Friday, November 04, 2011

Blink of an Eye by Robin Gorman Newman

My father (above) had a stroke over a week ago, and his life changed in a flash, as did mine. In that moment, more than ever, I became acutely aware of the challenges of being a later in life mother with a young child and senior father.

G-d bless my dad. He's 93. My son is 8. I'm 51. Not the easiest of ages for any of us.

Despite the stroke, at 93, my dad hasn't for a long time felt as he'd like to. I've long tried to explain to him that I doubt anyone at 90+ feels as they'd like to, but that's never been comforting to him.

At 51, I'm in the throes of peri-menopause, and that's enough to wreak havoc on anyone.

My son, at 8, isn't little anymore but isn't grown either. He yearns to exude independence yet waivers at moments like bedtime when he asks his dad to lay with him as he falls asleep. I don't want him to grow up too quickly...though we are all aging as the clock ticks rapidly away.

Living in the moment is so key, and that's particularly evident in hindsight.

It took just seconds for my dad to lose much of his long term memory and suffer major language challenges. As bad as it is, it could have been SO much worse, and I'm grateful he didn't go down the path of major physical disability.

He'll get speech therapy, and even if his communication remains compromised, he can live a quality life. He may no longer be able to share the stories of days gone by that engaged so many. He loved to talk about growing up with famed (now deceased) ballplayer Phil Rizutto, and proudly wore a t-shirt I made up for his 90th birthday saying I PLAYED BALL WITH PHIL RIZUTTO. It was a great conversation opener when he wore it to his local pool club or on our annual family vacation to Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz. Now having a conversation for my father isn't second nature.

My dad, despite his many surgeries over the years, was somewhat of a medical marvel. When he'd meet with a doctor and they asked his health history, he could describe in copious detail what surgery he had, when and where, with exact precision. Even I can't do that. I never could. But, it came with ease to my dad. Those days are over.

When he first stroked he was calling everybody Robin. It struck me as curious. At our initial meeting with the neurologist, I was in a room full of Robins...only they were my sister Barbara and Brother-in-Law Terry. I had to identify myself to the doctor as the "real" Robin." It would have been comical if the situation weren't so serious.

Seth, my son, has been a trooper. He, too, became Robin, during a visit with grandpa. He's been my tower of strength, in addition to my husband, and close friends. Seth has always had an innate sensibility and awareness of knowing how to reach out to people when they need it the most. And, he manages to do it with a maturity beyond his years. After my first visit with my dad following the stroke, I put on a brave face in his house, assisting him and his aide, but once Seth and I stepped outside and walked back to the car, I lost it.. I needed to cry, and a flood of tears consumed me. In that moment, Seth reached out and assured me that grandpa would be ok....that everything would be ok...and I believe he believed it. I was so touched by his depth of compassion and ability to put aside whatever he felt to be present for me.

I am so grateful for Seth. He touches my heart in a way I never knew a child could. And, I'm so glad he's cultivated a relationship with my father that hopefully will live on forever.

My beloved mother passed away over 10 years ago due to complications from a major stroke, and it was a tragic death in a sterile hospital room. We weren't by her bedside at the time. She was all alone. A stroke is something I've always found so unbelievably cruel. Not that cancer isn't. But, a stroke is immediately life-altering, and it's just a question of to what extent.

I'm hopeful that my dad's situation will improve over time, and that G-d willing there won't be any repeat episodes, due to preventative medication measures. I treasure having my father in my life, and the last thing I want is for him to suffer greatly. No one deserves that, and certainly not a man who has done his best to be a caring father all these years. As a parent, no one is perfect, and I recognize that. But, he's my dad...the only dad I'll ever have....and he'll always have a place in my heart....even if I'm not the only Robin to him.

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Blogger Cara Meyers said...

Robin, my heart goes out to you to no end...
I have a small suggestion which might help. When my father was in the hospital with his subdural hematoma, the bleeding in his head had worsened, and he completely blanked on my name. You could tell that he knew who I was by the look in his eye and by the fact that he kept pointing to me. What his Speech Therapist recommended was to get photos of all family and loved ones and put the names of who was in each picture on the back. This way, anyone who visits can review the photos and the names of the people with your Dad. Also, take the fact that he calls everyone "Robin" as a complement. My father called everyone, man or woman my deceased mother's name for a couple weeks. But try the photo trick. It helped my Dad to some degree. xoxo

7:28 AM  
Blogger Robin Gorman Newman said...

Thanks for the tip Cara...and your support. xo

10:46 AM  

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