To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” –G.K. Chesterson
The past month and a half has been an incredibly draining emotional roller coaster. I have come to learn that when a family member calls me, it is almost always bad news. My cousin’s number flashed onto the screen of my phone, and I knew it wasn’t going to be good. Despite my hesitation and the string of hypotheticals running through my mind, I picked up the phone and anxiously said hello.
It was about my dad.
I could hear the cautious tempo in my cousin’s voice as he began to describe what had happened to my father. He had a heart attack. Someone found him face-down on a sidewalk. Someone called the police. He was at a hospital in critical care. The flood of information was overwhelming as I began to piece together the timeline of events.
Just a few days after my HPR interview with Beth-Ann, my father had a heart attack and was found on the sidewalk. Someone cared enough to call. I cannot even begin to describe the feelings of gratitude for the person who took the time to help him. My biggest fear has always been that he would die on the streets, and nobody would know who he was. My desperation and feelings of hopelessness are over for now.
I had been instructed to sit on the sidelines until his younger brother found him an assisted living facility. Just yesterday, I was looking through the old photographs I have of him in his most dire circumstances. The images will forever remain in my heart as a reminder of how homelessness can truly “happen to anybody.”
My experience visiting him at the hospital was profound. My husband took off of work early that day to see my father with me. We both knew full well that I could easily break down emotionally seeing him in his condition. As we held hands and walked slowly down the corridor, I recalled all of the moments I had visited him on the streets… all those precious and painful moments where I had stood with him in the rain, gone searching for him at odd hours of the night, experienced the stab of sorrow and despair as I watched him walk away from me, and the weight of my tears as I drove away not knowing when I would see him again.
The experience can be soul crushing. It pushed me to question who I really was, and why I cared so much for the man who wasn’t around to raise me and blamed for so many years. In the journey of emotionally and physically caring for my father, I learned that nothing can be truer than love. I love him. It doesn’t matter what he did, or what he didn’t do. The pain and suffering that he experienced, and caused me over all those years didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered was that he had the opportunity to live again.. to function again… to have a second chance.
And now he has it.
As I stepped into my father’s room, I saw his frail figure cloaked under the pastel blue hospital garment folding over him. His eyes were closed and he was the cleanest I had seen him nearly two years. I quietly studied his face and body as he laid there breathing quietly. His cheeks were a little fuller, despite the hard lines and shadows etched into his face. His skin looked leathery from the countless days under the harsh sun. He had a couple of tubes running into his chest, and his limbs looked swollen. He looked better than I had seen him in a long time, and for that I was relieved.
My husband gently broke the silence and asked if I was okay. I shook my head and nodded… I was fine. I would have to be fine. I have learned the art of caring for a person, and caring for my heart at the same time. I took a couple steps closer and stood beside him. There were remnants of food on the table next to him, and a half cup of orange juice. It was so surreal. As I scanned the rest of the room and gazed at my father again, I felt the warmth of my tears flooding down my face. My heart was opening as I felt a sense of relief in knowing that he was being taken care of.
Just as we were about to leave, my father’s eyes opened and he called out my name. He was so lucid… his mental clarity surprised me, and I couldn’t help but chuckle when he asked that I bring back some manapua the next time I visited. We had a good conversation, and I walked away feeling lighter that day.
As I write this post reflecting on the experiences we have had these past months, there really are no words that can fully describe the sense of gratitude I have for those who have cared during this difficult time. I am looking forward to watching him regain his strength, and am hopeful that the next chapter of his life will be better.