Interruptions

My father in law was transferred to the critical care unit in Jackson, Michigan three days ago.  He was hospitalized for something days before that.  His condition deteriorated quickly.  There was trouble with his organs.  The word “failure” was used.  We knew he had fallen and hit his head.  Someone mentioned a coma. 

At the time we were two hours west of Chicago, five hours from Jackson.  My wife and I were away with our son, taking a short break a few days before she would return to work from maternity with David, Maggie, and Eliot. 

Our break was interrupted.  She talked with her sister who was negotiating airfare from Denver.  She called all the siblings and several others with a similar report.  We were afraid.  We talked with our friends who told us to simply go.  See what’s next after you arrive. 

The Swansons are lovely, solid friends who responded to our interrupted break by helping us get things together to leave.  They repacked the cooler that had just been unpacked the evening before.  They asked if we wanted chicken.  I grilled it the night prior–turkey links, zucchini and rice too.  It was good, but I said no.  

Maggie made sandwiches.  We were quiet, stepping softly around the house.  We didn’t speak about the plans we had or about the small disappointments which took their places.  We said nothing about our fears. 

We folded the pac-n-play, zipped the bags, and stacked the car.  I told David I didn’t know what to expect.  They prayed for us.  In the middle of the day we said goodbye and found the long road for the next hours. 

The last few days turned into one long hospital visit.  But there were glimpses of hope.  There are glimpses of hope.  Siblings who hadn’t seen each other finally did.  I saw and felt love happening before me.  But our collective breath was held.  Tuesday my father in law responded, winking an eye.  The color of the world changes when a man who is either heavily sedated, sedated beyond ability to respond, or who is comatose actually responds.  You hear the life support machine doing it beeping and slurping and hissing, but it all goes quiet when the man actually responds to words he’s heard. 

It was the next day, after the chaplain came in to pray, Wednesday, when he blinked and jerked one minute after “Amen.”  I was sitting by his bed, grandma next to me.  I could still feel the cold under his skin from when I pressed his swollen hand during the prayer.  I told his mother to look.  He was responding.  His lips moved.  He tried to move his arms against the powerful influence of the massive stroke. 

When his eye opened, I tried to talk with him.  Then his mom stood and bent her 93-year frame over her only child.  It was my moment but it wasn’t.  So I ran to get his daughters and the son who waited in the family lounge at the time.

The rest of the afternoon Wednesday was filled with rejoicing under the shadow of whatever was next.  Most of my father in law’s children were there.  The ones we knew wouldn’t come came.  The ones whose presence made us revisit, even if silently, long stories rarely told.  We were together.  In the same room and later, at the same table.  We took turns, two at a time, in the critical care unit.  He pointed to his children.  He tried to speak.  There was laughing and crying and picture-taking in the family lounge.  Bryce cried and got little sleep. 

We know we don’t know what’s next.  We know the doctor’s prognosis is sober.  This is miraculous, said the doctor, but we don’t know what direction things will go in.

There may be more interruptions.  There, likely, will be. 

So, question for you: how do you deal with life when it looks like one interruption after another?  How have you found your life different when some thing you didn’t expect came, stayed around, and left long after its welcome was worn?

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6 thoughts on “Interruptions

  1. I feel you, bro. My father-in-law had emergency heart surgery back in November. Fortunately God had us in a position where we could drop everything and go stay with him for about a month. There will always be interruptions in life. Their impact is often related to how busy our lives are. I’m learning to leave room so I can step back and let God work when the next interruption comes up. You guys are in my prayers.

  2. What you experienced is something everyone with aging parents goes through or will find themselves in the midst of – interruptions. The ones who cared for us, provided their love and attention suffered many interruptions we knew or yet know nothing about. Then they age; they become feeble and the most startling interruption is realizing mortality, theirs, others and ours. The consolation is friends and family that help you handle the interruptions. They may not be present as Maggie, David and Eliot, they may never reach the emergency room or family waiting room but you know whatever the interruption they are and will be there for you.
    Love and peace.

  3. I have had several ‘drop everything and go’ moments since my mom first got sick, then through the passing of both my parents. It never got easier, and I feel a lot older now.

    What these interruptions and their related family crises taught me was to at least try to appreciate the ordinary, even routine days in between such events. To spend those in-between times unable to enjoy life because of some imagined inner disturbance is to truly waste my life.

    I always seem to rise to the occasion when I get those unwelcome phone calls, and there will be more of them. It seems more challenging to rise to the occasion in the ordinary days in between. Thank you for reminding me that today is such a day, and to be grateful for it.

  4. O, dear God! I feel the anxiety and heaviness of the “not knowing moments in trying times”. Same old story. Do the work that disciplined prayer requires. Ask for what you want, hold on to hope knowing that really….God is the Miracle Worker we tell others about. I am glad your father is healing. All Blessings!

  5. Pingback: Guitars, BBQ sauce, Big Cars, and My Father-in-Law, Mr. John McKinney | Intersections

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