Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Bamboo

A year and a half ago, my mom and I bought bamboo at the Pekin Marigold Festival.

Mine was two stalks actually, held together with twisty ties to make a sort of heart near the top.

The bamboo has sat in a little vase next to my kitchen sink ever since. A couple of times a week I refill the water - to just root level, per the directions. With no more attention or care from me, they have flourished.

Everything in my life has been total chaos since mid-October. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition came to town and my dad and I dove in, anxious to be a part of it all. Just about a week after the big "move that bus" day, our church had its annual Pancake and Sausage event. We met my dad, who joined us for pancakes after his shift making them was finished. We had a nice talk, good quality family time together.

On the way out, my dad put his hand on my shoulder to guide me first through the door, ahead of him. As he touched me, I felt a shock go through my body. Not an electrical shock, a shock of realization... in that moment, I was certain something was going to happen to my dad that day.

Around 3pm he called me and I missed the call. I decided to wait to call him back, but 15 min. later his neighbor called. My dad was in trouble, she had called an ambulance.

That was the beginning of a very long story that unfortunately, has no happy ending. For the next six weeks my life was consumed with traveling to the hospital, talking to doctors, and enduring the endless roller coaster of emotions. Things around the house started to change, or become amplified. Laundry was behind - way behind. There was more fast food and carryout for dinner than even before.

One of the bamboo stalks started to show signs of distress. I changed the water, made sure the level was right... did all the things I'd done before. As the weeks went by, the bamboo got worse. Only one though - the other continued to hold its own, still tied to the struggling bamboo and showing some signs of stress but largely doing ok.

Until early December, I truly believed my dad would recover. I truly believed he would be home for Christmas. But things took a bad turn and after all it had been through, his body could not stand up to a horrible infection.

After 8 days in a medically-induced coma and 10 days after our last actual conversation, my dad slipped away. As I type the words, I still cannot believe they are true. But I am painfully aware of this every moment - every second - of every day. He is gone.

The second stalk of the bamboo is gone too, browned and wilted and dry - it looks nothing like it did just a few months ago when it was growing strong and healthy.

But it is still tied to the stalk that is thriving. I took off the twisty ties and tried to separate them, but their roots are intertwined. They are still joined together, they are still a part of each other. The heart shape they formed is broken, so they aren't together like they were. And yet the thriving stalk is finding a way to go on.

Yesterday the kids returned to school, Edgar returned to work and for the first time since mid-October, I got a glimpse of our "normal" life. Normal is re-defined now, of course. Nothing here is the same.

Including the bamboo.


Edit: Today a friend pointed out to me that this was posted exactly one year before Ainsley's birth. I find that amazing, and the message is so clear.

Sadly, I no longer have the bamboo. Although the second piece continued to flourish for many more months, it did eventually die. Again, I don't think I ever cared for it any differently, but I think it is still symbolic - despite my efforts, fate intervened. Eventually, there are certain things that we have to let go of - including in some respects, the people we used to be. It was a hard day when I threw away that bamboo, but I recognized it as a positive step in my healing as well. It was ok to let it go. There was a baby on the way. Nothing is the same. I am not the same, he is not the same. But we are still connected.

In many ways, I've just had to start over. I've had to build a new relationship with my dad.

So this year maybe I'll buy another bamboo.

3 comments:

tamrae said...

I am so glad I checked your blog today of all days. I haven't checked for some time. Our connection amazes me at times. I just had a feeling you had written. I remember noticing that plant while I was doing dishes that first night at your house. I think we had a brief conversation about it. The events of the past two months still seem surreal to me as well. The fact that your dad is no longer here in the physical sense, and that your life is returning to "normal." I am hearing echoes from our past. I know I have not worn the shoes you are now wearing, but I will walk with you through this. I, for once, will not be the one forging the path. I will be watching you process this loss and learning from you. I am almost certain to have to walk this path at some point in my life. I will carry your experience and strength with me when my time arrives. Love Ya, Sis.

*Jess* said...

Big hugs, Shannon. You've been through so much. You are so strong.

Jennifer said...

Shannon,
I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you had a wonderful relationship with your father and luckily that will carry on, in the way you parent your kids and in your heart.
Best Wishes,
Jennifer