August 9th, 1986. We were at a family reunion in St. George. That afternoon we had been playing in the pool and everything had been fine. The day was closing and we were getting ready for bed. My brother, sister and myself were in our sleeping bags on the floor of our hotel. My dad had gone into the bathroom to get ready for bed. A while had passed and he opened the door, dropped to the floor and screamed, "My head", and fell to the floor.
My mom called our family in and my mom took him to the hospital. He was then life flighted to Utah Valley Hospital, and then on to McKay Dee hoptial in Ogden for a few weeks. He stroked several times causing permanent short term memory loss, orientation to time and place, and loss of motor skills. He spent several weeks in the hospital.
I remember going to see him a few days after it had happened. He didn't know who I was; he called me "Grandma Brown". I was devastated. My own dad didn't know who I was. I was only six when this happened, and didn't understand what was happening. From what I gathered, they figured that he must have had a small stroke. I thought that I had done something to him while we werew swimming. I lived with that guilt for years and never told anyone. It was not until I was about 17 years old that I found out there I did not do anything to cause it, but it still did not change how I felt. For more than 11 years I thought I had caused my father to become disabled. It was so rough.
It was rough on our whole family. My dad couldn't go back to work bacuse of his new disabilities. My mom, luckily, had pursued her nursing degree and had to go back work full time as a nurse at Utah Valley hospital. It was a very different childhood.
My dad couldn't even leave the house by himself. If he did, he would forget which house was his. I had to be there to watch over him and my sister and brother. We had a lot of help from my mom's parents. There were there sooo much for us, although they lived so far away. The drive is about 3 hours. So if there was a big problem, they weren't closel Luckily, my mom's sister's (4 different ones) lived fairly close to help out too.
I became very responsible very quickly. I don't remember too much about this event or things that happened after, but I do remember learning how to ake soup or macaroni and cheese to feed to my brother and sister and dad. I remember helping with homework as I got older.
I remember having to know our schedules for sports, dance, piano, and extra activites and how to get there and the times so I could help my dad get us where we needed to be. Eventually he could drive again, but for a while he couldn't leave the house without someone with him. After a few years, the Relief Society in my mom's ward offered to take him to the Bishop's Storehouse in Lindon to volunteer for a few hours while I was in school. Someone woud pick him up and stay with him and then bring him home when I got home. That ward was so wonderful to help in the time of need. Truly, if all wards could be so giving, caring and selfless...
He is a lot better as far as things moving to his long-term memory. He knows how to get around the Orem, Provo area fairly well. He can make it out to our house and back. He can go to my grandparents house in Idaho. It is a constant struggle though. He carries a date/time book everywhere he goes. He writes everything down or he won't know what's going on. Several times a day he will ask what day it is. It can get very frustrating, especially after 23 years of being asked 10 times a day what day it is, or what you have going on that day, but we have learned to deal. I am not saying I always have a lot of patience, but I have learned tolerance.
My dad truly is amazing. He has overcome so much in his life, and is now dealing with Celiac's. As if he needed one more thing! He has an allergy to gluten/wheat. He is such a strong and positive person. He would do anything for anyone, and does it all the time. Anytime I need him, he is there...no matter what. What a truly beautiful person he is.
I wish I could remember how he was before. I hear he was such a terrific guy, although I don't know how he could get any better. It is still hard for him sometimes, and he struggles. There are times he gets depressed, but he is so positive. We are all at the table eating hamburgers and hot dogs on buns and he just smiles and wraps his in lettuce. If you ever want to meet and amazing person, just meet my dad.
A funny story...when JD and I were dating I hadn't told him everything about my dad and the full story of his disability. My dad doesn't remember names well so he calls people "friend". So if you ever meet and I you say your name to him, and then 30 seconds calls you friend, you know why. :) Anyway, so he kept calling JD friend and JD would reply, "My name is JD." My dad would just "ok". So my dad went up to JD and said, "Hey friend, would you like a MT. Dew?" JD said he would so dad walked out to the garage. A few minutes laterhe walked back in, empty handed, and just started going about business aorund the kitchen. A few minutes later my dad went up to JD again and asked him if me wanted a Mt. Dew. JD said he did and my dad walked out to the garage again. A few minutes later and returned empty handed. JD was baffled but didn't say anything. So a few minutes later my dad went up to him again and asked him if he wanted a Mt Dew. JD this time said, "Sure, show me where they are!" That night I explained fully about his illness.
Another funny story...this happens a LOT!...When you give my dad a choice he will usually say, "I don't care, whatever." Well, at Lake Powell last week we were fixing lunch on the boat. We bring our food out and just have lunch on the lake. My sister was was going around asking everyone what kind of chips they wanted. She got to dad and said "What chips do you want dad? We've got fritos, cook ranch or classic?" (It seems like an easy list to choose from, right?) Dad replied, "Whatever." Katrina said, "No dad, not whatever, what kind do you want." WIthout hesitation he replied, "What were my choices again?" Just a few seconds and he had forgotten his options. Poor guy.
It was hard growing up, knowing my mom wouldn't be home when I got home from school, and that I would just have to go home to "babysit" my dad and brother and sister. I felt cheated, I felt shorted. I look back and realize that I would not be the person I am today had it not been for my experience.
I also know my mom did what she could to give us the most "normal" life she could. We did not go without. We may not have had what other kids had, but we had so much love. My mom is such a strong person. She taught me strength, determination, love, kindness, to never give up. She could have walked away and left my dad in a home, or with his parents, but she didn't. When it would have been easy, and probably easier on us kids, she didn't. I thank her for that. We have not had it easy, but we have had each other! When the rest of the people you know walk out on you, your family walks in.
My grandparents, my momn's parents, are wonderful people too. There were many times when we were adjusting, and even after we had "adjusted", that we just needed a break. My mom would call her dad in Idaho and let them know we were struggling. They would then call my dad and ask him if he would be willing to come and help them on the farm. He always felt sooo important, like his help mattered. And really, he is such a hard worker. They just don't make 'em like him anymore.
I look back over my life and am grateful that I have endured this challenge. I am the person I am today, and everyday I am shaped, by the events of my childhood. Dad, I love you so much, you are my hero! Mom, you are my hero and my best friend. Kevin, Katrina, I know I put you through a LOT growing up, but becoming the one to take care of you was an adjustment. Please forgive me. I love you all very much!