By Cate Oxford
I woke to the sound of a knock on my bedroom door. I had been in that strange realm between asleep and awake, when the world is a foggy kind of grey. I looked at the clock, it was early, too early. Too early for everything to be okay. I look to see my mom standing at the door. She opens her mouth.
“Hey, sweetie. So, dad couldn’t get out of bed this morning. We had to call the hospital. I just wanted you to know before the paramedics show up.”
There was something about this time that was different. Of course, this had happened before. Calling people for help was no stranger to us. My head is filled with the memories of watching my dad being pulled up by friends or family members that could come on a short notice.
It was a few months before. I remember the room being dark. My dad and I were sitting in our usual couch place; him on the end and me in the corner. I looked over to see his face lit up by the television, his eyes filled with the world we were submersed in. The walker stands stoically in front like it always does, patiently waiting to be needed. My dad pulls himself up, but his body does not agree. Before I even blink the MS has pulled him to the ground. I do what I always do, tell him everything is okay. For the next few minutes we push and pull until he is back in his couch spot once again, as if nothing has happened. It’s lucky that we didn’t have to call anyone to help, it was not so bad this time.
I wake from my memory as my mom shuts the door once again, letting me get ready for what will be a day filled with hospital beds and beeping machines.
It has been almost one year since this day took place. I have now become used to seeing my dad lie in hospital beds and roll down the street in his wheelchair. Though not very different from his mobility scooter, there is something about the permanence of the chair that makes it all real.
Back when I was still in elementary school, all pigtails and pink skirts, my entire neighborhood would gather at the tiny plastic park across the street every summer night and be together. Us rowdy kids would chase each other in games of tag and hop off the ground as if we were being burned by lava in intense games of grounders. Our parents would sit on the sidelines, sharing their days with one another. We played and they talked. But every now and then one of them would get up and join. They would chase us around and make us laugh and make those lazy summer days that much better. It made me so happy, but there was always one thing that made those days just a little bit sad. If there is one thing I wanted more than anything else in the world, it was for my dad to be able to run around with us too.
When I was eight years old my family heard of a possible cure for his disease, and we instantly flew to the only place we could get it, Costa Rica. My most vivid memory is asking my parents if this would finally mean dad could run around with everyone.
I have yet to play tag with my dad at that tiny plastic park.
My dad now spends his days in assisted living, waiting for our house to be made accessible for him. I have grown used to having to schedule time to see him. I have grown used to calling ahead at restaurants to see if they have ramps to get in. I have grown used to finding photos of him standing all those years ago strange. Ever since that day 20 years ago when his body went numb and he discovered what had happened, MS has changed how my family goes through life.
My dad has this one recurring dream that he often talks about. You can see his face light up when he does. In the dream, he is simply walking down the street. No cane, no walker, no scooter. He is just walking. It is in those dreams that he is completely happy. I am constantly reminded through watching him every day to never take anything for granted, not even something as straightforward as walking down the street.
By Cate Oxford