The current has shifted. It’s both unsettling and comforting. I’d seen it coming, but after my husband had scary chest pains, I couldn’t deny it.
The shifting began when our son Jon and four other relatives joined my husband Frank at the cabin for the annual ice fishing week. Besides ice fishing, this week was meant to include many hands of the card game Schmier and zipping around on the ice with the UTV. When the UTV got stuck, though, Frank had to trudge through deep snow in the cold and experienced mild chest pains.
Not totally sure it was heart-related, he chose not to go to the hospital. Frank called me and said Jon kept him in his sights and wouldn’t let him lift anything heavy or exert himself. In the past, Frank had done most of the plowing and snow shoveling. This year the current shifted and Jon and others took charge, insisting he take it easy.
When a parent remembers their son as the carefree, full-of-fun kid who laughed with delight as we piled up leaves and jumped in them, it’s hard to adjust to the shift of now seeing him as a man in charge.
When Frank’s pain continued, he returned from the fishing week a day early. Caught up in the strong current, not knowing what to expect, he and I went to the emergency room. He spent several days in the hospital and had a series of tests. Doctors prescribed new medications, and we hoped that was the answer. The pressure persisted, however, and they scheduled him for a cardiac catheterization on the same day I was scheduled to present at a conference in Milwaukee.
Our Madison daughter quickly volunteered to stay with her dad. Even though she’s a mother herself, I couldn’t help but flash back to her as a little blondie picking daisies in a sunlit field. My goal was to protect her from all the worries of the world, and I felt the shift. She and her California sister are now the ones who advise us on healthy eating habits, who will come to our aid when we don’t understand test results, and give us helpful tips like taking pictures of important stent location information.
Our daughters. Shouldn’t they still be playing with their guinea pigs in the sandbox their dad made for them in the backyard instead of taking control and giving advice? Shouldn’t they still be digging sandbox moats and building bridges so their beloved pets, Carmel and Misty, could try to cross over the moat? Shouldn’t they still be allowed to live in a fantasy world instead of facing life’s harsh realities?
I remember when the shift happened with my own mother. I had wiped her chin after she’d tried to eat soup while in the hospital. I knew she was about to share something important when she looked at me intensely. Her voice was weak, but her message was memorable. “Once a man, twice a child.”
Toward the end of her life, my mother reached for my hand. Her voice was wracked with pain, but she managed to whisper, “Having you kids was the best thing I did in my life.”
I felt privileged to be able to give back to this woman who had given me so much, and our children, I suspect, feel the same. As much as we want to protect them from life’s harsh realities, we do them a disservice by denying them these moments.
Frank and I get messages from our kids that choke us up: I’ll be here when he gets out of surgery, Mom. I’m staying until we’re sure he’s okay. We got this, Mom.and Dad; we got this.
Frank is doing much better thanks to skilled doctors and nurses who inserted three stents in partially blocked arteries. But I have to think the constantly flowing love from family and friends hastened his recovery.
It’s impossible to predict what obstacles we’ll meet as we float down this new, unfamiliar stream, but we can feel the warm sunshine on our backs and see its glow lighting our path ahead.