I have little knowledge of scientific terms but my dad had a stroke on the right side of his brain, resulting in paralysis of his left limbs.
I knew about strokes but did not know the full extent of the implications. My uncle had a stroke over a decade before he passed away but I never asked about it. The saying ‘you don’t know the struggles until you walk a mile in their shoes’ comes to mind. That seemed to be true in this case. I didn’t understand that the journey to recovery was a long way away. He is still on the journey 18 months later. When he got transferred to the regular ward, I saw his struggles up close.
I saw a man who was broken, who thought he would never be able to walk again. It took three days for him to realise that the stroke had paralysed the left side of his body and even then he’d still ask for cigarettes. It was unbearable to see a strong man in that condition. He refused to ask for help when he needed it and my nights at the hospital with him felt endless. He was not used to adult diapers and was embarrassed about depending on others to bathe and change him. It must have hurt his ego to be helped in that sense. He was on a feeding tube for more than a week. I lost my appetite. My dad always shared food with me and it felt wrong to eat when he was on a feeding tube. It took me some time to realise that I needed my strength to help my Appa recuperate. Then came the day we had to bring him home. I had to go out and do shopping for our new necessities at home: wheelchair, commode and diapers. This was all new to me.
At home, it wasn’t an easy journey, and we didn’t have nurses to help out. I was around since it was the semester holiday. Finally, the day came for me to go back to work and my mum had to take care of my dad alone. It was taxing and I remember asking my dad if he wanted me to quit my job so I could look after him, but I was crying as I asked. He probably knew how much it hurt me to say those words because teaching is as important to me as he is, but I was willing to put it on hold for him. We came up with other supports such as a private nursing care and a physiotherapist.
It made me happy to see his progress, even the slightest. My dad would scold me for using my teacher voice on him but he needed someone to be stern. Otherwise he would talk his way out of things. Just like me when I was young. I taught him how to walk again, helping him up whenever he fell down. I became his pillar of strength, giving him words of encouragement whenever he felt down. It was like our roles were reversed. He became the child. I know putting up with me as a kid was not an easy task and I can only pay my parents back through simple actions like that.
Once, I remember my dad accidentally slapped me in frustration when I was helping him. Even when I was a child, my dad never hit me. Instinctively, I teared up, but still continued helping him despite the pain. I understood his frustration and was angrier with the situation than I was with him. My dad felt guilty and had started apologising to me. There was nothing to forgive him for; it is normal for him to lash out in this situation. Indeed, it was a painful journey of recovery. I would have emotional breakdowns every couple of months because I missed my strong man, but it was an important life lesson.
You reap what you sow. My dad saw the fruit of his labour. I am a grown-up who knows how to manage a household and finances. I am wiser and stronger than I was 18 months ago. I learnt the true colours of people around me. I found my true friends – friends who stood by me during tough times. My perspective on life has taken a massive 180 turn. I live to make memories now. Not everyone gets a second chance to live, but my dad did. The moment I felt like I was losing him was eye-opening. I started regretting all the times I had taken him for granted.
Now that I am away from him the distance works well for us. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. He never fails to put a smile on my face whenever I call him. He stares at my smiling face without saying anything, complimenting me every time we speak. He is my confidence boost and the love of my life. I value our memories now more than ever.
The point of this whole story in a nutshell is that life just hands you bad moments and lets you deal with it. People who accept circumstances and are creative with it lead a more fulfilling life than the ones who complain and whine about it. So, let’s be creative! 😊