Bye-bye summer of ’15! Hello again Fall!

Bye-bye summer of ’15! Hello again Fall!

‘Remembering that fun picnic with my husband, visiting my parents in Kerala, and accepting heart-wrenching illness…’

I see that my last post was in June, about 4 months ago… Sure been a while. And a lot has happened since then. Both happy and sad…

In July, my husband and I went on our first picnic together. First in the sense, it was the first time that it was just the two of us. I’m smiling remembering that time… We initially thought about going to another park. I can’t remember the name now. But that morning, yet again, when we tried to get into that park, it was FULL! Security and all outside. They told us it’s packed. It is the second time this happened with the very same park. So my husband and I were pretty bummed about it. But we scouted around for a bit. And here’s when, once again, you’re reminded, what happens, is always for the best! We eventually found another park close by. If I remember right, there was just another car parked there. So my husband and I had the park pretty much to ourselves. It’s the Sunnyside Park in Hunterdon County. So as we excitedly got out of the car, just happy about finding a place, we walked and found a spot where there was a table and benches, and that’s it! Nothing else, no one else. Just green surrounding all around us! It was like a magical little place. A picnic spot just for the two of us! I couldn’t be happier! I definitely see my husband and me going back there again… Anyways, we had a whole picnic basket stocked up with quite a lot of food, and some wine too! I made this guacamole dip. Super easy to make! We had that with some crackers. I made the strawberry-mandarin-spinach salad, which I’ve shared before on the site. I tried making stovetop chicken wings for the first time. They were caramelized wings. Also very easy to make. Then there were banana and chocolate chip muffins! Yumm! I love them! Super-moist and also super-easy to make! And lastly, I added a fun touch to the picnic, with frozen watermelon pops! Now that, I’ll admit wasn’t too fun for my super-sensitive teeth (I think I left the pops to freeze a bit too long. Hence, they were painfully cold!) But I’m going to remember the next time, to pop the watermelon into the freezer for just about an hour so… Anyhow, all the food was great! I will definitely share the recipes at some point of time. We had the wine, which we bought from Canada earlier this year. It was so easy to carry along, being in a tetra pak. Mankind, convenience and invention! Genius! Never ceases to amaze me! We took along this beach blanket tote, which spreads out as a nice, big-enough-for-4 mat, on which we sat down and relaxed, and watched a few episodes on the iPad of good ol’ Modern Family. If I remember right, the tote was from Bed, Bath and Beyond… But it’s called the beach blanket tote. You can throw it into the washer-dryer. No problemo! And our insulated picnic basket was from Amazon, by a brand called Picnic Time. While sipping on the wine and have those crazy-cold watermelon pops, we listened to the ever-so calming Coldplay. Ah, what a relaxing day it was! We even walked for a bit, taking in all the glory of Mother Nature. We came by this stream, where a huge family was having a fun time, on water floats! It looked like so much fun. Just seeing them having fun, made us so joyous! It was such a lovely afternoon…

Over the summer, my husband and I definitely came across a couple of wonderful dining spots. We had some very good Italian at Volare’s in Rutherford. Everything we had there was delicious! For starters, we had asparagus wrapped in bacon, with this lovely dressing all over. My husband ordered an entrée of veal with pasta, which he loved. And I had the best shrimp ravioli I’ve had to date! Delish! Mmm… I’m craving for Italian now! I just went to their website a few minutes ago, and there’s this lovely song playing in the background with a guy singing about a lady, how she cooks her eggplant and what not! Love it! Another place I must share about is Cuban Eddie’s in Dumont. First of all, Cuban Eddie’s is this little place that’s not going to catch your eyes immediately while driving around. Doesn’t look spectacular from the outside. But as soon as you get in, you do feel like you’re in some restaurant, somewhere in the Caribbean… And they have this one item on the menu… It’s the guava and cream cheese empanadas. Oh my gosh! I’ve never tasted anything of the sort! It’s a pure genius of a recipe! I swear. One bite, and you actually feel high! Really! Seriously! It was amazing. My husband had the ‘ropa vieja’, which is a dish with stewed beef and vegetables, with rice on the side. I had a bite and it was delicious. I went for a simple grilled chicken, which was cooked so beautifully. The meat was literally falling off the bone! That well cooked! But the empanadas were something else…

