At 6am on most Sundays you’ll find me doing my best to stay asleep. My alarm most mornings kicks in at 5:30 and by 6am I’m usually out the door heading to work. On Sundays, if I’m lucky, I’ll sleep until at least 6:30am and my kids will pile into bed with me. They’re getting bigger now and I doubt I have much longer before they just get up and start their own breakfasts.
This morning I’m half asleep and I hear my phone buzzing away on my night stand. Immediately I know there is a problem. I sit up and get the phone. It is my dad, calling from his house in Cuero, Texas.
Tom, its dad. I think I’m having a stroke. I’ve called 911. I’m not feeling good. Call Aunt Pauline.
Dad, how long ago? When did you call them? Dad, don’t hang up the phone.
Andrea is already up and getting some clothes on. She asks me what’s wrong. Tears are streaming down my face. I relay the information as fast as I can and start thinking. Its Sunday, 8am in Texas. Aunt Pauline is at the Dairy Queen just before going to church. I quickly google the location and call the number. The woman on the other end of the line knows my dad and my aunt and I explain that I need to talk to her, its an emergency. Aunt Pauline gets the information and lets me go. I panic and call dad back.
Dad, its me. Are you ok? Is the ambulance there?
I’m scared but it will be ok. The ambulance is on its way.
Dad, I’ll get there as soon as I can. Are you going to Victoria?
I think so. Did you get ahold of Aunt Pauline? Does she know?
Yeah Dad, I caught her at the Dairy Queen. I’ll stay on the line until the paramedics get there. Don’t hang up.
I’ll be fine, I unlocked the doors. I think they’re here I’m gonna let you go
Dad, I love you. I love you Dad.
I love you too. It’ll be ok.
Andrea had already started looking for flights. She found me a flight that left in less than two hours that would get me into Austin around 6pm. It would be late but I’d get to Cuero by 9pm. The hospital was another 30 minutes further. I called friends in Austin for a ride, emailed work in a panic and threw clothes into a suitcase. I had no idea what to expect.
On the plane there was little I could do to occupy my mind. I cried. I stared out the window. I wished my brother was alive. I cried some more.
When I landed a friend picked me up and we headed south. We kept the conversation away from what I was going through. He asked about Portland and work. We talked about his projects and Austin. Once we got to my Dad’s house I found his car keys, said good by to Josh and drove to Victoria. I was afraid of what I was going to see when I got there and wished I wasn’t so alone.
Aunt Pauline and Uncle Roy, one of Dad’s brothers, met me at the entrance to the hospital and showed me up to the ICU. Dad looked tired but he was happy to see me. He talked with everyone for a bit and had to tell me how much better he was feeling now. His right arm was the only thing really weakened but Dad showed off how good his grip was, despite the stroke. He didn’t have the pronounced slur or palsy in his face like so many others after a stroke. I was genuinely surprised at how well he was holding up. It looked like he had had a rough day, and this stroke might slow him down a bit, but he’d back at home pretty soon. I went home thinking everything might be ok after all. But I’d soon discover this was just the start of an awful emotional roller coaster.