When your dad’s been in multiple hospitals for seven months following a severe hemorrhagic stroke, and you’ve spent each day (except for maybe 8) at these hospitals, laughter or anything resembling joy seems unimaginable, and yet…
Dad has good days and bad. Not just physically, but cognitively too. Sometimes, he’s very much himself – business-minded, philosophical, funny, obsessed with Tiger Woods and Samsung – and other times, he’s a little off. I lovingly refer to these moments as “Crazy Town.”
Dad’s post-stroke brain is fascinating. It gets cross-wired in the most curious ways. Sometimes, he’s missing a few connective links. Other times, he gathers bits of information here and there and weaves together a tale that he then fixates on, like a needle stuck in an album’s groove, repeating over and over and over.
My Wife’s Husband
The other day, dad and I were chatting about how everyone in the family has pitched in during the last seven months.
“What about your sister and M?” he asked.
“Yeah, they both work hard and are helping,” I replied.
Then he mentioned his wife and asked, “What about her husband?”
“Daddy… her husband? Who’s her husband?”
I continued, “If she’s your wife, then who’s her husband?”
“I am,” he said.
“Well,” he said, laughing, “He’s not contributing much is he?”
How Do You Say In Your Language?
A couple of months ago, a guitar-playing singer came to the hospital to perform for the patients. From that moment on, the guitar became dad’s object of desire.
“Get me the guitar,” he’d say repeatedly, insisting he needed to practice.
“There’s no guitar here,” I’d reply repeatedly, through increasingly clenched teeth.
“Over there, get me the guitar,” he’d say, pointing to random objects – a face cloth, a magazine, a bag.
“That’s not a guitar daddy, it’s a pile of sheets.”
“How do you expect me to fucking play the guitar, if I can’t fucking practice?”
About a week later, I took dad to a neurologist appointment. It was the first one since his stroke, so I was especially anxious to hear the doctor’s thoughts on prognosis and recovery. After waiting for more than three freaking hours in a hallway holding area, dad was tired, hungry and circling Crazy Town.
I decided to tape record the examination, so that I could focus on engaging with the doctor, not take a bunch of notes. As the session began, the doctor asked me to provide some background – dad’s general health, the moments leading up to the stroke, yada, yada, yada…
“Okay honey,” Dad, interrupted. “Just pass me the guitar first.”
Oh God, not now. Not in front of the doctor.
“Daddy, there’s no guitar here,” I said, smiling at the doctor.
“There’s no guitar. We’re in a doctor’s appointment, so let’s just focus for a second okay?”
Come on daddy, hang in there.
The doctor introduced himself to dad, told him he was going to talk to me for a bit, then examine him.
“Do you have another guitar?” Dad asked. “Can I at least see if I can get my fingers around it?”
“Does your dad speak English?” the doctor asked.
“Well yeah,” I said, my face all screwed. “He’s speaking English right now.”
How do you say in your language? Crazy Town?