Soon enough, my husband and I got ready to fly to India. Our annual visit to India was due. Well, I had been to India in December, last year. And for my husband, it definitely was about a year and a half since he had been to India. On our way to India, we had a layover of about 13 hours in the alluring Dubai. My husband has a couple of friends in Dubai. These are friends who he hasn’t met for years. And by years, I mean over a decade. They are his school buddies and so we met up with them, spent the day with them, and it was really nice. First of all, I love Dubai. The last time I had been there, it was almost 10 years ago, and Dubai is constantly changing, literally every week. So I kept looking around in amazement. And oh, my husband’s friends took us to see the Dubai Fountain. Now that was impressive! So I come to find out now, looking up online, that the Dubai Fountain is the world’s largest dancing fountain! It was beeaauuutiful to watch! And amusing too! One of the songs played in the background was ‘Dhoom Taana’ from the Bollywoood blockbuster ‘Om Shanti Om’! It was so unexpected! But fun to watch and experience. We thankfully were able to see the fountain at a safe distance, safe from the swarming crowd! There were hundreds and hundreds of people that evening. Phew! And being the weekend of Eid celebrations, the crowd was all the more… Click here to see this YouTube video of the Dubai Fountain. We had a lovely time in Dubai, and it was so nice to witness the reunion of my husband with his long-time buddies from school…

And soon enough I was in Kerala, so excited to see my parents again. However, my father wasn’t feeling too well, even before I came. So I spent a couple of days with my husband, my in-laws, his niece and grandparents. And right after, I came home, to be with my parents. My father, who I address as Appa, has not been in the best of health for over five years now. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with vascular Parkinsonism, which is pretty much the same as Parkinson’s disease. But from what I’ve understood in layman terms is that, vascular Parkinsonism is a result of multiple minor strokes, and the patient has mobility problems over a period of time. I’ve seen the deterioration in my father’s health over the last five years. And it’s not been easy… Each time I would visit Kerala and then leave my parents to come back to the US, it was always difficult for me. But it was all the more difficult this time… No one recognized that a stroke had silently come and gone. We only came to find out after he was hospitalized. With the previous incidents of stroke, he was hospitalized right away. But that wasn’t the case this time. When I came home to visit my parents this summer, I was left with disbelief. It seemed like my father didn’t even recognize me… He wasn’t living in the present. He was reliving his life from over thirty years behind. So each morning, after I’d wake up and go downstairs to see him, he would look at me pretty much like I’m a stranger. My mother and I couldn’t understand what was happening. He could barely even walk on his own. And then eventually, a week passed, but my father didn’t get any better. He slowly started losing appetite. He barely ate. And my father has been the biggest foodie in the family! So how is it possible that he no longer wanted to eat? That’s when my mother and I realized that he had to meet with the doctor. My father has been seeing the same neurologist for years now. After tests and scans, we learnt that my father did have another stroke and that his sodium count was lower than normal. Initially the doctor planned on hospitalizing my father just to normalize his sodium level and to start sessions of physiotherapy. A week later in the hospital, my father had a seizure for the very first time. The episode still plays in front of my eyes. And I just can’t erase the memory. Isn’t it unfortunate that no one can share another’s pain, struggle or suffering? That was one of the many days when I felt helpless, when I saw my father shaking involuntarily with fits. When his legs started shaking, I went and asked him “What happened to your leg, Appa? Why is it shaking?” Now one thing one should know about my father. He hates being hospitalized! And it was no different this time as well. He just wanted to get out of the hospital. And when I asked him the question, he hurriedly said “Nothing”. He didn’t want another reason to further delay his discharge from the hospital. Well, post the seizure, my father was moved to the Neuro ICU. For a while, I thought ‘nothing’ would be the last word I heard from my father. Honestly, I didn’t know if he was going to make it. But he did make it, because the most highest and merciful one above works his miracles into our lives every single day. However, things didn’t get any easier for my father or for any of us as a family. He was given food and water through a nasogastric feeding tube through his nose for weeks, before he was taken for surgery to introduce a gastric feeding tube through his stomach. Shortly after he came back from the ICU, back to the Neuro ward, he had a case of aspiration pneumonia. It seemed like giving the feed through the nasal tube was causing the complication for my father. It is very important for the patient to be in an inclined position, if not upright, while giving feed through the nasal tube. Failure to do so might lead to complications such as aspiration pneumonia, because the feed is not being swallowed normally and passed down to the stomach, and is instead going to the lungs, thereby causing an infection with the growing bacteria. My father lost the ability to swallow or spit out completely after his seizure. So as a result, he was not able to cough up the secretions from his lungs, for which the nurses would suction out the secretions at least once a day, if not twice or thrice. The pneumonia got so bad, because of which my father’s oxygen saturation kept sinking low. With each passing day, I would notice him breathing harder and faster. After giving IVs of antibiotics for a week, my father’s oxygen saturation still didn’t quite pick up. And he had been immobile and getting more stiff in his muscles for weeks now. His one fist was always clenched, to the extent that his nails would sink into his skin, forming visible dents. The physiotherapy sessions meanwhile in the hospital weren’t helpful just because my father would be so groggy with all the antibiotics, to attempt to move a muscle, let alone do any kind of exercise. With his saturation continuing to be on the lower side, my father was yet again rushed to the ICU one evening. The doctor strongly suggested my father going in for surgery to change the feeding method from nose to directly to the stomach, to avoid further complications. So he went in for a PEG or percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy. When my father returned from the ICU the second time, he seemed so much better and freer, not having a tube lodged into his nostril anymore! I was there when the nurses had to put in a fresh new nasal tube for my father, because the nasal tube must be changed every 21 days as per the hospital’s protocol. That was painful for me to watch and to listen to, seeing my father squirming and yelping out with pain. Good Lord… Anyways, as I continue typing with teary eyes, I remember being with my father as he left the ICU again, to come back to the wardroom. I asked him “Are you okay, Appa?” And I was so happy to hear the response from him. He energetically, with a clear voice replied back to me “Yeah!” Hope filled my heart again. I was slowly starting to tell myself that my father would get through this and that there was a possibility that he would come back home. His sodium level was slowly getting normalized and his memory was gradually coming back. Obviously God was paying heed to the many prayers of family and friends. But there’s a strange saying in Malayalam, which strangely applied to my father’s hospitalization. It translates like this. If it happens once, it shall happen three times. And so, my father was rushed again to the ICU, the third time… This time, his blood pressure shot up and saturation dipped dangerously low, during a session of physiotherapy. Seeing this, the physiatrist came to a conclusion that my father could not tolerate slightly more advanced sessions of physiotherapy and his body may have not tolerated the slightly cooler temperature in the physiotherapy department room of the hospital. By the third incident, my mother and I were not alone. My older sister traveled from London on emergency leave from work, and we also had the male nurse, who we had arranged since the beginning of the year to help look after my father. As my father struggled to breathe and kept shivering uncontrollably, after he returned from the physiotherapy department, back to the wardroom, the neurologist checked and rechecked my father’s vitals for about five minutes. My mother, sister and I waited with much fear, anxiety, as one can imagine. And then the neurologist asked us if my father can be taken to the ICU again, as his saturation was not picking up. There were so many times when I had to put on a brave face and this was one of those times. Seeing my father’s bad state, internally I kept telling myself “It’s okay Rithu, if this is God’s will. It’s fine.” I was preparing myself yet again, to let him go… True, what happened once happened thrice. But I’m ever so happy to say that my father is back home! He did go to the ICU again, and he made it back. By the time my father was discharged from the hospital, it had been an entire month!

