I read a story over at Real Live Preacher, and it sparked a memory. I thought that I would write about it here.
My dad is a great man and an amazing pastor. He has always exhibited a steadfast and vibrant faith. He has an enormous love for people, and can talk to anyone about anything forever.
It was sometime during my junior year that I remember laying in my bed and being roused by a commotion coming from upstairs. I quickly got out of bed and rushed up to see what was going on. Our German foreign exchange student and my mom were in my dad's room [editor's note: my parents who loved each other then, and still do, had for quite some time slept in different rooms. You see, my mom is a sleeper of the persuasion that if someone walks across the floor, she wakes up. My dad is a sleeper of the persuasion that if someone tap dances on his face he might roll over. And oh yeah, he snores like a chainsaw that could use a little oil. So, rather than trying to sleep in the same room, and then my mom moving downstairs to the couch so that she can sleep, they just cut out the middleman and sleep in different rooms]
and my dad was making this weird noise as he breathed, like he was snoring on the inhale and then exhaling and trying to make a noise like a motorboat. His eyes were half opened and spit was starting to foam at the corners of his mouth. By the time I made it up the stairs and saw what was going on, they had already called 911.
Within mere seconds (since our neighbor was a first responder) people had rushed into our house. An ambulance had arrived and my dad was wheeled out on a gurney. He regained consciousness at the hospital, and besides being tired and confused as to why he was in the hospital, seemed no worse for the wear. It seems that on that day, my dad had manifested an unexplainable seizure disorder. At first they were just nocturnal, but then they began happening during the day. Most of the time they were controlled with medication. Sometimes one would slip through. But all of this was manageable.
Then one day during my senior year of high school we drove to the closest big town and enjoyed a day out. I used the money I had earned washing cars that summer to buy a new stereo system. My dad bought some light bulbs to replace the one that had burned out in the driveway. As soon as I got home I rushed my stereo downstairs to my bedroom and began furiously attempting to put it together. There was one part of the instructions I was having trouble understanding, and I decided to ask my father for help. I walked upstairs and saw my mom in the kitchen. I asked her where my dad was and she didn't know. She had thought he was downstairs. We began looking through the house for him. I walked into the basement, which is also his office, thinking he might be there. That's when I heard what I will never forget. It was the panicked yell from my mom. I rushed up the stairs and out into the garage. My mom had found my dad, on the ground, in between the two sides of a step ladder and unconcious. He had gone outside, in the dark, to replace the burned out light bulb without telling anyone. We managed to rouse him but he was very groggy. My mom said to wait there, she was going to get the car keys and we were taking him to the hospital. Somehow (and I firmly believe God was helping me) I got my dad onto his feet and into the car. My mom came outside and we drove to the hospital.
After an initial check, the doctor decided my dad probably had a seizure on top of the ladder and just had a whopper of a concussion and he was sending him home with us. Both my mom and I had reservations, so the doctor decided to do an x-ray just to make sure. Everytime they would try to get my dad to lay down on his back for the x-ray he would be overcome with nausea and need to vomit. Unable to get an x-ray, the doctor decided to keep him overnight.
At 2 in the morning we got the worst phone call ever. It seems that the night nurse had noticed something unusual about my dad during the night and after checking him out, they discovered he was bleeding from two spots in his brain and was being transported by helicopter to a hospital about two hours away. My mom and I rushed to the hospital and were there just in time to see them wheeling my father out. We were greeted by several members of our church who had somehow managed to hear about what was happening and were already there. One, who was the local sheriff's deputy at the time, volunteered to drive us to the hospital in the city.
After the brain surgery to stop the bleeding, my father was in a coma for about a week. It was horrible to see him lying there with his half-shaved head and a tube coming out of the scar that arced from his forehead to above his ear. We held a constant vigil at his bedside, and even slept in the intensive care waiting room, not wanting to be far from my dad. My two older brothers both came and went while we were there, and my grandparents and one uncle came and went, as well. But it was while my grandparents were there, and my dad, although still comatose, had been considered stable enough to be moved out of intensive care, that we received some of the greatest news ever.
We were sitting in the waiting room talking and watching tv when a nurse walked into the room and looked at us. We were on the edge of our seats, hoping and praying for some good news, but fearing the worst. That's when the nurse said, "I have someone that wants to talk to you." My mom and I practically jumped out of our seats and ran to the room. My dad was sitting up in bed and looked at us when we walked in. "Someone's here to see you," the nurse said. "Do you know who this is?"
from Real Live Preacher reminded me of this scene from my own story. My dad spoke. His tongue was dry and swollen. His speech slow and slurred. But he answered. He said, "That's my wife."
Then the nurse said, "What's her name."
In the same manner my dad replied, "Barbara."
"Oh my!" my mom yelled sounding almost shocked.
The nurse turned, a panicked look on her face. "What's the matter? Is that not your name?"
"He NEVER calls me Barbara!" my mom replied.
And from that moment on my dad began his miraculous recovery. Considering the amount of brain damage that he received, people say it is a miracle that he can walk and talk today, much less go back to work as a pastor, which he did.
Although lately, things haven't been as good. Some seizures managed to find their way through the medication, and resulted in some irrepairable brain damage. He is now on continuing disability from work. He is often unstable on his feet, has tremors in his hands, has trouble with his memory and word recollection. He now walks with a cane and seems more feeble than the dad I grew up with. It is sad for me to see him this way, and I have shed more than a few tears about it.
He has been to numerous neurologists, and has even gone to the Mayo Clinic. The seizure disorder still remains unexplainable and the brain damage irrepairable.
But through it all my dad has remained steadfast and faithful. He doesn't ask why God has allowed this to happen to him (although I have on numerous occasions, and if anyone EVER tells me to consider the story of Job again, I will punch them in the face), but constantly speaks of how God has helped him and continues to help him through it all. Although he is unable to continue in his professional role as a pastor, he is definitely still ministering to people, and he is one of the best damn ministers and pastors I will ever know.
Anyway, thanks for listening. I'm not sure why but I just felt the need to write this down. My parents called me for my birthday today. It's hard to talk to them on the phone sometimes because my dad gets confused a lot easier than he did, and he has trouble coming up with words sometimes. But they sang happy birthday to me, and on the line where they said "Happy birthday dear Mark" my dad added "a day late." My mom corrected him when it was over, that today was indeed my birthday, and then said that he had been convinced all day yesterday that it was April 4th and had wanted to call me yesterday. Something about that just touched me. Despite his sometimes horrible memory he had remembered that April 4th was my birthday and had wanted to call me to let me know how much he loves me.
Despite all the things that have happened, I feel amazingly blessed to have him for my dad.