On Thanksgiving evening, my dad went to the ER complaining of terrible abdominal pain. What we thought was probably just a little bug turned out to be much, much more serious. His vitals went screwy, they rushed him to the ICU and by 2:00 am, he was intubated. My mom and I did not go Black Friday shopping that night as we’d planned—we instead sat by his bedside watching the monitor above him, praying his blood pressure would just go up. We were simply speechless with shock and worry. On Saturday morning, the doctor told us that he wasn’t sure how the treatments were going to go. He was very kind with his words, but we received the message—they were not ensuring us that Dad was going to make it.
But he did.
Thankfully, he is getting better and continues to make slow but steady progress. He will be leaving the hospital soon, not to come home, but to spend a little time in a rehab facility. Will he be home for Christmas? The kids (6 of them between my sister and me) are hopeful. I think they can’t imagine Christmas without him. I have a cold suspicion that he might not be ready by then, but I am holding out hope, too. If a week ago I thought we might lose him, it is not impossible to believe that he might be sitting in his spot by the Christmas tree handing out present after present to the kids. And if not, we’ll just have to bring Christmas to him.
Last week we were in full-blown crisis mode and I couldn’t help but notice—was totally surprised, actually—how priorities fell neatly, concisely, and quickly into place. The stuff about which I would normally freak out simply fell away. Nothing mattered but being at the hospital, taking what burdens I could from my mom, making sure the kids’ basic needs were being met. (Thankfully I have my good husband for that—and he was a major anchor in this storm.) What I needed to do, and what I did not need to do, became entirely clear.
Dad doesn't have a Christmas tree in his hospital room so the kids made him a
big paper tree and are working on some ornaments for it.
Now, we’re in semi-crisis living-by-the-seat-of-our-pants mode—a difficult state for us. As my mom said to me this morning, we are planners. Serious, hardcore, need-‘em-bad-in-order-to-stay-sane planners. Our plans right now are nearly hour-by-hour.
But this is about presence.
Maybe this post has more to do with “busy” than I originally thought when I sat down to write it. In a culture where “Good, and you?” as the response to the question “How are you?” has been replaced with an eye roll and a breathy “Busy,” being present is a challenge. But this week, I have witnessed first-hand how readily that which is truly vital can come into sharp focus. That might be the small blessing of this family crisis—the gift of presence and the clarity it brings. A reminder of what’s important. Simple lessons that sometimes take serious circumstances to penetrate the busyness of life.
I am taking the kids to visit Dad this morning. He needs us right now. So what gets done will get done and what doesn’t just won’t. And that’s okay. My priority is presence right now and in that state, everything will be clear.
(Please come back Friday—I am going to post the final part of my short story, “Red Step-Stool.”)