I remember a dark, bleak time when I thought it was all going to end very badly. After my Dad had his first few strokes, my sister and I got him settled in an assisted living facility until we could figure out what the long term solution would be. Several weeks passed, and we congregated at the abandoned homestead to clean and finish moving his belongings from the house he was planning to leave when he fell ill. It was an intense week, with demanding physical labor, lots of driving back and forth, but we leaned on each other, and we managed to get the house emptied and listed with a real estate agent before the week was out. We were exhausted, though, because we had barely scratched the surface of what had to be done and the day we were scheduled to leave, Dad ended up back in the hospital with another episode related to his COPD.
I had also just found out I was pregnant with Sam.
A few weeks later, my sister and I met at the homestead once again. This time, it was to see Dad through a risky heart surgery no one was quite sure he’d recover from. With only one another to lean on this time, we spent long days in the hospital watching as Dad went from bad to worse. He suffered another stroke which rendered him unable to communicate in anything more than jumbled words. He couldn’t feed himself and he could barely swallow his food. The doctors could do very little. We left each day discouraged, frustrated, and hopeless.
It was mid-February, then. Valentine’s Day. We were staying in Dad’s apartment at the assisted living campus because it was close to the hospital and my 9 month old niece was with us. The staff at the facility knew what we were going through and one woman, in particular, left some Valentine’s candy in Dad’s room for us and some chocolates to take to him in the hospital. It was such a simple thing but it meant more to us in the moment than I’m sure anyone could imagine.
The next day, after taking somewhat of a brow beating from one of the nurses in Dad’s unit who decided to lecture us on his opinion of what he thought we should be doing to support my father, and a long day of watching Dad deteriorate even further, my sister got a phone message from the real estate agent for the house we were trying to sell on my father’s behalf. There had been an offer. Of asking price. In cash. From my father’s next door neighbor. We couldn’t believe it. This would mean we could pay his hospital bills. We could afford additional care for him without our families shouldering the burden. We just stood there sobbing in the waiting room of the cardiac wing in complete marvel at the goodness of people.
The details of what happened after that don’t really matter — that Dad was discharged back into a horrible rehab facility that provided no additional services for him other than making sure he didn’t get bedsores; that the real estate deal fell through and it took another 8 months to sell the house after dropping the price several times; that it would take almost a year to sell his 2nd house; that we’d move him across the country only to move him again when he could no longer care for himself on his own.
What matters is, in the moment, there was hope. The promise of better things to come. Simple. Is that all we need sometimes to keep us going?