My parents are in their mid 70's, and very active people. I can barely keep up with my mom and what continent she's on. Our family joke is if Mom doesn't answer her cell, she's probably out of the country...again. You all comment on how much energy I have (Dean laughs at this, since he knows the real truth!) but I am a sloth compared to my mom. (Dean is nodding his head in agreement.)
And my dad? He takes a 5-6 mile walk through the Chippewa National Forest every day, carrying with him one of his golf irons in case he meets up with a bear, mountain lion or wolf. They're no match for him! In the summer months, most days you can find my dad on some golf course or another or riding his motorcycle or landing a nice walleye in his boat! My dad has worked hard all his life, and provided well for us. I have to say though, for all the playing he does, his "retirement" probably looks very different than most people's.
But last week our family had a little bit of reality slapped in our face. My dad had a small stroke.
Lots of people have "small strokes", or even several of them. My dad's stroke was in the Pons, which is in the brain stem. This is the most important part of your brain. It is very densely packed with nerve bundles that carry movement and sensory information to the rest of the brain. It controls all the movement and balance within your head, neck and the rest of the body. It also controls your heart and lung function, along with all of your reflexes. Just one tiny area of damage within the pons can have dire results. The symptoms of a pons stroke vary depending upon which nerve bundle(s) is damaged. It could be as severe as death or quadriplegia, to "just" confusion and difficulty forming words.
In my dad's case, at the time of the stroke he was confused, slurring his words a bit, trouble saying certain words, and some nausea and irritability. He doesn't remember that day at all. He still has severe fatigue (probably because his blood pressure is through the roof!) and a little bit of a memory problem. For me, the most concerning of the symptoms dad has left is his lack of appetite. I mean NO appetite.
I could go on and on here. I could go into detail about how freaked out I am about this event in our lives, and my fear of loosing dad and facing the fact that eventually I'll loose my parents. I could tell you that living four hours away from them is just too far and that because of that four hours and all the business of our lives my kids hardly know my parents. No, to go into all those details would have me sitting here in a puddle of tears at 1:00 a.m.
Instead I'll leave you with this picture, taken Sunday, of my dad meeting Asher for the first time.