the hospital

Last night I dreamed that I sat down with my father to record his life history. In my dream, he was seated in a wheelchair, but he was full of energy and smiles, like he was before the event that started his neurologic decline. His face no longer drooped on the left, but instead, was perfectly symmetric. His hazel eyes sparkled when he smiled and joked with me, the way he once used to. In my dream, he was going to tell me everything about his past, and I planned to write every word of it down. I carried a black pen and a blank notebook filled with white, college-ruled paper, ready to be filled with my father’s story.

But in my dream, we kept getting interrupted. Each time I sat next to him, ready to write, someone intervened and pulled my attention away from him. I never was able to write a word.

And then I woke up.

Today, my father is lying in a hospital bed and he’s unable to speak to us. He cannot move the left side of his body. He cannot swallow the secretions that pool in his throat, and when he coughs, he sounds as if he is choking. He does not open his eyes to look at me, and he will not wake up.

He had a large stroke yesterday, or maybe even the night before. I keep trying to pinpoint when it happened. When exactly did his heart flick off a clot that traveled in an instant to his right middle cerebral artery? Was it when I was sitting at his bedside in the emergency room, in that uncomfortable folding chair, thinking he was just sleepy from the Ativan he was given? Was it shortly after I went home that night? Or was it first thing Friday morning, while I was heading to clinic? I realize it doesn’t matter when it happened. What matters is that it happened, and that he will not recover.

I regret not seeing him one last time while he could speak to me. His last words to me on Thursday night were, “Do they think this is serious?” I want to remember different words.

I regret not canceling my clinic duties yesterday morning. If I had been there, maybe his stroke would have been recognized sooner. [I know that it wouldn’t have mattered, but I can’t help but regret this.]

I regret not ever taking the time to sit with my father, when he was fully himself, and writing down his story. Because when he is gone, I would have had Β the physical reality of his story to cling to, rather than just my imperfect memories.


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24 Responses to “on the path of healing: manchego cheese grits”

  1. Brian @ A Thought For Food — February 6, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

    I’m so glad things went well with your father. He sounds like an amazing guy.

    This grits looks phenomenal. We don’t see it very often up here in New England… but I have a lot of family in the South and they love making it for me when I visit.

  2. Jason PHelps — February 6, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

    Certainly positive news indeed. I spent more time than I wanted at the hospital before and after my dad’s bypass surgery in November 2010. He is on the mend now and everyone’s support was a bright light for me too.


  3. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — February 6, 2011 @ 8:03 pm

    MJ I am so glad that your dad (and your family) is on the path to healing. I bet that spending some time in the kitchen has helped calm your mind. I love that Mitzi loved the grits too πŸ™‚ Still sending and thinking postitive healing thoughts your way xoxo

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  5. Macaroni Mama — February 6, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

    Bravo! Today I vacuumed and it was very theraputic.

  6. Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — February 6, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

    Love that you used Manchego in these. I hope your dad continues to get better.

  7. Jersey Girl Cooks — February 6, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

    Glad things went well with your dad’s surgery. Prayers going his way that he recovers and heals quickly.

  8. Gail — February 6, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

    Know so well what you’re going through.
    Gruyere cheese and polenta is a viable alternative, too.

  9. Mac — February 6, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

    Hear, hear! Glad to know your dad, you and your family are all on the path to recovery!
    Adore grits! So happy you got back into the kitchen this weekend.
    Continued prayers for you all. Take care!

  10. Lael Hazan @educatedpalate — February 7, 2011 @ 6:38 am

    I so glad that although exhausting, your family is on the mend. Comfort food is perfect for a time like this and your Manchego cheese grits seems to have struck a great balance between familiar and moving forward into new territory.

  11. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — February 7, 2011 @ 10:59 am

    It is good to hear your news; the worry of your Dad getting through the surgery and now being with him while he is recuperating is undoubtedly exhausting and I remember so well how simple and soul satisfying grits can be.

    Continued prayers for his recovery and your strength through it…and thanks for a lovely reminder of those special years when I lived in the south.

  12. Evil Shenanigans — February 7, 2011 @ 11:55 am

    So glad that your dad is on the road to recovery. I will continue to keep him in my thoughts. Also pleased to see another recipe for grits. I think they are my favorite food at the moment. Manchego cheese has such a robust flavor, I bet it is GREAT with grits!!

  13. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — February 7, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

    So glad to hear that your dad is recovering! I’ve been thinking about you and your entire family lots, and I’ll continue to keep you in my prayers!

    These grits look delicious… I rarely get to have grits (not real popular here in PA), but I might have to give these a try. Now I just have to see if I can buy them online πŸ™‚

  14. Liz the Chef — February 7, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

    Pass the grits…It’s been a long week for me too at hospice. I seem to crave spicy Thai. Best wishes to you, dear one

  15. Joy, The Herbed Kitchen — February 7, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

    That is absolutely wonderful news about your father. He sounds tenacious which will certainly help him through the rehab.

    I’d have to agree with Mitzi. You have a smart kitty there.

  16. Prerna@IndianSimmer — February 7, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

    So glad to hear that your dad’s doing better! Its these tough times that shake you up and tell you what’s actually important in life. Sending good vibes your way and hoping for your life to be back to normal soon, very soon!
    I’m sure these grits would have helped bring back that comfort a little bit! Lovely post!

  17. SMITH BITES — February 7, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

    am so, so happy that surgery went well for your dad and that he will recover; i’m also glad that you can escape to your kitchen for something comforting – something you can make for yourself, to take care of yourself, to nourish yourself – it’s all good. and grits? about as comforting as it gets. (((hugs)))

  18. Wenderly — February 7, 2011 @ 7:43 pm

    Sounds like you and your family have been through so much! But it also sounds like you are all marching forward! Good for you! And so glad to hear of your dad’s progress!
    These grits look divine.
    Keep up the food therapy. I’ve always believed in the concept of *food for the soul* both literally and figuratively. I’ll be praying for you!

  19. Maria at Fresh Eats — February 8, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

    So happy to hear he’s on the mend, and hope he continues to heal quickly and completely. Glad to hear you found some peace and comfort in the kitchen, too.

  20. Denise @ Creative Kitchen — February 16, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

    What a scary ordeal!! Especially since a day that was planned for family fun turned into such stress and uncertainty. I’m glad to hear that your dad is recovering! Hope you get to Disney soon for that much needed break & down time. We have passes too that are expiring mid-March, and just took our final trip last week. Such an incredible way to spend time with each other. Our family are huge Disney freaks!!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — February 17th, 2011 @ 7:10 pm

      We adore Disney! I’m really missing that place, but we’re planning to go next month, so I’ll get my fix. πŸ™‚

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