The Hardest Part About Living In Sweden
The hardest part about living in Sweden…isn’t Sweden. It’s that the people I love (a lot of them anyway) live four thousand miles and three connecting flights away. It’s that every time I want to call home it’s my nighttime and their daytime, it messes things up. It’s that when people you care about are sick, or otherwise in need of a hug or helping hand, you can’t be there.
This is the life I signed up for and nine times out of ten I really like moving every two years (as crazy as that sounds), changing countries, experiencing new cultures and people, BUT it’s hard not being home with family.
It’s bad enough I miss birthdays, holidays and Christmas, but when my dad went into the hospital four weeks ago that was worst. I wanted to do more than call on the phone and pray. I wanted to be the one to hold his hand, sit by his side and offer my mom the support she needed.
I thank God he made it through. He’d been having heart pain in the middle of the night and my mom called 911. The EMT’s got him to the hospital and afterwards his heart stopped. Two jolts with the defibrillator and he was back to life. A close one. The next day they operated to insert a stent in his heart where there had been a blockage. Surrounding other blockages, doctors found, the arteries themselves had bypassed the blocks, growing around the impasse, essentially remodeling the heart. Small but BIG miracles.
A few days later, surgeons installed a pacemaker (I’m astounded at how routine these things have become). During his surgery my dad gave my mom another scare when he stopped breathing for twelve seconds, otherwise things went pretty well–one more jolt with the defibrillator and his heart was ticking almost normally.
He’s home recuperating now, still doing too much—86 year olds are notorious for not sitting still. I’ll be there tomorrow, their time; it will be the day after that in Sweden. Life will feel upside down for a while, until the jet lag wears off, but life has already felt upside down…if you know what I mean.
Maggie is coming with me. My boys are old enough that most of their brains have developed, they can survive on PB and J…Maggie I’m not so sure of, I still monitor her consumption of gummy vitamins. Plus I want her to spend time with my mom and dad; she’s so entertaining.
We’ve talked about our plans to build a snowman, watch Frozen (and more American TV than the FDA recommends), shop at Target, buy new boots and cover ourselves with “testers” in Bath and Body. Most importantly though, I have my camera and I’m going to sit for as long as my dad is willing, to answer a list of questions that will hopefully encapsulate the incredible life he has lived. (Thanks Kate for sending me the Life Testimony.)
My dad, like many of his generation, are far too modest for praise, yet he’s earned it. Too young to serve in WWII (he was turned away), he signed up later for Vietnam where he did two tours and another in Korea. Altogether, he served his country for twenty-four years. After that, I was born and he retired and opened his investigations business in State College, catching criminals for the next thirty years. During this time he invented the Spark-lite (a one-handed fire starter still sold online and to the military for their survival kits). He also volunteered as a Deputy Game Warden and gave hours of service to the local police and firefighters, apprehending the most notorious arsonist our community has ever had. And I’m not even to the good part yet.
He’s the most amazing dad/friend/person you could hope to meet. He’s the kind of person everyone wants to talk to because he listens. He didn’t grow up with an easy life as a child (to put it mildly). He gets things most people don’t and has a level of compassion most people will never have.
He’s a friend to everyone and always has your best interest at heart. Granted, he’s a worrier, he’s over protective, and he gives advice even when you don’t ask for it…but these are his worst faults.
I’m grateful for every single day I get to wake up and know I’m on the same planet as my dad. It’s a fact, that not everyone knows, but the planet won’t be the same without him. Even though I’m not planning to say goodbye anytime soon, I am taking the next two weeks to give my dad all the hugs he’s missed, hold his hand and tell him what he always says to everyone else, “You’re the last of the good guys.”