It has been one month and one day since my dad has been in shock trauma. It also happens to be his 75th birthday. Not really our choice of venue for a party, but I told all of the nurses throughout this past week that February 10th is a big day. They ask him his birthday every day as part of his cognition questionnaire.

I tried to make it a little festive, within the strict confines and definitively non-party atmosphere in shock trauma. Dad got some happy birthdays from the staff as they walked by. Yesterday, he was able to swallow a little applesauce, so I was optimistic that he could have a birthday treat. When I arrived with a large sheet cake in hand, his nurse du jour shook his head and apologized. Dad hadn’t passed the barium swallow test this morning, so no cake, not even mushed-up, softened cake. I held up a grocery bag and asked, “Ok, how about some chocolate pudding I brought as a backup birthday treat?” The answer was again an apologetic no. Dad’s birthday desserts were then donated to the nursing staff. It actually turned into a thank you gift for them, since Dad is being released to the rehab facility this evening. This is a huge milestone. This is the next stage. This is where they say incredible transformations happen. It is an excellent birthday present.

My dad fought his way here, even when he didn’t know he was fighting. I tell him this. Yesterday was the first day that he initiated a conversation in brief phrases, strung together fairly coherently. I have been keeping a daily record of my dad’s ups and downs. I scribbled furiously to capture all of the words he was saying. Out of the blue, he said, “I love you, Kris.” When the speech therapy pathologist came in to see him yesterday, he read the name and title off of her badge, “Vanessa, speech therapy pathologist.” He told her, “My daughter is a lion keeper.” She looked at me quizzically. I nodded. When I first learned a month ago that my dad had stroke-like symptoms and couldn’t speak, I had gone through my voicemail and retrieved as many of my dad’s old messages, regardless of how brief or goofy, as possible. Yesterday was a wonderful day.

Today, February 10th, ends with much hope as we face the challenges ahead.