I must be lucky because I got to see two different sides of him. A life changing incident took place 18 months ago that showed me those distinct sides. One that is tough, masking all his emotions, being strong for the family. Another one that is soft and mushy for all the weird reasons. I can’t decide which version I like best. I love him just the way he is now. Not only did the incident change his life, but it also changed the lives of everyone around him. I can only speak for myself here, but I know everyone in my family dealt with the hardship in their own way.
So, the story begins like this…
One fine day (as cliché as that sounds) – it actually did start off as a good day – I was getting excited about exchanging gifts with my friends for Christmas, one of our annual traditions. It was the 17th of December, 2015. For those who do not know, I was working as a teacher at the time. It was 2 days before the semester holidays and I was done with all my report card comments. I was casually having my breakfast in the staffroom when my mum called. I answered and heard her panicky voice asking me to come home because my dad was unwell. Immediately, I met my coordinator and got signed off by her. I swear I could feel her doubtful gaze – 2015 was one of the shittiest years for me – because I had taken emergency leave for the loss of loved ones on three different occasions that year. What I didn’t know was that it was about to turn shittier; I didn’t know that was even possible. As I was driving home, my mum told me she had already called for an ambulance.
That moment, it struck me how bad my dad’s condition was. I am the youngest of three siblings and both my siblings were out of town at the time. It was time for the baby of the family to grow up. I reached home to find my mom struggling to keep my dad on the sofa. He kept sliding down, and at 6’2” and 120kg, he was a big man. I helped her to sit him up. Thankfully, my dad could still talk; however, he was in denial about his helplessness. Can you believe he asked for a cigarette even in that crucial moment? His exact words were:
‘light up a cigarette for me and I will be fine’
*rolls eyes* (we joke about it now that it’s over). Finally, the ambulance arrived and the paramedics spoke to me. They explained that he had had a stroke but they didn’t have a neurology department at their hospital.
They gave me two options: bring him to their hospital for first aid, and transfer him to another hospital later, or admit him straight into a hospital with a neurology department. I made the decision. Given another chance, I would have done things differently, but let’s refrain from dwelling over the past. I did what I had to do; I asked the paramedics to bring him to the hospital for first aid, knowing I had to find another hospital with a neurologist on hand for further treatment.
The situation was critical. I was stressed beyond belief, but I couldn’t cry. I had to remain strong for my mum. I went in to the emergency room to console my dad and found that he was sedated because he kept fighting with the medical practitioners. I think it was bound to happen. He thought he was completely fine. It was a hard task getting a bed in another hospital. My brother had to pull some strings to get our father transferred that day. My siblings were back home by then and I felt a little more at ease. At least I didn’t have to take sole responsibility for the decisions after that, or so I thought.
Then came the next challenge. My dad is a retired man. He handled his finances independently. He was fiercely protective about his hard-earned money and I understood his stance on it. He liked to stash his large sums of cash in weird places at home. Although my dad thought he was hiding his cash in places I couldn’t find, I am the ‘FBI’ in my family. I know things no one else knows. Conveniently for my siblings, the finances fell into my hands because, apparently, my dad trusted me the most. Yes, he might have, but I was constantly conscious about spending his money. I would keep a book to keep track of the expenditure and receipts in the hope that my dad would ask for it. Little did I know how philanthropic he would become after his stroke.