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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Backpacking Dad goes to New York

I'm from eastern Ontario, and I've lived in upstate New York (as upstate as you can get), but despite spending most of my life in that area I've never once been to New York City.

Toronto. Montreal. Vancouver.

San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit, Washington D.C., Seattle.

London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, Munich, Amsterdam, Venice, Rome.

Tokyo.

All over the world, but never to New York City.

Well kids, all that is going to change tomorrow. I will be in New York City for 4 hours tomorrow. At JFK. On a layover between San Francisco and Burlington, VT.

My mother is having a surgery to tie off a third brain aneurysm. Her first surgery was last July, which Emily and Erin and I all flew out for while Emily was still on maternity leave. Her second was scheduled for October, and I flew out on my own, leaving Erin and Emily home with Disneyland Grandma who came up to help out. That surgery was canceled while my mother was in the hospital bed getting ready to be wheeled in to the operating room; the scar from the first surgery hadn't quite healed enough for the surgeon's liking, so they canceled it.

Well, I got to spend a few days visiting my mother and my sister; but I also blew a ton of cash on the flight, hotel, and rental car that time around.

It stung a bit, especially because Emily had just gone back to work a few weeks earlier and we were coming off of a long stretch with no income and a new baby. So, when the surgery was rescheduled for just before Thanksgiving (American Thanksgiving, in November, for all of you Canucks reading this), I really couldn't see how we would swing another trip. So I didn't go.

Because it's the Universe, and the Universe is perverse....

...my mother suffered a stroke during the surgery.

My sister e-mailed me in the middle of the night, and after I called her back and found out what happened I freaked out.

My mother was absent, isolated and trapped in her body, and my sister was on her own. Not that there weren't other family members nearby, but she didn't have me there.

She doesn't like me much, but I am her big brother :}

After a couple of days of mediocre news ("she moved her arm; she looked at me when I was talking to her") I couldn't stand it any more. I told Emily I had to go, and Emily geared up for being a single, working, mom for a few days while also being slammed at work. She was a superstar, and I love her for that.

I flew out to Burlington to see my mother laying in a hospital bed, barely aware of what was going on around her or who was there. Because I'm mean, I didn't tell my sister I was coming; I just showed up at the hospital. I wanted to see the look on her face, and she didn't disappoint. She was really glad to see me.

The next day, my mother was a little spacey, but could talk in sentences and move her arm and leg. By the third day she seemed mostly okay, although still lacked some dexterity in her hand and some stability in her leg.

I like to think that it's because both of her kids were finally there that my mother recovered so quickly. It was rapid, and exponential improvement. When I finally went back home she was being moved to a rehab center where they expected her to spend a few weeks relearning how to use the muscles in her arm and leg, and recovering mental acuity.

Instead, she was only there a couple of days. Her progress was that quick.

When Emily, Erin and I went to visit over Christmas there was very little evidence that she had ever had a stroke. I kept thinking about the first time I saw her in the hospital and how helpless I felt, and how worried I was. And seeing her back to normal was intensely gratifying. Because, irrational as it is, I felt a mountain of guilt that I hadn't flown out for the surgery in the first place, as though my absence was the cause of the stroke.

All of that is a long way of saying that I won't be missing her surgery this time.

And until Sunday night Emily will be a single working mom again. Erin will be in daycare Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and I hope that she does better there than she has been doing at the gym the last few times I've gone. She's developed a pretty strong separation anxiety when I try to go work out, and twice now I've just given up and taken her home instead of exercising.

So send Emily some good thoughts this week. She has begun her very own blog over at Trademark Mama, and she's smarter than I am, so stop by and let her expand your mind. I think her latest post is about boogers.

34 comments:

Carmen said...

I'm thinking good thoughts for all of you.

As an aside, NYC is my very favorite city ever.

Best wishes to your mom! And Erin will do well - even if she doesn't, it'll be over soon.

Loralee Choate said...

GAH. I have a clotting disorder and have pretty much been told stroking is in my future so this post fills me with both dread and hope. I'm so glad that she recovered so quickly.

I hope that this surgery is complication free and that all goes well!!!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I hope her amazing earlier recovery is a sign that things will go well this time.

Jennifer said...

I hope all goes well... good thoughts to your mom, you, and Emily and Erin!

Patti Mayo said...

My thoughts and prayers are with your family.

I grew up in the shadow of one of the greatest cities on this earth and never went.

I grew up on Long Island and never went to NYC until I met my husband and he took me to see Candlebox. We'd drive to Brooklyn to see his father and when I go to visit my parets on L.I., we drive through to get to Staten Island to see his parents....but we never actually spend time there.

for a different kind of girl said...

Hope you have a safe journey so you can be there when your mom comes through surgery without complications!

My dad had a stroke when he was 15 years ago, when he was 49. I understand the guilt you're talking about when you say you struggled with the idea that maybe your mom wouldn't have had one had you been there. My dad was alone for several hours after experiencing his, thus shutting the door on some of the reversal procedures that could have been possible. It completely changed the Dad I knew my entire life up to that point, and all these years later, the guilt still can jab me.

