Monday, January 2, 2012

Grandparent Bond

My father, who is now 73 years old, suffered a stroke in the summer of 2007.  At the time of his stroke, my daughter and son were 8 years old and 4 years old respectively.  It was a terribly frightening time for everyone in the family. My Dad seemed so young and was very active---how could this be possible?

A few days after the event, my mind was flooded with all the things that my kids would never get to experience with their Grandfather (affectionately named Poopa)---hunting trips, lessons in his wood shop, cooking in the kitchen, and wind-blown cruises in his red Corvette.  Why I was so upset about these things was unknown to me, because they were not things I did with my Grandfather.  However, these were things that my Dad looked forward to and enjoyed tremendously.  These were the things that made him happy, and I knew he would enjoy doing them with my kids.  I greatly mourned the loss of these events for my Dad and for my kids.

While my Dad is still with us today, his limited mobility and partial vision loss prevents him from doing the things he loved doing before his stroke. Although he has finally come to accept his limitations, it is not without obvious sadness whenever we converse about his years as a dentist, his hunting trips or the beautiful things he made in his wood shop.

This has been a long and insightful journey for all of us these past four and a half years.  But it is a journey that has taught us all so much. Rather than dwell on what my father can no longer do, we celebrate all that he is able to do.  When things seem to be rough for me, I think about my Dad and the challenges he faces, and my own difficulties never measure up. I have to tell myself (or my kids) to stop complaining and move on! It’s a great perspective to have, and I try to steer my kids toward it whenever I can.  My children have a great bond with my Dad and love him for who he is, not for what he can do for them.  He is the first person they run to when they get to my parents’ home and the last person they hug before they leave. They are very protective of him and always make sure that he is taken care of.

For Christmas 2008, my daughter’s letter to Santa Claus stated that the only thing she wanted was for Poopa’s stroke to go away.  She was only 9 years old and we were amazed at her request. At that age, most Christmas lists are full of material items.  My husband and I loved the fact that she thought about someone other than herself for that holiday season.  It was then that we realized that she knew what love and life were all about.

Michele Charless is the manager of the NICU at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano and the Mother of two.

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