I wrote this the night my dad had his stroke. He has since recovered with no permanent damage to his mind, his memory, or his body. We’re thankful and also still praying for no more strokes. This Father’s Day, I had lunch with my dad as we talked about gardening and hiking. I hope for many more sandwiches on the deck with my parents.
I was having friends over tonight. I recently left some good friends behind to start a new job– friends I spent many years with and who I care about very much and who care about me very much. I left them three weeks ago to start a new job, and tonight I was having them over for another “Pinterest Party” as we call them, which is to say an excuse to get together, have some wine, and chat, all under the guise of being productive and doing a craft together. It’s a good time, and I was hosting this time around, for what may have been the biggest turnout yet. I prepped our dinner last night– traditional lasagna and veggie lasagna and salad– and I was so excited to see these girls who I love and miss (despite that fact that I do like my new job very much).
Except life happens. And it’s unpredictable and it can break your heart wide, wide open.
When your mom calls you at your new job, where she knows you’re on your best behavior (which means no work-time cell phone calls), you answer. And although you hope the time of day just slipped her mind, somewhere deep down, you know she’s calling because something isn’t right. Something isn’t right. And I sit beside my two new coworkers– who are wonderful, I must say– and I shield my tearing eyes and I listen. And because it’s a new job, I calmly hang up the phone and walk to the bathroom, shut and lock the door and stand there with my hand against it as I let tears slide gently down my face and pray. This is what you do when your dad has another stroke and you’re at a job you started just three weeks ago.
Once I composed myself and checked the mirror– not too bad really … some red blotches coloring my collarbones, but not too much red around the eyes (and no smeared mascara!)– I take a breath and walk straight to my new supervisor’s office. And the composure is gone … like, instantly. But I know for a fact that this is a KIND woman and so I let myself break as I tell her I need to go home. She insists I don’t drive, that someone will take me or I must call my husband. There is sincere concern. And it’s the best thing I know about working in non-profit– work is always second to family. Everything stops and you are expected to leave to take care of the things that make you who you are, the people that make you who you are.
There are lasagnas in my refrigerator, meant for my friends, all of whom sent prayers and love, not one of whom fault me for canceling last minute. And beyond these friends, I have others offering love and support and I’m on a plane if you need me. God surrounds me with love in moments like this, despite the ways I question Him. I know that in the depths of who I am, I am loved by my Father.
At first report, the stroke took most of my dad’s memory. He remembered only my mom and was agitated when she left his side in the hospital, even for just a bathroom break. Love, I tell you. Life lived and shared for 32 years.
Chad and I decide not to go to the hospital, because there are tests to be done and my dad’s sleeping and not remembering and it’s exhausting and stressful for him and he’s stable. My younger sister is there and she fills us in.
She calls with the full evening’s report. After hours of sitcom distractions and waiting and guacamole-for-dinner, all punctuated with tears, she calls. He’s still having trouble remembering … causes and treatments are still up in the air … there will be more tests tomorrow …
Then she calls again, just ten minutes later. “When I walked back into the room, Daddy said, ‘How’s Jamie?'”
My husband watches my face contort to tears and thinks she called back with bad news, because sometimes hope and love and your dad saying your name break your heart wide, wide open all over again, more than before even.
My husband picked me up from my new job today. When I called him and said, “My dad had another stroke,” he said, “No!” like he was willing it not to be true. Then he got in his car to come get me. And on the way out of my office, my wonderful new coworkers said, “I’m so sorry,” and “Here’s my phone number if you need anything at all,” and “We’ll pray. What’s your dad’s name?” What’s your dad’s name? How beautiful to ask, so you can take that straight up to Heaven and ask for intercession by name.
And on the way home, my husband reached out for me again and again, because sitting in the car means you’re sitting too far away from each other in moments like this.
And all I kept thinking about was how my dad jiggled me to sleep as a baby on his chest. I’ve heard that story so many times, how it soothed my baby soul to rest on his warm chest and be jiggled to sleep by one who loved me. And I don’t remember it mentally, but deep, deep down, I feel that warmth and love in my very being.
In the depths of who I am, I am loved by my father. And when he remembers my name and says it aloud, tears run like a river of hope through the wide open space of my broken heart.