My Dad had a stroke about a month ago. He is doing relatively well. His speech and muscle strength came back within a day, and he was released from the hospital after 4 days. He is having some cognitive effects, and is going to occupational therapy once a week. He has also been finding it harder to control his emotions, but seemed to be dealing ok with it, until yesterday.
Since my Dad retired about 20 years ago, my parents have always taken an RV south for the winter. My Mom is not comfortable driving the RV, so Dad has always done it. When I saw him in the hospital the day of the stroke he was talking about how he had to remember to contact the company that gives them travel insurance to update his health status with them.
Yesterday they went out to check on the RV, and the batteries on it had completely discharged. This shouldn’t have happened, and Dad couldn’t figure out why it had happened, and it really upset him. We were supposed to come for supper tonight, but my Mom just called to say we shouldn’t come today because he is having panic attacks. She says that Dad is having such a hard time he doesn’t even want to go to church this morning. I don’t think it helps any that there is no service at their regular church this morning because much of the congregation has gone on the annual camping trip to Algonquin Provincial Park, a trip my parents always went on and would take the RV.
The people who aren’t going on the trip are going to the church that is practically next door instead (the product of a church split about 100 years ago,but everything is cool now.) and that was what my parents planned to do this morning, but Dad just can’t handle it.
I know that stroke, like any brain injury can mess with a person’s emotional control but imagine the dead batteries on the RV are feeling a bit too symbolic right now.
Despite the fact that my Dad retired about 20 years ago, the last month probably is the longest time my Dad hasn’t had work to do since he broke his hip in a car accident when he was in his early 20's. My parents have had a very active retirement, volunteering for the food bank, the Mennonite thrift store, serving on the refugee sponsorship committee, and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity on their trips south in the winter, among other things.
I imagine the future is looking very uncertain right now. I reminded Mom that Mr I. has said his schedule is very flexible, and if she feels like she needs someone to come and help her this coming week when I go back to school he will, which I think will help. Mom did talk about getting Dad some help if this persists, but thinking about it now, it might not be a bad idea to get him some counselling even if the panic attacks don’t persist. He’s finding it harder to be out in public than he used to; the noise and chaos of crowds is harder for him to block out, so he is spending a lot of time at home, and I think he is feeling useless.
Not being idle is a big part of Mennonite identity; we are the people who build a barn in a day (whenever I do any physical labour with Mr I’s side of the family, I get a little frustrated because they stop so much! Admittedly they seem to get overheated so much faster than I do.) and I think Dad might need some help accepting that things have changed and figuring out what he can do now.