Sunday night, February 14 th , my dad called to ask a favor. He asked if I could come over to take the dog out because he was having issues catching his breath. This had been going on for a couple of days, and I had always run over to help out. When consistently asking if he had gone to the doctor, he replied that he had, and had an upcoming appointment on Tuesday. When I’d ask about how he felt currently, he responded “100%,” a phrase he stole from my mom.
In 2003, my mom was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, a rare disease that cannot be cured, only treated. The condition is caused by a breakdown in communication between nerves and muscles. To put it simply, your involuntary muscles, the ones you never think about, stop working. You actually have to put effort in to keeping your eyelids up. Your lungs don’t breathe magically like you’re used to; you are doing all the work. At the time, she didn’t know what she had. She consistently slept late, woke up to eat, and would have to lie down to take an extended nap. One day she didn’t wake up. She was in the ICU for 2 months until Dr. Khatri came along. No doctor knew what my mom had, and with the treatments they were trying, were actually killing her. Dr. Khatri was familiar with this disease, stopped all treatment, and began helping her back to recovery. Now, recovery is also an issue. After an episode, you never get back to “100%,” you only get back to the highest point you were; so every phone call, every visit, I would ask my mom how she was doing, she would say “100%.” If I told her I thought she was lying, she would stick her tongue out at me to be funny and make me laugh.
Move forward to 2014. My mom had a very bad episode and was given an option. She could move to hospice with no good outcome, or, she could have a tracheotomy and live with a trach in her throat. Everything would be more difficult, but this would extend her life. At the time, my wife and I were trying to have a baby and give them a grandbaby. I am an only child. This is something they needed, and most certainly something we needed. After pleading with my mom to stick around, she had the operation and now needed 24/7 care. My dad, who has been taking care of her his whole life, started taking classes and learning how to do what he would be doing until he could do it no more. My mom had a vent at night to help her breathe; feeding tube to help her eat, and a loving husband of 40+ years help her live to the day to meet her grandson. My dad had to give up everything he enjoyed for the person he loved.
He couldn’t meet friends outside of the home, he couldn’t play poker, golf, you name it. The only time he ever left, for 30 minutes at most, was to get groceries or medicines. I would ask to help, but he always told me he needed to do it to get out of the house for a moment, to have some kind of life outside. Weeks later from the decision of having the tracheotomy, we surprised my parents with the news that they would be grandparents.
When my wife was pregnant, her mother became quickly ill. She would pass away within months. I have no idea how my wife kept her emotions and balance in check during this time. She fought to stay strong for the child she was raising inside.
In March of 2014, my son Atticus was born. He brought so much joy and happiness to my parents. You could see them glow every time he was around. I would make it a point to bring him over once or twice a week so they could watch him grow and become the little man he is becoming. This was my dad’s new happiness. He needed these visits because he wasn’t getting out of the house. My mom needed these visits because it brought her absolute happiness. Atticus is the glowing light in all of our lives. Sunday night, February 14 th , Valentine’s Day, was the first time my dad started mentioning things like “if something were to happen to me…” I kind of shrugged it off because we think our parents will live forever. I knew he had an issue with his heart, but catching his breath was something different. I figured it would get worked out Tuesday, when he had his appointment. Monday comes. My dad and I have our normal morning phone call. Same thing, he’s having troubles breathing. This time our phone call was short because he had issues talking extended amounts. I get through my work day and head home.
Dinner, play with little one, put little one to bed. I get to my phone once he goes down and have a missed call and voicemail. It is from the Fire Department and they wanted to let me know they are taking BOTH my parents to the ICU. My heart skips a beat. I rush to the hospital.
My dad and mom are in separate rooms. I get there when dad’s meeting with the doctor who him he has pneumonia. He’ll be fine within a couple of days. I take a video of my dad to show my mom. My dad says “Hi sweetie, happy day after Valentine’s Day. See you soon. Love you!” I show my mom, she blows kisses at the phone. I head home. Morning comes. I call to check on my parents and they tell me they are both in ICU, and my dad is now on a vent. He cannot breathe on his own. Things have gotten worse. I’d visit my dad, and cry. He mumbled “what are we going to do now?” Confused, but still hopeful I tell him they need to get the pneumonia out, and he’ll be fine. I then would clean up my tears, head over to my mom’s room. Stress is a killer for her disease. I didn’t want her to know how bad dad had gotten yet because I think I still thought he would get through this. My mom was in great spirits, just waiting for my dad to get better, so they could head home. Next day, the doctors tell me my dad’s heart is working too hard and is out of rhythm. His lungs are shot because of the pneumonia. His kidneys are shot because of some medicine side effect he was taking for his heart. They had to sedate him. This is when everything hit me, I went numb. Early Thursday morning I receive a call from the hospital that my dad “coded” three times, and they didn’t have a pulse. I rushed in.
