Birthday present

Enough has happened in my life in the last week to warrant five enormous separate posts, but alas, there has been no time for writing. I’ve been composing in my head, which means I forget what I meant to say while I was driving, or showering, or trying to coax a four-year-old to eat.

This blog isn’t a travelogue, though, except when it sort of is, *snort.* There is no need to “catch up” on our stories. I don’t mean it to be a daily journal of everything that happens in our lives. I don’t blog as therapy anymore.

I do write when something needs to be said—something bigger than me.

And now I will tell you about my birthday.

Last week I took three of my boys to the cabin. Jack can only go that distance when I have another adult with me, so he stayed home with Dutch (and the sitters) and went to camp.

The morning of my birthday, I slept late. Later than I have slept in at least a couple of years: nine o’clock, people. It felt like the purest luxury to wake when I heard household noises, and roll over and fall back asleep.

Sleeping until your body decides it wants to wake up is what every woman wants. That’s it. And sadly it remains an elusive treasure, no?

I rose and spent the morning feeling like a girl. Here’s why: my parents were there, essentially taking care of me. They were helping with my kids and bustling around doing parental-type things.

Maybe it’s because Jack wasn’t there, but I felt weightless. It was that lightness-of-being sensation that is awfully rare for me.

After lunch, the bubble popped.

While sitting on the patio and listening to the river flowing, my dad suddenly was hit with intense vertigo. He couldn’t walk. His left eye was drooping and bulging. He began to vomit and did not stop for the next hour.

Quiet afternoon turned frenetic as Henry and I carried him to the car. I left the little boys in Henry’s care, and I drove my parents 45 minutes to the emergency room.

Was it a stroke? Was it related to the cancer in his liver? Was his myesthenia rearing its head?

“Stop driving like a maniac,” he called from the backseat, in complete seriousness. I continued driving the speed limit, with my hands at ten and two on the wheel. Vertigo makes for terrible backseat drivers.

It was a long, miserable ride for my dad. When the world is spinning and you can’t keep your lunch down, misery is what’s happening. The end.

We arrived at the hospital and I hustled inside for helpers and a wheelchair. My dad had to be lifted from the car. Within minutes, he was getting IV fluids and that sweet, lovely nectar Zofran, the anti-nausea drug that restores a dehydrated person’s will to live. He had an MRI and a heart scan. Both negative.

The team deduced that a combination of over-exertion, dehydration, and a new blood pressure med had bottomed out my dad’s heart rate and made him feel like total crap.

The day began nostalgically, with me feeling like a child on my birthday. It had swung dramatically to me taking complete charge of my parents well-being.

It could potentially be the most thirty-ninth birthday to ever have happened. Thirty-nine feels very middle ground to me. It’s a season of life when you’re smack in the middle of children (in my case big ones and small ones), and parents whose bodies are facing the tolls of age.

I felt grateful I happened to be at the cabin with my parents so I could help them. I was thankful the ER staff made my dad feel well, and ruled out bigger problems. I gave my dad a stern lecture about slowing down, being peaceful, hydrating, and talking to his doctor about adjusting that new med.

He was legally obligated to listen earnestly to my lecture and nod, because I had just spent my birthday making him feel better.

Then we all went to Maverick on what my friend Scott calls a PDR, or Proper Drink Run. We all needed hydration. I treated myself to a tall chocolate milk for my birthday and we drove home through the slanting, saturated light of a July evening.

A birthday is a milestone, a reminder of how life changes, an excuse for being indulgent in the service of celebrating life.

This year mine was a day where God put me in a place to help my parents.

Families are the world’s fixed point of rotation. They keep it from spinning out of control. They keep it turning.

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