Today’s post is from guest blogger, Sadie Strong:
Have you ever had one of those days where everything is going great and then all of a sudden everything just comes crashing down on top of you, ruining any hope you had for a good day? Well, that’s what happened to me on June 28, 2015, except the bad was here to stay. I had just returned from middle school open house, one of the most feared events in a tweenager’s life. Other than that, I had been having a pretty decent day. A little minor crisis here and there, but nothing I couldn’t handle. When we got back from the middle school, my mom called me and my brother into the living room. I had no idea what was happening. What she told me that day made my entire world collapse.
I had always had this image of the perfect family; two parents, a few kids, and maybe a dog. As humans,
we don’t really expect anything to prevent us from having that “perfect family” until something actually does prevent it.
I would always read stories and hear about people who lost someone in their family, and think nothing of it. That is what made this news so hard for me to process. I could not imagine living without a dad. It just seemed impossible.
Before all this happened, my parents had been going to appointments almost every day, which meant they were always leaving, and that made me a little mad. My dad had stopped working due to his having trouble concentrating and remembering things. I was overly excited since I never got to see my dad much; he left early in the morning and got home late at night. I thought everything was fine with my life, I thought I had the best family I could have, and I thought that I would never in my life have to go through something that made me so sad and mad all the time. But I was wrong.
When I sat down on the couch, I looked at my parents. I could see the discomfort in my mother’s eyes and it made me nervous.
The room felt stuffy and warm and I didn’t like it.
I tried to calm myself down and breathe. Then my mom said my dad was sick. He had Lewy Body Dementia, and he would never be returning to work, or driving ever again. Most importantly, he wouldn’t be my dad anymore.
I could not explain how I felt that day. Mad, sad, confused, hurt, and hoping for the best. My mom told me that typically, older people are diagnosed with this disease, but my dad was an odd case. He was 54 at the time and extremely healthy. This is what absolutely baffled me. My dad was one of the healthiest people I had ever known. So why the hell did he get this damn disease? I just didn’t understand that. After a few weeks of this wonderful charade, my mom told us we needed to see a therapist. Therapists get on my nerves. All they tell you is that everything you feel is normal and ask you if you can put words to your tears. I would really rather not try to talk while crying. I am not skilled in the art of multitasking. What bothered me the most was that through the years of my dad being sick, everyone felt bad for me and treated me like a baby. I wished they could understand that I don’t want their pity-party.
I just wanted to be treated like a normal kid, but I wasn’t a normal kid.
So like it or not, I got to be the baby.
Looking back, I can’t remember a time when my dad was actually my dad. All I remember is him being different. He wasn’t necessarily good at everyday things such as ordering food through a drive through. Aside from that, my dad was the most amazing person I could have ever had in my life. He was funny, unbelievably smart, and had some pretty awesome dance moves. My dad was in IT at the Catawba Valley Medical Center as the Technology Support Coordinator and for a genius, had great people skills. He was also into real estate and had a separate business for buying, flipping, and selling houses. My dad was extremely accomplished in life and I strive to be just like him.
It was hard to know what the future brought throughout my dad’s time fighting this disease. One week he slept until three in the afternoon and was able to walk around without falling. The next, he slept until ten in the morning and swayed like a flower blowing in the wind. My dad declined rapidly and I wasn’t going to be surprised if he was in a nursing home soon. I eventually got to the point where I didn’t look forward to going home after school. My aunt was staying with my dad while we were not home since he could not take care of himself. I thought that if he was in a nursing home, he would get the proper care he needs and maybe going home would not be so hard. But that thought made me sad since I would not get to see him much.
