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It is hard to know when, exactly, it all came together. It seems to have started this past Friday, May 15, 2020, when mom and dad were flower shopping at a local nursery. It was a beautiful day! Blue skies with temps in the 70’s! Recently retired (May 8th;) fueling his passion for plants and gardening; and channeling his inner farmer, the man known by his granddaughters as bestefar, “bestie,” “beefy” and let’s not forget “the muscle man,” and the picture of health, was living his best life….until, suddenly, he wasn’t.
A stroke has a way of completely disrupting the best laid plans. In an instant that night’s dinner, the evening walk, visits with friends, a dentist appointment, retirement, a family vacation …Stop! Held in a pregnant pause because….“Wait, what just happened here?” It felt like riding a roller coaster without a buckle. Lifted out of our seats and wondering, “Are we even safe anymore?”
By Tuesday, May 19, 2020, we were using the term ischemic stroke (an abrupt blockage of arteries leading to the brain) to describe what had consumed our weekend. Dad was at Lakeview Hospital. Seven minutes away and yet a lifetime from home. COVID-19 was making us sick in a way we never expected. No sitting with dad in the ER waiting room; no holding his hand while they were asking him a million questions to which he’d have no answers, no hanging out until the nurses and doctors came, no getting him ice cubes for his water, no making sure he got a good dessert with his dinner, no sitting by his side when he got news that he’d “failed” his OT exam or that he couldn’t drive…no…no…no…no. Our stomachs hurt and I could see mom’s heart breaking. This did not feel OK, like a gap in humanity!
Thursday, May 21, 2020. Celebration!! After 3 nights in the hospital, Dad was coming home! Mom drove him for a victory lap around the block and by our house so the Reed girls and I could blow kisses and wave at him. We snapchatted videos to the Aasan granddaughers, took pictures to send to Haakon and Candace, and smiled so big our cheeks ached. Beefy was back and he had the stroke in a choke hold. Madeleine and I sat with him on their back porch and silently confirmed that we’d still be able to understand him in spite of his struggle to find words and his battle with memory. Haakon talked with him on the phone. “He’s all there!” And so, all the Bothell/Stillwater Aasans and Reed sisters gave a big exhale. This can begin to feel OK!
Until…at 4:30 AM on Friday, May 22, 2020. A call to 911 and right after, a call to me. It was mom, telling me “something is wrong with dad.” I met the ambulance, police car and fire truck as I was walking up mom and dad’s driveway. They’d all come in less than 5 minutes. That felt reassuring. They were so careful when they asked mom the difficult questions and so patient with dad as he was navigating new and increased barriers to his speech and memory, along with obvious (new) changes in his body (facial droop at the right side of the mouth and a right arm that wouldn’t cooperate to move.) My arm wrapped around mom, as we stood in the dark, in their driveway and prayed dad off in the ambulance. We were back on the roller coaster…and were definitely not OK.