Wednesday, June 20, 2012

21 Days

Today is the 21th day of my dad's stay in the Intensive Care Unit of a local hospital.  My family is very supportive.  Being a member of a supportive family means that some of us have been with him almost every day (me).  Some of us have even slept there (not me, yet). 

What does one do in a hospital when a parent is heavily sedated? For me? I pray.  Whisper comforting words and learn to read monitors.  I also work using a sketch pad.  This, I pull out and proceed to sketch illustrations for my finished stories, all the while, daydreaming about the color palette I'll use.  Working with pencil, I practice sketching character movement and develop multiple sketches of character profiles. 

Porting my unfinished drafts to the hospital and home again, I consider new story action and stronger character personality for each story.  As I organize the story plot, I rework it to "show" and not "tell" the story.  Intently, I search for those illusive "lazy" words that I must replace or omit.

It's an intense time each day.  My frustrations lead to elevator rides.  First floor for walks and fresh air.  Seventh floor - coffee.  Basement - a snack .   
Dad stirs and grasps at nothing. "It's okay, Dad.  It's me, Brenda. "

Texting the latest medical reports to family members, commenting on FB, and reading blog posts by other writers and illustrators helps to fill the lonely hours.
A hospital room is a working cubicle for nurses, doctors, and even custodians.  I am a fixture.  Sometimes I'm in the way; a useless displaced obstacle in an overcrowded cubicle.  At other times, I'm a curiousity; me, with sketch pad and pencil.  Nurses begin to question my profession. "Are you an artist?" 

I say, "Yes.  I'm an illustrator.  I've written and illustrated a book."

"Oh, you have a book?" 

"Yes, a children's chapter book.  It's called ADOLFO AND ATHENA."  (Is it tasteless to mention your recently published book while your dad is struggling to survive?)

Days pass.  Distant family members discover they have an author in their family.  They check out the book trailer on their phones.  I watch their reactions.  Their chuckles and smiles are like water to a displaced traveler.  (I check my guilty feelings.  Dad is still very ill.)
Dad has a nightmare.  In discomfort, he pulls at the tubes.  I try to pacify.  "It's okay.  I'm here.  We're always here, because we love you."

It's Day 18, Saturday, and I need a break.  In the Family Waiting Room my son has been telling a teacher (friend of my sister) about my book.  She asks if I would like to do a classroom author visit next year.  She thinks it would be good for her 4th grade kids.  "Sure," I tell her, "Just send me the objectives." 

On day 19, my dad is awake, weak, and responsive.  He laughs in silence.  It's all hand signals and head nods.  No vocal sounds protrude, after his tracheotamy.

Day 20, Francis introduces herself.  She tells me, Dad has to be moved to an extended hospital facility.  I ask for her contact information.  She searches for a pen.  I hand her my pencil.  She marvels at it's balanced weight and touch. 

"It's an artist's pencil," I say.  She asks if I'm an artist.  "I'm an illustrator.  A new one.  I've written and illustrated my first book."

"I love to read.  What's the name of your book?" she says.


"Oh, like the Greek goddesses Athena and her sister Artemis."

"Yes, but I also have a friend named Athena.  I named the book after her."

Thinking back, I could have said my character's name is Athena like the goddess of war.  Afterall, my main characters, Athena and Adolfo, are  siblings who are at war with each other.

So, this is the story of how I did nothing to promote my book and yet, it got promoted in the midst of desperately sad and sometimes lonely days. 

Today is his Dad's 21st day at the hospital.  I dressed and prepared to go, but didn't.  Exhaustion set in.  I notified Mom, stayed home, and slept.  Dad is getting better.  Mom called to tell me the doctor installed a talking device on Dad.  He seems to be tolerating it well.  Dad has many more weeks of recovery.  I'll be there tomorrow to hear his first words in 22 days. 

(Pray for his healing and for peace from pain and fright.)


  1. Sending you and your family positive thoughts at this time, and a hug too! Thanks for sharing your story - keep me posted. Much love, Julie

  2. Praying for your dad's recovery. Grateful to hear he can get a device to help him speak. (My late husband used an auditory scanning system to communicate after a stroke left him mute and paralyzed). Take care of yourself. Once your father moves to another facility or home, the real work begins. Oh, I think talking about your work, stories and interests are important when you are in this situation. I sat in an ICU waiting (and slept there too, because it was so far from where I lived for 33 ?days. I crocheted scarves. Not very straight ones, but that's what I did.) - Prayers to your family. - Stacy

    1. Thanks Stacy. I'm sorry for your loss. I wish I could give you a hug. Appreciate the comforting words and your insight.

  3. Thanks for sharing with us, Brenda. Sending good thoughts your direction. Relationships will always be the most important thing we have! Neat that your book is getting promoted anyway, as you focus on caring for your Dad.


    1. Thanks Joanna. Mom suggested I take off today, too. Hubby mentioned today is our 32nd wedding anniversary. My response,"Really? Oh, yeah, that's right." So true, relationships are important. (sigh)

  4. Brenda, sending hugs and prayers your way! Some of God's little gifts come in unexpected places.

    1. Thanks Cheryl. Caught your hug. Appreciate the prayers. You are right, I did not expect to be able to write, illustrate, or have people ask ME about my work. Amazing. God brings cheer and sustains.

  5. Praying for you and your dad, Brenda. I agree with Cheryl. "All things work together for God, to them who love God." (Rom. 8:28)
    I'm glad you can keep working while waiting in the hospital. It helps keep our minds busy!

    1. Thank you, Tina. I am thankful that I am currently unemployed and free to help my family. God's timing is perfect.

  6. Brenda, I am so sorry you are going through this difficult time. I'm glad your Dad is feeling a bit better and that the writing helps fill the lonely times for you. Take care of yourself and keep us updated on how you are doing!

  7. Thanks Julie. Dad was moved to a new longer term hospital Thursday evening. Today was scary, sad, and frustrating. Hopefully the weekly staff of this second hospital will be better than the weekend staff.