I have a story to tell

Actually, I probably have more than one, but I'll start with the big story (in a condensed form) and see where we end up. Regardless of the details that follow, this story has a happy ending. Keep that in mind.

Last weekend Dan and I were in Rehoboth Beach, Deleware staying with our friends Howard and Patrick, hanging out with 2 houses full of friends. It was a great weekend. The weekend started out on an exceptionally good note. Last week I found out that I've been accepted as an Artist in Residence at the Greenbelt Community Center, and I'm just thrilled. So, on the first day of our holiday I finally got answers to all of my questions about liability insurance and I was able to officially accept the invitation. I'm hoping to be able to move into the studio at the beginning of August.

The rest of the weekend was great. We ate and drank well, did lots of visiting, and got lots of sleep. It seems that "wild" weekends at the beach take on a new flavor after 40. This weekend was also the first time that Dan and I had been able to see Patrick since he got his new hip 6 weeks ago. He looks fantastic. I told him that I think the doctor put in a battery to go with the hip. He now seems to be in almost constant motion. It's a joy to see.

Can you feel the suspense building? I wouldn't have assured you of the happy ending if there wasn't going to be a big bump in the road. It's time to buckle-up.

We arrived home on Sunday to find all as usual. The cat's were giving us the silent treatment because they were mad about being abandoned. We sifted through the minimal stack of mail. I checked the voice mail. Now--you know--that's when the other shoe dropped. What I found was a message from earlier in the day from my sister saying that Dad had suffered a stroke and was in the ER at Fairfax Hospital. I was surprisingly calm, but I think that it was more numb and calm. We were out the door in about 2 minutes. Dan drove. I have a pretty fuzzy memory of the trip except that I was fascinated, in a detached sort of way, by my almost complete silence. I will spare you the details, except to say that we found my normally gregarious, smiling father lying in the Neuroscience ICU with a half droopy face, a slightly curled up right hand, and nearly unintelligible speech. Despite all of this he was doing his best to laugh at his family's so-so attempts at bedside humor.

So, here's all of the good news. Mom noticed the attack very soon after it happened and called 911. He was in the ER, CAT scanned, and full of tPA (the so called "clot buster") all within the magic 3-hour window. When Dan and I saw him around 3 (about 7 hours after the attack) he was already starting to improve. That was Sunday. Tonight (Wednesday) he came home from the hospital! When I talked to Mom tonight she said that he was upstairs checking his e-mail. I had to bite my tongue to keep from crying.

The stroke affected the left hemisphere of his brain, but the MRI showed no vascular damage. The lasting affects appear to be impaired (but improving) speech, impaired mobility in his right hand, and some facial numbness. There is great hope for continued recovery and much cause for celebration in the midst of this tragedy.

Throughout this ordeal our friends have been a tremendous support. If I ever questioned why community matters, then I surely won't again. I can't explain why or exactly how, but in the last several days I have felt the almost palpable presence of my friends' thoughts and prayers for me, for Dad, and our whole family. I don't know how to say thank you except to stand at the ready to share the same gift of caring.

Well, that's a long story, and one that's not over. Recovery isn't quick or easy. But, it's a story with a happy ending and a message: Don't hesitate to reach out to your friends and family in time of need. That's part of why community matters.