by Laura

So about a week ago, I called up my dad. He sounded winded, which isn’t unusual, since it’s not easy for him to get to the phone since his stroke. “Are you okay?” I asked. “Eh.” “What’s up?” “Well… I’m handling it.” Turns out he misplaced his car registration sticker and went looking for it in the recycling bin (a huge standing bin, not one of those little tubs). Well, his body isn’t well-balanced these days and the bin is on wheels, so he leaned in and… Ker-thunk. He took a dive, broke his hip, spent two hours sprawled on the driveway, then managed to crawl inside using a mop handle and called my brother. When I reached him, he was just off the phone with my brother.

Anyway, he eventually agreed to go to the hospital, had his surgery and is now in a rehab facility, the same one my mom stayed in after her surgery, the same one that gives me shivers every time I can’t avoid driving past it. But it’s a nice place, lovely really, with great food and views (well, they’re still views of Pennsylvania, but, you know). Residents in the community buy in for $260,000, so it’s no slum, and I’m damn glad Medicare pays for it.

(By the way, I, a contamination ocd sufferer, LOVE visiting hospitals and rehabs in January. Really. It’s my favorite. Especially when I’m out of N95 masks.)

Dad was depressed for a few days. Probably still is. But he seems to like his physical therapists at the rehab, so he’s sounding good, for him. He’s not an easy patient. When he was first brought to the ER he was asked about his pain level and started talking about Hubert Humphrey. He’s not senile or anything. That’s just him.

As for me, I’m trying to be a good daughter. I brought him a cupcake one night and he ate it (Not the frosting. That fell off and he let me know how glad he was that it had). I brought him chocolate covered pretzels and soap another night and he refused both. I brought truffles and cookies for the nurses (a bribe) and photos of the grandkids (to help humanize him). I spent an hour cleaning up cat vomit at his house. I call and email and send videos from the kids. Still, being a parent comes first, so I don’t see him every day, and the truth is I’m not terribly interesting to him, so it’s a good idea to take a few days off to come up with new material.

But I am reminded of my failings in the motivation department. It’s hard to be upbeat when you’re feeling low. The week my mom died I was feeling rather shitty. I didn’t call her one day because I didn’t want to bring her down. I thought she deserved some happy conversation and was afraid I couldn’t convincingly provide it. I don’t know if I regret that or not, and it hardly matters now. One should learn from experiences, sure, but one rarely knows for certain when a loved one is dying, and faking emotion goes against my personal policy. Also, my dad is an entirely different kind of duck. Too much enthusiasm irritates him. It’s best to pick a level of exuberance and then dial it down a notch or two.

My dad just sent an email informing me that he put on his pants from the day of the accident (and the ambulance ride, and the ER, and the hospital… Ew) and found the registration sticker in the pocket.

Is there a lesson in any of this? Probably not, other than this very basic life advice…

First check your pockets, THEN check the recycling bin.