So it’s been a while (2 months to be exact) and there’s no point me apologising for the lack of posts. We got married on 25 August and life just got away from me. The wedding was awesome, everything we wanted and we had a fab day. It’s everything since that’s been less than rosy (my husband, however, is most definitely awesome. Being married is great).
Two days after our wedding, my dad had an accident and fell down the stairs. He fractured his skull and suffered bruising and swelling to his skull. He was in a coma for two weeks. He’s since started to wake up and speak, although his lucid and sensible moments are few and far between, and he’s not the man he was before. We’re hopeful this could change, but at present life feels like driving down a really foggy road. Your lights help you see immediately in front of you, but everything beyond that is a mystery.
Little Miss Organised has a bad time
For me, our situation is hard because I plan everything months in advance. I’m a list maker and an organiser so when I can’t get answers it freaks me out. And even for my slightly less organised brother and sister, it’s a crappy situation, to put it mildly.
The list of emotions we’re all experiencing is endless. We feel guilty for enjoying life, sad that he might never get back to ‘normal’, optimistic when he makes the tiniest bit of progress and pessimistic when he has a tired day. We’re angry that this happened at a time when life seemed to be great, and frustrated with the to-ing and fro-ing as various people manage his recovery.
I can’t speak for my siblings, but if I dwell on the negative feelings I’d never get out of bed. Instead I want to share what I’m learning from this horrible situation:
1) My siblings are pretty awesome
Every family member, in any given family, has their natural role. I’m the organiser. Often to the others’ annoyance, I’m always trying to book them for family meals and gatherings, months ahead of time.
When my dad had his fall, I was on honeymoon. The roles had to shift. My brother has been an absolute legend. At a time when his heart felt like it had split open, he called the family together. He updated everybody. He took time off work to sit with my dad and will him awake. He took care of our baby sister (she’s 17 but she’ll always be our baby). And that’s the next thing.
My sister loves fashion, nails, beauty and shopping. If you didn’t know her, you’d assume she was your typical self-obsessed teenager. But she’s not. As soon as she knew I’d been told about our dad, I got a series of messages through about how I shouldn’t worry. How I was doing the right thing by seeing out our honeymoon. How Daddy was going to beat this and wake up ASAP. I knew she was broken too, and that her natural role was to let us look after her. But she decided her grown-up sister could do with some looking after too.
In short, my siblings are incredible. I’ve underestimated them for far too long. I’m so so proud of them – prouder than any qualification, job or achievement will ever make me. If I could wrap them in bubble wrap (pointless because my brother would just pop it all), I would. I wish I had the power to protect them from the unfair, entirely pointless crap. But I can’t. They’ve been so brave and as a family, we’re not good at telling each other the emotional stuff. So I hope this is enough. I love you both more than Daddy loves Maltesers.
2) People can surprise you
Just when you’ve given up faith in anything good, and decided there’s no point being happy, someone you don’t even know all that well will make you smile. After my dad’s accident, I knew people would be sympathetic, but I didn’t expect such kindness. My in-laws dropped food round on our first weekend home because they knew hospital visiting would take up our time. My work colleagues bought me cards, biscuits and took time out to listen to me cry and rant. And I got cards, Facebook messages and texts from people I haven’t heard from in years, just sending their love.
People aren’t always after something. Contrary to what you see on Twitter, or read in the papers; there are still good people out there.
3) Perspective is relative
I thought I had perspective. While I’ve had a relatively comfortable life, my road’s not always been smooth. I thought I was good at putting everyday worries and rants into perspective against the bigger, nastier things my friends and family were going through.Turns out I wasn’t.
It’s a learning curve but I’m learning to make the best of life as we now know it. Yes my dad is currently in need of some pretty comprehensive neurological rehab. But he’s still my dad, and he loves us, and he’s here. Yes the three of us are constantly shattered and struggling to juggle work, life and hospital. But we have each other as well as a huge network of family and extended family and friends. We’re incredibly lucky on that front.
4) Family is whoever turns up when things are shit
Half the people who visited my dad in ITU and since aren’t technically related to him. My mum (his first wife), my step mum (his second wife), our friend Lacie (his pretend daughter – running joke), our cousins, and a stream of friends have spent time chatting and listening to his (generally) gibberish.
It doesn’t matter that he’s no longer married to my mum or step mum. And while they were (of course) there for their kids (aka us), they were also just there because they love my dad. He’s one of their best friends and they wanted to help take care of him. Family isn’t as straightforward as ‘people who live in the same house’. It’s whoever is there for the bad times.
5) No-one’s expecting a superhero
Don’t get me wrong, I love superheroes. Massive Marvel fan (I went to a Marvel themed party as Emma Frost while my now-husband went as Beast. It was awesome). But it’s unrealistic to be tough, brave and happy 24/7, even on a good day. So on the bad days, no-one expects it.
When I’ve had days when I knew tears were coming, I’ve tried to stop them. And they came out anyway. So now, if I’m sad, I pop out of the office for a walk. I ask one of my friends if they’ve got 5 minutes to listen. I ask for help and a hug. It’s easy to feel like a burden, like life has moved on for everyone else. And absolutely, you still have to move along and try to enjoy life – go to work, see friends, make plans. But when things feel difficult, people are there for you. They want to help. Don’t be brave and pretend you’re fine. You’ll do more damage in the long run.
So to sum up, things are pretty crap. But my family is one-of-a-kind, we’ve discovered some amazing people, and we’re surrounded by a beautiful mishmash of slightly odd but gorgeously loveable individuals. If good thoughts and well wishes had healing power, Daddy wouldn’t just be better – he’d be marathon fit.