I was ready this year.
Christmastime can be a whirlwind. I have this crazy tradition of editing together all my family’s photos and video clips to create DVDs for my sisters and brother of all their kids. It’s time consuming and I always create a schedule for myself to make sure I can get all the events edited together and burned to DVDs in time for Christmas Eve, when my whole family gets together at my parent’s house to celebrate and exchange gifts. But I had the DVDs under control this year. I was ahead of schedule.
This year, I had made my five nephews and one niece superhero capes for Christmas. They were done by the time Chad and I left for Norway, so that was six less presents to account for once the holidays hit. Plus, Chad’s family is a little scattered this year for Christmas, so we decided to exchange gifts the second week in December. That meant getting all those gifts together earlier than usual.
We had our tree set up, our house decorated and our Christmas party planned earlier than ever because Chad is now working a lot less than he used to since he manages his own business part time.
I was ready this year.
Christmas Eve came and I was finishing up Christmas cookies that afternoon– the last thing I had to do before we headed up to my parents, completely on schedule, with no last minute rushes or meltdowns. And then my sister called.
I have a terrible habit of leaving my already quiet cell phone upstairs where I can’t hear it ring. So she’d already tried to call my phone with no answer. She called Chad’s phone, so he answered, and rather than relaying a message through Chad like she normally would, she asked to talk to me. I should have realized something was off, but I figured she just wanted to know when we were heading to my parents. I was icing cookies and wasn’t considering the possibility that something was wrong.
She said, “Mom is taking Daddy to the hospital. He’s not feeling right and his speech is weird.”
I held my breath. I repeated the sentence to Chad and he came to me. I told my sister I was okay and told her to call me with news. She said she would. She always does. Then I hung up and sat down, right where I was (thankfully there was a bench beneath me) and Chad sat beside me as I sobbed.
My dad had a TIA, or transient ischemic attack, on Christmas Eve. That’s a mini-stroke, probably caused by a blood clot in his brain. Thankfully, they got to the hospital quickly and he was given medicine to break up the clot and clear everything up. His speech– he was struggling to pronounce and recall words and names– came back. He felt better quickly and he called me to tell me he was okay.
We didn’t celebrate Christmas. Illness knows no holiday. Illness knows no schedule at all, and it doesn’t care how ready you were for the holiday, or how excited. My dad spent Christmas in the hospital and we all took turns visiting him in the ICU. He looked fine. He sounded fine. Thank you for that, Lord.
We are hoping to celebrate Christmas this week if we can figure out when all my siblings have another day off from work. And my dad is home. He went home the day after Christmas and is feeling better, almost like nothing ever happened. It was hard, and it still breaks my heart to think about, because TIAs are often the warning signs or precursors to real strokes, the kind that cause permanent damage. That’s the kind of fact my nightmares are made of.
But the most important thing is that our family has more time, and things weren’t worse. I am grateful for my friends who checked in and let me vent and weren’t afraid of my tears and text messages. Thanks for supporting us.