So, it has been a couple of weeks since we last spoke. I have definitely had a lot going on. It is unfortunate that this time has been a weary experience, yet one we all share in some form or another, at any given time. At this stage of my life, I am sad to say it is not unexpected.
My mother-in-law has been ailing for quite some time. She is elderly and it is a culmination of many things we will all experience as we age. She deals with congestive heart failure, COPD, and diverticulitis on a daily basis. It is challenging and she tires quite easily. (This is the reason we moved home after being gone for 15 years.) She went to visit my SIL, about 2 hours from home, a few weeks back and while she was there fell hard. This resulted in a broken hip, which happens frequently as people start to lose their balance, their legs become weak, and they experience neuropathy with an aging body.
To say this was a stressful ordeal for her, as well as the rest of our family, is an understatement. When she had surgery to replace her hip she did not fully recover from the effects of anesthesia. She suffered what is known as Postoperative Delirium. This is not uncommon in folks who are elderly and have other health complications, but it is dangerous. In many cases, the patients never fully recover. In Margaret’s case we were lucky, but we did not know that would be the outcome at first.
She gained consciousness after surgery, but without the ability to focus, speak, or eat. She remained in this state for seven days before we began to see any semblance of her regaining her cognizance. By the Grace of God, she has since recovered enough that she has moved to a Skilled Nursing Facility. Where we go from here will be a test of her will and our patience but we are blessed with the forward momentum we see daily.
About a week after all of this began, I took a call from my little sister in Michigan. Most of my family is in the northern area of Michigan and I have been very fortunate that both of my parents, and my maternal grandmother, are still around. My Gram is 96 years old and she is still kicking it. (She just recently gave up driving because it is too difficult to get around in the winter snow and ice.) The call from my sister was actually in regards to my Dad.
The night prior to her calling, my Dad and Mom had a discussion which my mom had shared on in her FB page. My sister wanted to call me before I read it online and panicked. My Dad is suffering from congestive heart failure, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease in his elderly years. He explained to my Mom that he is ready to go home. He just wanted to be sure that she would be okay without him. My parents have been together, essentially, since they were eleven years of age. They were engaged at 16, married at 17, and have been married for 59 years. He couldn’t leave if she wasn’t ready to let him go.
As both of my parents have a strong, abiding faith, my Dad has no doubt where “home” is and what will be waiting for him when he gets there. My mom understands this as well. She has assured him that she will be fine as she has 2 daughters, a son, and a granddaughter all living close by. She is living in a very nice retirement community across the hall from her cousin and 1 building down from my Gram. With her assurances, my Dad has asked that she not hurry and not worry. He will be there when she is ready.
Now, I know that all sounds so nice and quaint, but I don’t want it to be misleading. This is a very, very difficult situation for all of us. Our family has always been close, even when we are arguing. There is an abiding love that is driven by our faith in God and reinforced by the way we were raised. My husband says that our family is like a Budweiser commercial during the holidays, which in and of itself is another story. We were just blessed to be raised in a part of our nation where the family farm is still common and it is a small town where everyone literally knows everyone else.
I spoke to my Dad later the same day my sister called. I asked him how long he could wait for me to come say goodbye. He said he would only be with us a short while longer so come now if I was going to. So we did. The trip to Michigan is usually a 20 hour drive that we take in 3 days so as not to overstress our already disabled bodies. This time we drove straight through. (I really need to express my deepest gratitude to my two local SILs and my BIL here, along with both of my sisters in Michigan. The trip would not have been possible without their help.)
The trip started out as pleasant as possible, given the situation. That is, until we got to just below Grand Rapids. Here we are in a Texas truck, that has no snow tires, and we come into a winter storm with ice and sleet on the roadways covered by white out conditions for big chunks of our route. There were several accidents that caused course corrections, but we did make it. I will fly past the details, but Jim and I were able to spend 5 days in Michigan with family, and my Dad. It was a blessing to have that time.
On the way home we had a very uneventful trip, until we got just east of St. Louis. Yep, you guessed it. Another gracious winter storm. This one on the wrong end of the expedition. It held tough until we passed Ardmore, OK. I can assure you that God is indeed GOOD. While passing flipped big trucks, jackknifed trailers, and car collisions, He led us through with no problems. So we lost a little time on each side of the trip, but all in all it was a good
I have learned, over the past two weeks, when we age and we are ready to go home, there is a compassion that ascends upon those we love to help comfort them. I also know that the will to continue can transcend even a bad stint with anesthesia. Basically, we know when God is calling us home and when we still have something unfinished, and His timing is always perfect.
My Dad continues to spend time with us, but we count the time by hours rather than days. He is tired even when he is not asleep. He is lucid enough to join in conversations about an hour or two a day. He has told my sisters that we shouldn’t stay away for more than a day or two because he may not see them if they do. He is calm, content, and ready. We are all proud to be his children and he has extended family, through marriages, that are glad to have had the chance to know him. He has life long friends, that he still shares what time he can, who consider him a brother. It has been a life well lived.
One last thing I would like to express is my deepest gratitude for the numbers and numbers of friends, family, and even strangers who have prayed, and continue praying, for the peace and serenity we need to pass through the days past and ahead. There is no better support we can give each other outside of sincere prayer. There is a deep lesson for all to learn here. Thank you and God Bless to all. Can’t wait to see you again!