Throughout my time with my dad being sick, I learned that you should always be grateful for what you have and never take things for granted. You never really miss things until they are gone. I remember there was one week when my mom told us that she had spoken to our doctor about my dad and he told us we did not have much time left with him. When we started having my aunt stay with him, everything was going fine until that next weekend. He couldn’t walk on his own and we did not know what to do. We thought about getting him a wheelchair but the problem with that is that the man was six feet four inches and would not exactly fit or rather be comfortable in a wheelchair. However, we had no choice, we ended up getting him a wheelchair that was pretty big and it worked out fine. It was Spring Break and my grandparents were visiting from Vermont. There was a woman from hospice who came to our house multiple times in those last few weeks of my dad’s life. It took three of us to get my dad up the stairs for bed. The hospice woman suggested we get a hospital bed for him so he could sleep downstairs. I absolutely hated this. Him sleeping downstairs was a struggle for both my mom and dad. It broke my heart into a thousand pieces when my mom told me that my dad was upset sleeping downstairs. He was away from all of us.
After he moved downstairs, those next few weeks were unbearable. On Sunday, April 23, some of my dad’s close friends came to see him and say goodbye. He was asleep most of the time but everyone enjoyed themselves (to an extent). The next day was the first day back to school after Spring Break. My grandparents left, and I unwillingly went back to school. Usually on Mondays, my friend’s mom took me home. But on this day, she took me to her house. My brother was there to, which was odd, but I did not suspect anything. When my mom came to pick us up, she had a brief, secretive conversation with my friend’s mom. When we got into the car, my mom filled us in on what was happening.
“So you know how we had talked about putting dad in Hospice House in a while?” she said. “Yes,” I said unsure of what was happening. “Well, he is there now,” said my mom.
I felt like I was going to throw up. I cried and cried and cried until I ran out of tears. All I wanted to do was go give my dad a hug and make it last forever. When we got home, a close friend of ours was there and gave me a squeeze of a hug. I put my school things down and got right back into the car. I wanted to go see my dad. It was raining on the way to hospice. I felt like there was a reason for the rain. The rain matched my cloudy, dreary mood. I was shaking and I when I stood up, I felt like I was going to fall onto the floor. When we arrived, I felt sick. I hated the smell of the building. It smelled like the doctor’s office and a nursing home. It was cold and stark but everyone was friendly. We walked past many rooms with patients and they all looked like they were in their eighties or nineties. My dad was in his fifties. When we got to his room, it was surrounded by my closest friends and family. I walked into the room and started crying. I looked at my dad, laying in the bed, eyes closed, and mouth open. His breathing sounded terrible. There was a noise coming from his throat that did not sound real. It sounded like it was coming from a speaker in the room. I could not bear to see him like this. I had to leave. I did not know what to do.
I left the room and was showered with hugs. Someone gave me a hot chocolate and I went to go sit outside. I needed a minute to breathe and calm down. My mom told me that dad had anywhere from days to minutes. We stayed there for a few hours and then decided to leave. My grandparents came back and my mom stayed overnight at hospice. The next day, I slept in and didn’t go to school. We went back to hospice and my dad was doing much better. It was easier to see him. I gave him a giant hug and whispered in his ear, “I love you infinity times infinity, infinity times.” I used to say that to him every night before bed. I told him not to be sorry and that I was sorry that this happened to him. That night, we took our dog to see him. They were very close and it made me happy to see Odog with him. She got in the bed and licked his hand. I think she knew what was happening. Each day was harder than the next. I never knew what was going to happen. On Friday, April 28, my mom came home early from hospice. I knew something was wrong. She called my brother into the kitchen and said,
All I wanted was a daddy hug. He always gave the best hugs. I am not sure how long I cried. Even though he was gone, he was no longer suffering, and that made me happy. Best of all, he was with his parents in Heaven. We bought some cheap plates from Goodwill and threw them as hard as we could off the deck onto the patio with the letters LBD on it. That helped me get out some of my anger. The next week was his funeral. I now hate funerals. The whole time I was wishing that I could be home, smashing plates onto the ground.
Even though this was the hardest thing I have ever been through in my life, I think it turned me into a better person. I learned so many valuable lessons, such as to never take things for granted. I will miss my dad forever, but I know he is in a better place now. I also know that even though he is gone, he will still be a part of me.
Not only was my dad a true warrior, but so is my mom. She is the strongest woman I will ever know and I look up to her for that reason. This experience has changed me for the better, and I hope to inspire others just like me to never give up and stay strong.
*A special thanks today to Sadie Strong for sharing her story to help others.