I should have known something was wrong.
The phone call from my sister came in the middle of the afternoon.
I sat in my office in Alberta as I listened to her voice calmly telling me that my father had had a stroke at our home in Ontario and was currently recuperating in hospital.
She explained that my father had sat at the lunch table with his grandchildren, wife and daughter when the stroke occurred. My mother, who was a nurse, knew instantly that he had had a stroke and called 911. Thanks to the fast acting emergency response team that came within minutes of the call, my father was rushed to hospital where he was given life saving drugs and surgery was preformed to remove the clot. He now lay, separated from his family and all that was familiar, in a hospital bed on a ward.
My mother and sister both insisted that I not come home.
“There is nothing you can do right now,” said my mother, who was going into the hospital daily for hours to be with my father, who at that time could not speak. “Maybe when Dad gets out I’ll need some help.” But my gut told me differently.
“You worked so hard to get your job,” she said.
This was true.
I was a reporter/photographer for a newspaper, something I had been working towards for some time. I had spent the last four years building up a portfolio, networking, learning, growing. I was blogging, writing, photographing and networking. I was updating my web page, posting and engaging on Facebook and LinkedIn; I was on top of things and looking forward to next steps in my career.
My older sister had just moved to Europe and my younger sister, with a very young family of her own, lived in another town. My parent’s friends were a big help to my mother but I still felt that I could be helpful in so many ways by going back to Ontario.
As I lay awake at night, staring at the ceiling or going about my work day that first week, all I could think of was the countless ways my returning home could be beneficial, both for my father and my mother, contributing however I could. I thought often of the countless selfless things that my parents did for me growing up. I thought of their undying support and love.
When I made the decision to go home to Ontario to help out my parents, I knew that it wouldn’t be a quick trip. I couldn’t just pop into my parent’s place for a month, “sort” everything out and return to be over 3000 kilometres away from them. I knew from my past job experiences, that the after effects of stroke can range widely and also that the biggest gains happen within the first three months.
I could hear the relief in my mothers voice over the phone when I told her that I was coming home. We both cried.
I quit my job, sold what I could, had the rest moved and packed my vehicle. With one last look at the beautiful farm house I lived in, I drove out into the prairie and continued east, driving from Alberta to Ontario, one last time.
As I drove I worried. I worried about my father and my mother, about how we would cope, about what lay ahead. Selfishly, I worried about money, the expense of the move and about what would happen to my newly found career while I put it on hold. I worried about how I would help my father and how it would feel living with my parents again.
In my dreams Ellen DeGeneres, or some such Do-Gooder, heard about our situation and would call, wanting to come and rescue me with someone to help co-ordinate everything my father needed, financial help for me, a place close by my parents for me to live and a magic wand to fix everything.
DeGeneres never called and there was no magic wand.
Since coming back home I’ve helped my father through the early days of daily physical and speech therapy. Relearning skills that the stroke stole from him has been a slow process in some areas but my father has worked hard- he’s one tough cookie. We’ve all adapted as my father grew strength. We’ve done a lot of laughing….and some crying too. Trying to maneuver through the jungle of useful tools and organizations that could potential help us has been frustrating and depressing.
It’s been difficult all around.
Life doesn’t stop though and with aging parents there are things that they can’t do anymore. So I’ve learned new skills since coming home. I’ve become a computer, watch and electric razor repairer and all around general Ms. Fix-It, demolishing and constructing, depending on what needs doing. I continue to work with my Dad as often as he needs me and help my mother, whenever she needs it.
I haven’t been on top of blogging or writing. I haven’t been posting many photos because I’ve rarely been going out to get any. On the few occasions where I have posted photos I’ve received comments saying things like, “Nice to see your photos again, where have you been?”
I’ve been busy helping.
With my father now more stable, I’m starting to make time to do things to help get my life in Ottawa going. Switching from working with my father full time to getting back out into the workforce, taking photos, writing, posting and blogging more will take some juggling but now is a great time to start.
As my role changes, I’m rediscovering a city I left over 15 years ago, looking for great photography spots, places to write – those spots that do good for the creative soul and mind.
But for those of you who were wondering why I’ve not been up on my social media, when in this day in age, that’s a big chunk of what people in the industry need to do, you now have an answer; I’ve been busy helping, putting my family first.