Hey, there's a downer to end on! Good job, me! Next time I'll talk about pets my parents told me "went to live on a farm...yeah, that's right...a farm."

Seriously, nothing but good thoughts for all of you and the medical professionals helping your mom as you get through these next few days.

mamatulip said...

Thinking of you and your family, and sending all of you good thoughts!!

MereCat said...

Oh bless you. I hope all goes well for everyone. Thinking about you and hoping for good news from you soon.

Danielle said...

Good luck! It all sounds a little scary, but at least you'll be there.

Emily and Erin will do great. It's sort of a little secret that as much as I miss Josh when he goes out of town, things also go a little more smoothly (except the missing him). And we are always so excited by the time he gets back.

SciFi Dad said...

I'll have a good thought for your mom, and for you.

It's never easy when a parent goes in for surgery. I hope everything goes well.

Swanny said...

Good luck sir. Hope all goes well for you and your mom.

AnnaC said...

Safe travels to you and quick recovery to your mom.

Mandy said...

Best wishes to your family and your mom for her surgery. Hope you enjoy all 4 hrs of the airport in NYC! I hear they sell liquor and perfume for like, great prices. ;)

Kat said...

Hope your trip is safe and that mom does well with the surgery. Emily and Erin will be fine but I'm sure they'll miss you lots.

Dto3 said...

And JFK is by far the worst of the airports. You can have some fun at LaGuardia and do some great people watching at Newark, but JFK is just one really freaking huge airport. Good luck with your Mom!

alntv said...

I hope your Mom recovers quickly! Since you're not gonna be in NYC for very long, go here to check out some pics of my latest trip there...

http://alntv.wordpress.com/2008/04/25/new-yorktimes-square/

http://alntv.wordpress.com/2008/04/25/new-yorkcentral-park/

Samurai Beetle said...

About 5 years ago when I was living in LA, my mom broke her leg. I elected not to go visit because my 2 brothers and nurse sister-in-law were there and well a broken leg just needs to heal right. Money was also tight but when is it not? I found out later that my mom really missed me and wanted me to be there but was too proud to ask. I felt so immature for not prioritizing her and it's helped me make quicker decisions later in family crisis. Just wrote this to say I understand and hope things go well with your mom this week.

Amanda said...

Wow...this blog post gave me chills. First, I'm a new reader. I really enjoy your blog. It's bloody fantastic and your daughter is adorable.

Second, my mother had a brain aneurism about 10 years ago and reading your post brought me right back to that time..it was terrifying. I can absolutely relate to the guilt and the feeling of helplessness.

Third, I live in Burlington, VT! And I assume that your mother is having her surgery at the hospital there, which is where I work (well, I work in a building attached to it).

Pretty crazy, huh?

Best to you and your mom...and to Emily and Erin!

Stacie said...

Yikes! Good thoughts and well wishes to your mother. I know how upsetting and stressful that is, my mother had surgery and a stroke and I wasn't able to go help out at all..both parents in the hospital at the same time, not fun. I hope it all works out well and I'll be sending good thoughts your way.
Stacie

DeeDee said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your entire family! it's a scary thing to be going through but try to stay positive. We're all wishing your mom well and you a safe journey.

Aunt Becky said...

I'm sending every possible ounce of good vibrations your way. To you all.

*hugs* to every last one of you.

Ali said...

thinking good thoughts for you.

also..that you can make it to nyc. it's a GREAT city.

BretCB said...

As the people above have already stated, all my good thoughts are with your whole family. I hope everything turns out well for your mom.

mumma boo said...

Safe travels! Thinking good thoughts and saying prayers for all of you.

motherbumper said...

I'll totally be thinking of you and your family. That recovery is amazing but being someone who worked in a physical rehab for years, I cannot say enough about the healing aspects of love and family support.

Liz@thisfullhouse.com said...

Both of my parents have been tag-teaming their way in (and out) of hospital for the last few weeks. It's hard. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Jenn said...

Sending you and your mom good thoughts! Have a safe trip!

Rattling The Kettle said...

Good luck to all, but a 4-hour layover in JFK does not qualify as a trip to NYC. Maybe if you had six hours, that would be enough time to grab a respectable pastrami sandwich (Katz's would be my pick) and still get through security in time to make your flight...

mommastantrum said...

Good thoughts for your family. Have a safe trip, and have a couple of beers there at the airport while you're waiting.

Mom101 said...

Wishing you all good good good good good good good good thoughts. Very good ones.

Hope you can come here under more favorable circumstances soon.

the husband said...

It never is easy having a family member in the hospital. Our prayers from a thousand miles are with you and your family.

Don Mills Diva said...

Have a great time in NYC - I hope your mom pulls through everything okay - sounds like a scary last year.

Off to check out Emily's blog.

gorillabuns said...

thinking good thoughts for you and your family.

Backpacking Dad said...

Thank you everyone. Your support here has really been phenomenal, and I can't really explain how much it means to me.