#51: A New Story

#51: A New Story

Sometimes, things take a turn and life doesn’t so much feel like the story you thought was being written. Instead, something scary and surreal happens that makes you feel like you’ve jarringly been transported from a sweet little house on the prairie to a dark and weird Yoknapatawpha County.

A year ago – and I mean exactly a year ago from when I am writing this – we moved out into the country a bit. I have shared my agrarian dreams and home decor whims with you, but that’s not what brought us here. What brought us here was a disease called MSA – Multiple Systems Atrophy.

My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in February of 2011 and told that, with the proper treatment, he could expect as many as 15 more good years. He laughed and said, “Hey, that gets me into my 80s – I can’t expect much more than that!” But his challenges increased very quickly.

On November 1, 2011, the neurologist mentioned MSA for the first time. In a hastily-organized conference call, my brothers and I googled the disease and were shocked by what we read. MSA is called “the dirty cousin” of Parkinson’s, and sadly, it sounded a lot more like Dad than any description of Parkinson’s, and with a shorter life expectancy.

That night, I told Randy that I had a crazy idea. What could we buy if we moved a little further out? Could we afford to get something that would allow us to live together comfortably with my parents? Something that would allow us to be right there if my stepmom needed us, that would allow us to cut their grass, help with anything they needed.

My wonderful, not-the-fastest-to-embrace-change husband didn’t think it sounded crazy. Then I called my parents and told them the crazy idea and that I wanted them to talk and pray about it and be honest. Immediately, they both sounded like they were smiling and said that they didn’t need to talk about it.

At the bottom of the housing market, we listed our house at the end of December on a Thursday. By Monday, we had multiple offers. We were moving.

There’s a whole other blog entry to write one day about the move itself. I believe it was Renee who termed our moving day “Movepocalypse 2012.” But still, even in the pain of moving, we had a vision and a purpose.

We moved here on February 25, and the next weekend my parents arrived to begin working on the renovation of the apartment across the driveway. Throughout March, April, May and June, the renovation moved along, and by the beginning of July, my parents moved in.

Every month, I watched my dad’s mobility and energy decrease. More than once, I asked my step mom if she thought this project was speeding things up or hurting him in any way. She would immediately assure me that it was rejuvenating him, giving him good work to do, and that I was just seeing him at his tiredest. I remember a phone conversation with my brother Ted in which I confessed my fear that maybe this was too much for Dad. He said he thought it was OK, but also, “Well, if he dies in six months after all this, I’ll be pissed.”

He made it seven.

On February 6, my sweet Dad died here at home in his recliner, only a few hours after talking to my Grace. I so vividly remember him “dancing” outside the day before with his physical therapist and later pretending to play hopscotch on the chalk squares I’d drawn for Grace on the driveway.

I have so many questions. Most of them just sound like, “Are you kidding me?” These questions are directed to the same God who I arm-wrestled with nearly 20 years ago when my mom suddenly died.

This isn’t how the story was supposed to go. I mean, really, come on.

Of course all of the things you’re thinking to say to me right now are true too. His last year was spent in community with us, seeing his children and grandchildren much more frequently than if he’d stayed in South Carolina. And yes, it is likely that my incredibly hard worker of a dad actually needed and enjoyed the work of renovation.

But in my mind, all of this work was a “working toward,” with a light at the end of the tunnel. I thought the light was a season of some contented years all happily communing here together, sharing a driveway, garden, and the everyday antics of my girls.

It seems God had a different light in mind for Dad. And, for us too.

I ache with the missing of him, but I’m not really sad for him. My dad is in a place where all of the challenges and limitations he was facing have fallen away. He is whole. I can’t wish that that wasn’t the case. Tiptoe by tiptoe, we have begun walking into a new chapter. One that was completely unexpected and contains an old familiar ache.

But I know, in spite of the tears, aching, and glances across the driveway to find Dad, that the story will be good. I know the author, and while I hate sometimes that he has a mind of his own, his stories are always good.

So I pick my whining, crying, aching self up and tiptoe on.

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