The ICU my parents were in was the ICU that they have visited over 20 times within the past 13 years. Doctors, nurses, techs, everyone knows my parents story and what they have been through. They know my dad has kept immaculate care of my mom, because of love. They know they have the same birthday, only a year apart. They know about their dog. They know about my wife and son, because my dad would brag about how cute and smart he is. They have lived through this journey with my parents. When I get to the hospital, the entire staff is crying. I thought my dad had passed, per the phone call. They explain they got his pulse back on my way there, and are doing everything they can. I asked if my mom knew what was going on, they said she did not. She was awake because she couldn’t sleep. This is when I get my mom up to speed. This is the first time she goes to visit him. These 4 days were the longest they were apart from each other for 40+ years. I could hear my mom whispering to my dad that she did not want him to suffer. Begging him to go, get everything ready for her in heaven, and she’ll be with him soon. My dad passed away Saturday night. In the condition my mom was in, it was a miracle she made it long enough to see my son, her grandson. That miracle was my dad. He hid many health issues so no one, not even the love of his life, know how bad he was so she could see her grandson. He didn’t want anyone to worry about him; he was always “100%.”
My mom was not able to talk anymore above a whisper. She would write notes. The one note she wrote asked to finally be put in hospice. I joked with her “dad is no longer around, you’re the boss now.” One of the notes she wrote stated, “If you let me do (hospice), I will be able to live my life long dream of being the family’s guardian angel.” We had an amazing mother/son time while my dad was “getting everything ready.”
I received an odd phone call from Los Angeles during this time. Everything I was told was extremely uplifting and inspiring. The one thing that stood out was “Be present. Your mom is here now. Now. Now. Enjoy every moment.” I did.
My mom visited with her grandson a few times, and the hospital even let the dog come in. My mom knew everything was good here, in this life. Her dog was in great hands, and her son has a loving family. The last night we spent together, we said our nighttime prayers like we used to do when I was a kid, gave each other a kiss, and I told her I loved her “this much” while opening my arms. She mouthed the same thing, extending her arms smiling and almost falling out of bed. I blew her a kiss and wished her a good night. She fell asleep to awake with my dad. This time they were only apart 10 days, but now together again, forever, like they should be. I hope he had everything ready.
I believe you need three things to get you through tough times. I know everyone is different, but this is me: Family, Friends, and Laughter. Family will always be there for you. True friends are there when times are tough. If you can laugh in difficult situations with family and friends, you win. My mom was extremely positive and full of laughter until the night she joined my dad. Through her positivity, the positivity and laughter I had with family, friends, listening to Jay Mohr Sports and talking daily with the Tweeters of the show, my new crew of support, I made it through. I continue to make it through with these three things.
Dean Montgomery was the first person to call me when I won this fun, daily Twitter contest a year ago or so. We talked like we’ve been friends for years and it felt like we’ve known each other from a different life. When I hung up with him, I told my wife about what had happened, she thought I was an idiot. I tried playing the audio and she didn’t get any of the inside jokes, and it’s not as funny if you have to explain “burnt oiiiiiiil” to someone. So you tweet to a national radio show hosted by the guy from Suicide Kings and Jerry McGuire? Yep. Yes I do. And I told her how these people I have been chatting with is a motley crue group of fun-loving, successful, people that have come together from around the world because of a radio show. I told her I have never seen so much positivity on the internet, or in life for that matter, and it’s amazing. It’s oddly contagious. I don’t think she understood and still thought I was an idiot then, but she gets it now. Along with my family and friends that I see every day, the JMS crew and “Tweeters of the show” helped me get through this insanely tough time through support, positivity, and most importantly, laughter. #WE is real, and it’s an incredible force. Negativity is not welcome, and will get crushed.
Awhile back, Dean threw me into a private message thread without telling me. I was thinking to myself, “what in the hell did he just get me into?” Guys were being guys, talking about everything guys. I asked Dean what was this, he said, “sorry about that. I should’ve given you a heads up,” then laughed. To this day, I love this group. Positivity bleeds through this group. They are my closest friends I have never met in person, but personally mean a lot to me.
There’s a quote, “every time you are able to find some humor in a difficult situation, you win.” When it comes to this group, we all win. Jay Mohr once said “Live life in a way that you can live forever.” Dean Montgomery does this “100%” of his life. He is the glue. With a lot of our friendships coming together because of him, Dean will live forever.
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