suffering. If we didn’t talk with our morning cup of coffee, I knew he would call me by 3 p.m. each day. I cherish the memory of those concussion calls.
In July, my dad’s condition significantly deteriorated and it became clear that brain surgery was his only option. Another gift of my concussion was the ability to just leave and be with my parents. I was already out of my normal routine. I was not physically well enough to work so I didn’t need to worry about handing off my projects or wrapping things up before leaving. I was able to focus 100% on being the daughter. I was able to sit at his bedside, talk to the doctors and nurses who were doing their best to save him. I was available to help my mom process what was happening.
I was a resource for both of my parents and long-distance to my brother and sister when it became clear that my dad wasn’t able to make the recovery we were all hoping and praying for.
I thank my concussion for this gift of time to hold my dad’s hand and discuss end of life decisions, hospice and what he truly wanted for his last few days. He wanted to come home. My mom was willing to do it. I was scared because I knew I wasn’t feeling well enough to handle it. I updated my siblings and they agreed to fly down the next day. Next thing I knew my daughter and niece were coming too. It was going to be OK. I couldn’t do it alone, but we could do it together! I knew it!!
After a week in Neuro ICU, we brought my dad home on hospice to a home full of family, love, his favorite foods, laughter, reminiscing, and definitely some tears.
On my 19th wedding anniversary, I sat at my dad’s beside holding his hand and my daughter played our daddy/daughter dance song – Butterfly Kisses. He showed many physical signs that he would pass that day and I told him it was OK, but if you know my dad, you know he can be a strong-willed guy (OK, let’s call it what it is – he’s stubborn). He held on just a little bit longer. Life will not be the same without my dad, my hero, but I’m so blessed to have had that time with him. No matter how old I get, I’ll always be my daddy’s little girl.
Sometimes we have to look hard to find the blessings/gifts in the struggles/challenges. My concussion has given me the gift of time. That gift to call my parents and now my mom almost every day. To check in with those we love. Take a minute and look at your “concussion” what gift/blessing is it giving to you? Is there something hidden in there?
Join me on this continuing journey next week!
One step at a time,