One of my favorite expressions has always been "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." There are definitely times you have to shake yourself off, dust yourself off, slap on some lipgloss and carry on. I can't possibly count how many times in my life I have cried tears of anger/ frustration/ helplessness/ hurt, wiped away misplaced mascara, and then greeted whatever part of my day comes next. Follow up the bad by salvaging good from that day, that moment.
A week ago my father-in-law was in surgery...getting some plumbing reworked in his heart...also known as quadruple bypass. Two known heart attacks and one massive surgery to repair the damage and all I kept thinking about was that 50 years ago, he would not have made it. The first REAL brush with death for any of my husband or I's parents. And I can say, it was as rough as I had imagined it might be.
The good news is that after a 5+ hour surgery, several days of very slow recovery and whispers of the worst possible outcomes, he took a big turn in the right direction. We are so unbelievably blessed and thankful as every day brings a new milestone. Recovery is a realistic word. And lots of "if's" are now "when's". WHEN you get out of this ICU room. WHEN you finish building that clock you're working on. WHEN we watch that next football game at our house. WHEN you hold your new grandson. But there is so much work for him to do. Luckily he's stubborn and strong and is not the type to throw in the towel just because it hurts to move or hurts to quit smoking or hurts to make changes. He's just stubborn enough to turn himself around and get on that road to recovery. He just retired and he has things to do and projects to work on and he'll be damned if he lets a few heart attacks stop him. I see in him the strength I see and love in my husband and often times the stubborn determination that leads someone to live their life the way my husband lives his (future blog post foreshadowing).
So trying to find the silver lining. Trying to find the lemonade. This particular lemon posed a very difficult challenge for me. Where in the HELL is the sugar I need to make my lemonade? The entire last week, we had lots of family stay with us as they are all out of town and the hospitals and specialists he needed were in our town. Schedules were upside down. The last few weeks of pregnancy are supposed to be quiet and peaceful. And we moved on...to Plan B. Everyone was in crisis mode. We did not know what the next hour held for anyone, let alone the next day.
All week I kept trying to make lemonade from the lemons and I realized that sometimes there isn't any lemonade to be made. There is nothing GOOD to be made out of nearly losing an immediate family member. There is not anything POSITIVE to take from the clutch in your gut and the tears burning at the back of your eyes for days on end. There is not anything happy to LEARN from someone almost leaving with lots of unfinishined business and life to live on earth. People leave all the time before they have finished all their business and the truth is, it is never okay.
So rather than make lemonade out of the bitterest, nastiest of lemons, I decided to make my own lemonade, perhaps from a powder, without sugar or real lemon juice. I didn't even try to make lemonade until Friday. And by then, I was so frazzled, so spent, so upset with this lemon, that I almost did not make it at all.
So I boxed up the nasty lemons. I found good in other areas of my life and I focused as hard as I could on the amazing beautiful support and friendship and love that popped up in expected and unexpected places.
Without really even asking, I had dinner every night, delivered from people who have hectic crazy lives. We had bottled water and cokes and chocolate cake and lasagna and just about everything we could possibly want or need. All I had to do was answer an email that said "What time do you want dinner?" Family, co-workers, running friends. The love just kept pouring in. I had more offers than I could possibly accept for more food and support. If half the people on facebook actually prayed for him that said they did, well, we know why he made it. I have never been more grateful for basically everyone in my life. The bitter lemons were in garbage disposal.
Friday my little three year old has his field trip to the fire station. Due to all the crazy circumstances, our four year old nephew tagged along. I got to oversee these little cousins make memories while they travelled through the fire station, inspecting big fireman boots, going inside a fire engine, running through the "stop, drop and roll" drill. It would have been wonderful to take my little boy to a field trip on a normal day and get a little time away from the office. But taking both he and his cousin made for some hilarious moments. They live two hours apart, don't get to see each other all that often but make the most of every minute together. Between playing ring-around-the-rosie around my legs to sharing juice boxes after the trip was over to Eliot proudly introducing his cousin to every one of his classmates, I saw it! There it was! My lemonade pitcher.
Then I dropped the boys off, made a mad dash downtown, completed a brief on a case, filed it in federal court and a few hours later was somehow giving the two monkeys a bath. I silently observed them splashing each other, making up rules to various games, filling bath toys up with water and squirting them at each other. They posed for me in their bath towels and I captured what may be the cutest picture in the history of the world. And then suddenly my pitcher had some pre-made generic brand lemonade mix in the bottom.
Saturday morning I spent a quiet few hours with just the little man and I, of all places in Target and Barnes and Noble. Target provided us a solid 90 minutes of entertainment as we slowly, very slowly pilfered through every aisle of Halloween decorations, scoured the candy selections, picked up a few groceries and just giggled and laughed and discussed everything in the Halloween section. And then Eliot helped me find pajamas that fit. They are Hello Kitty and they are awesome. We followed it up with story time at Barnes and Noble, where the lovely B&N employee read multiple fall themed books about leaves and raking and scarecrows, and then Eliot had an M&M brownie. It was a perfect morning. Someone actually measured the water for me and added it to my pitcher.
The rest of the weekend was busy, hosting family, pulling together meals for the people who were in town visiting our patient, shuffling various bodies here and there. But huge progress was made, medically, for dad. And suddenly he was out of his bed walking. And discussions shifted so noticeably that everyone was smiling. Thoughts were positive and the lemonade was being stirred.
Finally, Sunday night, he was moved to a non-ICU room. We took our little guy up with a poster that says "get well PAPA! <3 Eliot" and despite some initial hesitancy because Papa looks much different...pretty soon he was telling his grandpa all about his match box car and star wars and everything else that matters when you're a three year old boy. And when I told him to give papa a kiss on his hand and he happily obliged with a sweet little kiss and I got to hug him again and know he was on the right path...sigh, sweet relief.
Glass filled with ice, lemonade poured. It might just be generic powdered mix, but honestly, lemonade has never been quite so delicious.