Summer 2010 was a very difficult one for the Grindahl family. Mom and dad had been planning a trip to Ecuador with their church and a few weeks before they left dad started feeling weaker and weaker. They questioned whether or not they should still go, but in the end decided that he would be ok and went. When they were gone in Ecuador I took off for the week in Nebraska.
Matt and I had talked about meeting in person during the summer because it was the easiest for me and my work schedule, but due to circumstances with his job he gave a couple of months notice and started looking for another job. With the job situation up in the air it would have been difficult for him to leave the UK and come to the US for an extended period of time. And this isn't like traveling to Texas or New York. It's like a whole days worth of travel to get to MN from the UK and a whole day back, so a long weekend wouldn't work. We had talked about possibly the beginning of August, maybe before a new job would start, but we now know that didn't happen for a reason.
After mom and dad got back from Ecuador dad started feeling worse for the wear. Fourth of July weekend he cut his finger pretty badly while doing some work in the garage and ended up in the ER and some stitches and big bandage. The following week his health declined even more and he started staying home from work. And then it got worse, and mom was worried about leaving him home alone so Hilary and I took turns using our sick time to spend the day with dad.
I love spending time with my dad. He has such a positive attitude and fantastic outlook on life. And he tells funny stories and knows just how to make you smile. Make anyone smile! It was very difficult to see him in pain and unable to swallow and taking loads of pills and it just seemed like he was getting worse. I would get to the house in the morning and sit with him in the living room, helping in whatever way I could. Getting some ice, a glass of water, making sure he took the right pills at the right time, reading to him, and just sitting there while he slept.
One day he took my hand and just asked me to pray. I barely got a few words out before I started to sob. I had been raised to believe that God has our best interests in mind, but how is watching him get sicker and sicker in my dad's best interest? How is watching mom get stressed out and not knowing what to do next in her best interest? How is taking my sisters best friend away from her so tragically and then adding the stress of a sick parent in her best interest? How is having my brother live 2000 miles away from all of this and getting everything second hand in his best interest? How is introducing me to this great guy, who lives 4000 miles away, and not being able to meet in person and struggling through all this alone in my best interest? I didn't get it, and I was scared. And trying so hard to keep the faith that I saw in my mom and dad. My throat closes up as I type this. It is hard to go back to that place.
And then here is this guy I'm getting to know and falling in love with. Who I haven't met in person, and I am showing up on the computer screen, after spending a day with dad, in tears. I was scared. I was worried about my dad's health. I was worried about my mom. I was lonely sitting at home in the evenings. And poor Matt had to sit and watch all this from 4000 miles away. Helpless. But ever so helpful. I have told him before and I'll say it again...I would have crumbled last summer if it hadn't have been for him.
It must have been about a week or so of this and dad wasn't getting better. One day I got to mom and dad's and mom said he had refused to drink the smoothie she had made for him that morning, but it was in the fridge and another round of pills were due soon, so try and get him to drink the smoothie. I went into the living room where he was napping on the couch and sat down. When it was time for him to take his meds I brought them in with the smoothie and for the first time in my 31 years of life I was truly terrified when he refused. Flat out said no. I didn't know how to respond. And then, I just told him yes, you will drink this, and drink it all. And the look on his face is one I will never forget, he drank it, and laid back down and I went into the kitchen to put stuff away and wept. And then I pulled myself together and went back into the living room and held his hand while he slept. But my heart was beating so fast and I was truly scared.
That afternoon when mom got home I had to take off for home to let the pup out and spend a few minutes talking to Matt before he went to bed. As Matt is playing me a song on and my phone rings and it's mom. The song Matt is playing is is super loud and I am trying to get his attention, but the guy is really into it. So I walk away from the computer. Mom says she is taking dad to the ER and would I go with, they are on their way to my house and will pick me up. And I say, of course. I'm ready to go when you show up. I go back to the computer, explain to Matt and say good-bye.
Dad has the best sense of humor! As we are driving the man to the ER he tells me to call his best bud Marv. As I'm talking to him dad's sitting in the front sit cracking jokes. Telling me what funny thing to tell Marv and laughing at the funny things Marv says back. We get to the ER doors and mom and dad go in while I park the van. As I'm walking in I give Hil a call to let her know what's going on and head into the hospital with the promise that I will keep her up to date.
A few days earlier the family dog, (Scooter, or Scoots-da-Scoots, or Scootinladoot)...well, let's just say is not doing to great either. He is puking or having accidents all over the house and it is stressing mom out. A decision was made and poor, old, very old, Scoots is going to head to doggie heaven. Dads friend Marv had said he would do anything for him, so...they asked Marv to take the dog to the Humane Society. When I got to the house that morning Scooter was as chipper as a little puppy. Jumping all over, running around, wanting to play. It was such a sad sight to see. Marv came and he and dad cracked some jokes about Marv being the grim reaper and that maybe he could let Scoots put his head out the window one last time on the way there. And off he went with the grim reaper named Marv. Poor Scooter! We miss you...well, sort of. You were kind of grumpy there in the end...but a good dog, nontheless.
Back in the hospital as we are waiting I'm texting back and forth with Hil and dad is telling me what to put. And what is he saying? We are telling Hilary that Marv is coming to help put down the neighbors dog next. And we are laughing...but mom doesn't think it's so funny. They move dad to another room and take some blood and we just hang out. They decide to admit dad because a number of his tests come back with not so god numbers. Then Hilary comes to get me so we can go home to get mom some clothes so she can spend the night with dad.
Dad spent 3 weeks in the hospital. It is quite a blur as to what all happened during that time. I would work during the day, talk to Matt for maybe an hour after work and then head down to the hospital for a few hours every night. During his time there he spent a week or so on the surgical floor and had a feeding tube put in. It was very difficult to hear the speech therapists come in and explain how he would have to learn how to swallow again. After their descriptions of the swallowing mechanisms and how they are supposed to work and weren't working for dad I can't even imagine how he felt all that time leading up to his time, in and after the hospital. He also spent a couple of weeks on the Sister Kenny rehab floor and did therapies in the hospital before going home.
During this crazy, chaotic time Matt and I had also decided that I would go over to the UK for Christmas and I bought a plane ticket for 2 weeks in the UK. It was something I was excited and terrified about at the same time. I was falling head over heels in love with him on the computer, wanting to talk every day, missing him when we didn't talk and wishing he lived closer, like in MN. But here I was, paying out a lot of money on a plane ticket to spend Christmas in a foreign country with someone I only knew on a computer screen. And I had never spent Christmas away from my family...and Christmas was 5 months away. It was a risk...but looking back...it was the best risk I've ever taken. (But I'll save that for another entry...)
*These all seem very long winded...but I'm just trying to get a years worth of catch up in a short amount of time so I can start writing the day to day stuff...and let you know where we are at now...