Thursday, October 5, 2023

Mourning Time

Saturday night I didn’t talk to my dad. That is pretty rare, as I speak to him once a day, if not twice. I am very close with him, and our calls are usually just updates of our days, but sometimes he drops big comments about being old and how he won’t be around forever. On Sunday when I called my dad to ask him how he was, he said he was a lot better than the night before. He had been out with my mom at a music concert when he started to not feel well and needed to take a seat. He started having chest pains and difficulty breathing. After a few minutes, he was ushered to a first aid area where they determined they should call 911 and an ambulance came to take him to the hospital. 

At the hospital, they determined that he was likely having a heart attack. After some blood work and tests were done his heart seemed normal, but it seemed that the levels in his liver were off. After a few hours when he felt better, the hospital sent him home. I had been afraid to call him too late that night with the time change between New York and LA, but little did I know he was up until one in the morning. When I talked to him the next day, he sounded no worse for wear and quite happy to be home. 

My father is ninety-five years old. He is sharp as a tack and can answer any question I throw at him. If it is about what is happening in the world today, he is knowledgeable and happy to explain current events that I might not understand. He loves the arts and still pushes himself, no matter how tired he is, to attend live music events, and theater and go to films weekly. He remembers details from his youth and can retell a story without forgetting a single beat. He reads book after book, studies French, and never passes up an opportunity to learn new things. I want to be like him when I get old.

At ninety five though you are considered quite old. His body is slowing down and he suffers from aches and pains. His knee hurts him something awful most days and he could use a replacement, but no one will operate on someone his age. The risks and complications are too risky and so he has to do his best to manage the pain. I know that he won’t be here forever, but when he told me what happened Saturday night I was reminded of that reality and that in just one day everything could change for him. For my family. For me.

Last summer I suffered from what was diagnosed as treatment-resistant depression brought on by long covid. Nothing in my life was going wrong and I had actually been quite content, but out of nowhere in the weeks following having COVID, my anxiety crept in and my joy seeped out. My anxiety led to depression and after nothing I tried would work, I felt lost in a hole without any light to crawl towards. I eventually found a treatment plan that worked for me, but it had its side effects too. I suffered from memory loss. I suffer from memory loss. I was told that over time my memory would return, and I asked over and over for clarity, would my memories return or would my ability to remember return. No one could really answer but I was told to wait six months and see. I am healthy now, and I do not write those words lightly. Finding light to reach for was no small feat and I am so grateful to be on this side of all of those hurdles now.

It cost me time with my children, time with my husband, my friends, and my family and it cost me a lot of memories. It took me a while to reconnect with my children and build back the relationships that I had with them. They saw a different version of their mother that was unfamiliar to them. Naturally, they gravitated toward my husband for those few months. When I did start to feel more like myself we were all taking baby steps back to normalcy. I was saddened to feel so disconnected from these two humans whose lives I had been so much a part of. My identity was so defined by being their mother, that it was hard to build back who I was while waiting for that part to recover. 

Change didn’t happen overnight and it was a slow crawl back to comfort, but eventually, we all got closer again. I overcame, healed, and grew from my pain. My memory is better but it isn’t great. It has been a challenge seeing photos of myself from a few years ago and recognizing that was me, but not being able to recall where I was, what I was doing, or who I was then. For now the answer to the question of will my memory return or will my ability to remember return is that my ability to remember is back, but I am still waiting, and hoping that my memories do return. That being said though, I am healthy, functioning, and well.

The events of Saturday night were a wake-up call for me. I realized that I might lose my father very soon. At ninety-five, every day is a gift and no matter how long I want him to stay, he does have to go at some point. That is the way this life thing works. I spoke to my husband, who sadly has lost both his parents. I told him about my realization that no one gets out of here alive and asked him if there was anything he could have done to prepare himself for the loss of his parents. He said no, and that he has no regrets about the time he spent with them and how he got to say goodbye. If I could choose I would like to be there with my father to say goodbye but I know we can’t time such events.

I can’t spend my days trying to prepare myself for a looming loss ahead of me. Nor can I spend a ton of time mourning the loss of time that I lost with my children due to my own illness, but time does seem so very fleeting. Time never felt so precious as it does to me now in this moment. The idea that my teenager will only have two summers before she leaves for college, or that my little boy will start his adolescence soon and might not want to hold my hand quite as much, is a lot to swallow. It is hard to imagine a day when I don’t have the urge to pick up the phone and call my dad, even if he won’t be around to answer it anymore.
I am trying to soak it all in, live in the moment, and follow all the cliche advice. I will call as much as I can now. I will hold hands as long as I can. I will go above and beyond to make sure I spend as much quality time as I can with the people I love. I will do my best to not watch the clock as the seconds go by, but I will also try not to blink. I don’t want to miss a moment.