Do your children see you cry? Other than the occasional angry tears of frustration on particularly hectic weekends, my children don’t see me cry. But that’s changed over the last three days, since I left my father in Toronto in the ICU.
In her beautiful memoir The Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan coined that feeling of being torn between the roles of mother and daughter. I left Toronto terrified that my father would die without waking up again, die while I was changing a diaper, distributing holiday teacher gifts, or doing the last round of car pools before the holiday break. Mundane tasks that make up my children’s world, the little things that keep them happy and safe in orbit around planet mom.
I had spent seven days in a hospital room, hypnotized by the machines tracking my father’s vital signs, willing his blood pressure and heart rate to go up or down with my stare, waiting for hours for a doctor to interpret the numbers, to tell us what to worry about next.
But my babies needed me. Their calls came more and more frequently as I pushed back my return by a day, then another day. And so Monday night I flew home with a heavy heart. My dad was still unresponsive, feverish, plagued by infections in his newly transplanted lungs. Leaving him was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
The kids have seen me cry a lot the last few days. I’ve struggled to remain tethered to ICU updates while re-entering the scheduled chaos of their lives. Then today, Juliette saw me cry harder, hot tears of joy as I learned that my dad had woken up, asked for ice chips, and learned that he had been unresponsive for the last 9 days.
The road to his recovery will be long, but just knowing that he’s awake and conscious makes that ICU room in Toronto a little closer.