I have been in Key West for over a week as my father was taken to the hospital via Emergency squad 2+ weeks ago. On May 28, he went unconscious after having several seizures. Upon being admitted to the hospital, it was evident that he was experiencing acute alcohol withdrawal.
The first week he was in the hospital, the goal was basic stabilization. I remained connected with Dad’s partner as he regained consciousness slowly. Speaking was nearly impossible as was eating. He remained in bed for the first week entirely.
When I arrived on Saturday, June 6, he was very sedated, very confused and barely able to talk. Near the end of the day, he woke up and regained a bit of clarity, laced with confusion.
Over the course of the past week, I have witnessed a lot of things, mainly physical improvement. He went from unconscious when I arrived to walking a few steps on Monday and continued to improve each day. He was being fed by nurses, then learned to eat on his own, from a soft diet to a mechanical soft diet to today, eating normal food.
On June 11, he was moved to a local rehabilitation center in Key West. He was assessed physically and cognitively. He is a strong man, but I was told it may be several weeks until he his able to regain full strength to walk independently. Not surprisingly, he is already defying the odds.
Cognitively, his short term memory is failing. He remembers bits and pieces of the past, intertwined with moments of the present. The thoughts are all disconnected and I was told that his dementia is irreversible and that his memory will likely not be recovered.
Though my father’s choices ultimately led to this event, I have learned that alcoholism is a disease; a disease that took the best of him. While the choices he makes going forward may or may not make a difference, I still see the beautiful, caring, compassionate, vibrant and sweet man beneath it all.
This is a man that held me up in times when I didn’t believe in myself; when I had no confidence in myself, he did.
When I hated myself, he loved me unconditionally.
When I made bad choices, he reminded me that i wasnt a bad person, but that i made unwise choices.
This man has taken care of many in his lifetime. His wife, his mother, his daughter, his partner; all along, forgetting to take care of himself.
My father’s mind is failing him. He cannot think clearly and may not remember what day it is, but what he does remember is of the heart:
He remembers what it feels like to love another and be loved.
He remembers that I am his daughter and that he can trust me to support and love him unconditionally.
He remembers that in my presence, he can be himself authentically without fear of judgement and that being “Jim” brings him joy.
In this process I have learned many things, but most importantly this: the mind may not always have the answers, but the heart always knows… and will never fail us.