This photo is a long time coming.
Most recently, my father-in-law had heart surgery. A few days after his quintuple bypass, he had a major stroke that caused paralysis on his right side. We spent days in the critical care unit, only being allowed to visit for 30 minutes at a time.
At first, he was only able to occassionally move his left hand. Over the next four weeks at the hospital he progressed to full range of motion on his left side. Now , thanks to lots of physical therapy at the nursing home, he is able to feed himself with his left hand, to grip with his right hand, pull with his right arm, push himself up, and stand briefly with assistance.
Most importantly, after nearly 2 months with no real communication (not even a nod or shake of the head), he has begun to talk. We had no real idea what neurological issues we’ve dealing with as far as language, memory, and recognition are concerned. Yet on Monday, he was able to identify by name– my husband, his other son, his wife, his ex-wife, and me–without us even being there.
So this hug you see above shows his recognition and affection for the son who has anguished and praised over seeing his father progress from lifeless and inactive with lots of tubes and IVs.
This captured moment also shows the reestablishment of a relationship that almost wasn’t.
You see, he abandoned his boys. Or whatever it’s called when someone doesn’t see their kids for a decade when they live 40 minutes away. One day you see them at 11 years old, the next they are adults and have their own children. J was lucky enough to have a loving father-figure in his “dad”, his step-father who raised him; but he constantly refers to the man pictured as “his real father”.
When I came on the scene, they were still estranged, yet they saw each other every Christmas at Grandma’s house. The greatest plus from those days sitting in critical care was the opportunity to talk with his extended family–people we had never met. We learned family stories from many cousins–of the grandfather who died when J was 4, of the great-grandfather who lived until J was 13. All that missing history of people who J never knew existed.
J’s lucky that in the last two years they’ve re-connected over some shared interests.
We’re blessed that we have time to mend and forgive the past.