It’s my dad’s birthday today. He is 74 years old. As many of you know, he suffered a stroke while driving down the interstate back in May of 2012. As the effects became more noticeable, he pulled off the highway and onto a frontage road. He left a slurred message on my brother’s cell phone, telling him “I don’t know what’s wrong but can you come get me…I’m sorry to bother you.”
Since then, my dad has been paralyzed on his left side. He is bed ridden and living in an assisted living home. This once fiercely independent man is now dependent on others to, get out of bed, to use the bathroom and to prepare his meals. My dad has struggled to accept his new normal. I don’t blame him. It’s a hard pill to swallow.
We talk on the phone almost everyday. The conversation always comes back around to me coming home to visit him. I was there in August and have plans to visit again some time in the next few months. “Well, little girl, I sure am looking forward to seeing you.”
“I know ,Dad, I’ve been keeping an eye on plane tickets. I’ll let you know when I book something. I need to work around Sean’s school schedule.”
The other day I went to my mailbox and found a check waiting for me. I knew it was coming. My dad told me he had asked my brother to mail it for him. He wanted to contribute to the cost of our tickets home. I’ve told him over and over not to do it. “We can afford it, Dad. It’s okay.” But, like always, he argued right back. He’s a stubborn man and won’t take no for an answer. He can’t really afford to give me money for tickets. In his new normal, there is a big chance he will outlive the money in his account.
The last time I was home for a visit, I took my dad to meet a couple of his friends for lunch. When the check came after our meal, my dad insisted on paying for it.
“Dad, I can get this. Let me get it.” I said. We argued about it for a few seconds until his good friend, Leon, interrupted me.
“Let him get it.” Leon’s eyes said it all and I finally understood. My dad needed to do this. It was no longer about the money. It was about feeling normal again.
There’s a scene from The Shawshank Redemption that always comes to mind when I think back on this memory. When circumstances turn our life on its head…sometimes we just need normal to briefly fly back into our lives and rest on our shoulder.
After receiving my dad’s check, I called him on the phone. I didn’t argue with him.
“Dad, you didn’t have to do this. Thank you so much.”
“Not a problem, I wanted to do it, I sure am looking forward to seeing you, little girl.”