I’ve switched off of classical music. On the drive to and from the rehab facility, it was so ambient that I tended to let my mind drift too much into anxiety thoughts, and sometimes another lane, as well. For a few days, I was listening to some of my old favorite 80s songs just so I could belt out the lyrics at the top of my lungs. I was feeling tired and pissed off enough most days that I had worked out a script to anyone who looked at me strangely at an intersection. “My dad’s in shock trauma, asshole!!! Now let me get back to singing with The Smiths!” Even though my dad is out of shock trauma, I thought it would be easier to yell than, “My dad is in the University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopedic Institute, asshole!” More “shock” value, if you will. That traffic scenario never played out — we are all so distracted with our own lives (and, to be honest, phones) that I never got a second look. I guess I was just looking for a fight, no matter how insignificant. That is one of my faults. So is bottling up things until I hit redline.

Redline was achieved last Friday evening. I had a complete breakdown. The stuff that Hollywood actresses would dream of achieving during a gut-wrenching scene. Snot, wailing, throwing myself on the floor. All of it just came out in a torrent of physical meltdown. I did not go to the rehab facility to see my dad that weekend. My husband went in my stead and made sure I was ok (I was not okay, and he was clearly very concerned. I was completely incapacitated physically and emotionally. I was a fetal position diagram with red golf balls for eyes.) I didn’t want him out of my sight, I thought that something might happen to him. I told him at one point when he got home that I had imagined it would be easier not to be alive. I have not felt that way since after my mother died. It had been a long time. He took the best care of me. I told him early after my dad’s fall that you know you love someone when you would volunteer any day of the week to take on this kind of pain and frustration so that he wouldn’t have to. I meant it at the time, sincerely. I would sign up a million times to deal with all of the emotions and gut stabs so that he would not have to. I would still sign up, but in my initial frazzled state, I of course neglected the fact that he has suffered along with me. In a different way. Arguably a more difficult way, supporting/feeding me/worrying in his own way. He has been an amazing man through all of this.

I think the tipping point was being excited about Dad being moved to rehab but already being slated for release on March 4th. He still has a feeding tube, catheter, and is confined to bed or a special chair. I thought about how I had to go through the vetting process with a whole new system of techs, nurses, and doctors. I had been keeping myself “ok” during shock trauma by saying to myself, “Ok. This is my dad right now.” Friday, for some reason, it hit me like, “HOLY SHIT, THIS IS MY DAD NOW.”

Last Friday night, while excruciating, was a good release for me. It was like some sort of tension demon had finally escaped.  I realize that a small part of my misery was that I wanted my dad to be back to how he was before the middle of January — for me. Now I can get back to cheering my dad on. His victories – no matter how incremental — are his. And I couldn’t be more proud of him.