If you read my blog with any regularity you may be surprised to hear that there are some things that are difficult for me to share. . . or ask for. Like help. I have always had what my mother describes as a "fierce independence" which can be a positive - move to NYC all on my own and start a whole new life? twice? no problem! But it can also be a negative - admit I don't know how to [fill in the blank with pretty much anything] and most likely I will just fake it rather than fess up to ignorance. This weekend I should have reached outside myself and asked for help. Instead, I curled up with a million excuses and self-pity on my couch and did not budge. Then felt sorry for myself when no one reached into that formidable shell.
Friday night I arrived home after an exhausting day that ended an exhausting week. I was proud of a particular professional achievement I had accomplished Friday but worn out by the effort. I dragged myself in the front door sometime after 830 and went straight to my computer to order dinner. Confronted with too many tantalizing Malaysian cuisine choices I selected two entrees and an appetizer with the rationale that I would enjoy the leftovers Saturday and possibly Sunday. And I did. Other than breakfast I didn't cook or leave the house for another meal all weekend. In fact the only time I left the house was for church Sunday morning. After which I bee-lined back to my apartment to read and nap.
My hibernation weekend started off with purpose. I wanted to take things easy and fight off the sore throat and cold that was threatening each morning and evening. I thought if I just layed low and drank a lot of fluids I could kick it. I threw in some wheat waffles with walnuts and raspberry syrup for good measure, because I stumbled onto the recipe and could not resist. And they were tasty but not necessarily curative.
But sometime mid-day on Saturday my mom called. I didn't talk to her for very long because I didn't know how to process what she was telling me, especially with the television still silently flashing images of some inane show at me. My dad was back in the hospital. He was admitted Friday night and has been in ICU ever since. There were reassurances but no real answers. He has the symptoms of one thing but tests don't confirm it. He hasn't been feeling well for a couple of weeks and I was glad he went to the hospital but shaken up by this set back. His recovery went so well after his surgery in September and at Christmas he had seemed younger than he had in years. I barely said much to my mom and got off the phone fairly quickly and slipped deeper into my couch.
I talked to my dad a couple of times Saturday and he and my mom repeatedly assured me that everything was fine even though no one knows what is wrong and they kept using words like endocarditis (which his blood cultures claim he does not have), infectious disease team and surgery. I was not reassured and I went to bed fearful. More fearful than I had ever been of death (a hard word to type). I felt very alone.
Sunday morning I went to church and slunk into a pew in the back corner and waited for someone, anyone to come to me. No one did. I had neglected to respond to an email from my home teacher* earlier in the week while I was busy working so I decided to stop him before I left. I wasn't planning on telling him anything. But this particular home teacher used to be my bishop (about 5 or 6 years ago) and I have always had a good personal rapport with him. He has a way of extracting truth instead of small talk. I apologized for neglecting his email and he said no problem and we talked dates for setting up a visit. Then, in his singularly sincere way, he asked how I was doing and it touched a cord (a chord?) in me. Tears fell out as I explained that my dad was in ICU and I was scared. Somehow with just a few words he made me feel better and a bit less burdened.
I called my dad walking home from church and I felt lighter. His voice sounded strong and he was exceptionally chatty. Even when he is in perfect health my dad will bore easily on the phone and will interupt conversations by asking "do you want to talk to your mother?" Not so yesterday. I would raise a topic and then he was off with a lecture, diatribe or sermon. I was not annoyed or impatient, I just listened to his voice for the next 45 minutes. After hopes of being down-graded from ICU and another conversation with my mom and sister I felt all was well and stretched out on my couch with a book basking in the sunshine streaking in my windows and promptly fell asleep with Bach's cello suites accompanying my dreams.
I finished the day with more movies and phone calls to family but without the sun and the assuring words of an outsider, the fear crept back in. With my mom and sister we danced around it and discussed improvements and my dad's text message about a football game comforted me slightly that he was himself and feeling better. But when my brother voiced his concern I knew I was not alone in my fear. I just wanted someone to comfort me instead of forcing strength out for my mom, my dad and siblings.
It is not in times of great joy and excitement that I long for companionship. Sure, when I am trekking around Iceland or enjoying a beautiful beach resort, I would be happy to share that time and experience with a significant other and yes, I often think in those times my enjoyment might be enhanced by experiencing it with someone I love. But I can have fun and fulfillment and happiness alone.
It is in times of struggle, when life is bleak and each day feels treacherous that I long for a loving hand to reassure me. I ache for someone to help carry the unbearable weight, for someone to put their arm around me while I cry. There are times I just do not feel strong enough and wish with all my heart there was someone with whom I could share my daily burdens that feel heavier when I drag them around on my own. Do not underestimate the comfort of a listening ear and open arms. This weekend I wallowed in my loneliness to a point where I couldn't bring myself to reach out to anyone.
I welcomed the opportunity this morning to start the morning off with my trainer and go to work as usual. Around 10 I decided to call my dad's room since he should be up and I wanted to catch him before they moved him out of ICU - which was the plan on Sunday but they didn't have any regular rooms available. I was startled when my mom answered the phone but quickly asked how my dad was. She said he wanted to talk to me. He spoke slowly and sounded very tired and explained that he had a minor stroke this morning which is why his voice was slurred. It was hard to comprehend and I couldn't formulate questions and they did not yet have answers. It was reassuring to hear him and I thought he just sounded tired, not particularly odd like my grandpa did after his stroke. But it was a stroke and that was serious, I was cognizant of that.
I have spent most of the day trying to ignore these things and trying to sort out what I should do. I called my sister because I knew my mom needed her but wouldn't call her. My mother is an amazingly strong woman, she takes my dad's health problems (and every other trial she faces) in stride and rarely appears shaken by it in any way. I understand, I am the same way. I can steel myself to nearly anything when necessary and push through it without a tear until I am alone and can break down in solitude. But that doesn't mean she has to do it alone. She wants to protect her children but doesn't realize we want to do the same for her. My first instinct was to go home but for now I don't think I need to so I'm staying put.
What I struggle with is I know I cannot make it through on my own, yet I don't know how to reach out and tell people this sort of thing. I told a friend in an email today and she organized a dinner for us tonight and told our other friend whose dad had a stroke a few years ago. She called immediately. But by that time I was steeled. Void of emotion. I had just talked with my dad so I echoed his optimistic tone and didn't have to force myself to sound cheery and clinical even though I know tonight, as I climb into bed all the worst case scenarios will start racing through my head again with no one there to soothe them away.
*in my church each family unit (including single people) is assigned a pair of home teachers who are priesthood holders (mine are a father and son) to visit you in your home once a month and to offer assistance and support as needed.