Today, my father is undergoing rehabilitation at home. The physiotherapy seems tiring and painful for him, especially when his legs are stretched out. My father doesn’t speak much. And the Parkinsonism has slowed his attempt to register a question and respond. Appa has become so skinny, especially his legs. He feels tired often and just wants to lie down… But on the bright side, I’m happy that he has regained memory and he remembers me now. I was so fortunate to be with my parents for those two months and just be there, doing the least I could. I have so many people to be grateful to, first of all, to the ever-reliable God above. How true! We seek God in times of trouble. If there were no worry, no reason for sadness in our lives, would we really remember God? I don’t think I would that often… It’s so easy to take everything for granted when you have a perfect life. My oldest sister based in Doha whatsapped me a link to a song called ‘Beautiful Day’ by Jermaine Edwards. And in this song, the words go, “Lord I thank you for sunshine, thank you for rain. Thank you for joy, thank you for pain.” This song gave me assurance. Click here to listen to the song. Every experience in our life is so educational, whether happy or sad. As much sadness I contained the whole time, I feel I also became a teeny bit more stronger, a little more wiser, and a little more responsible. Yet, no strength I gained could stop me from crying, the morning I had to leave my home in Kerala and head back to the US. My father couldn’t even say anything to me that morning, just because every time he tried to say something to me, he would have a nasty cough. I waited for my father to take his time and talk to me. But then I realized, if I stayed any longer, my father would keep trying to speak to me, and would not stop coughing. So I had to go, waving bye to him… As my mother accompanied me in the car on the way to the airport, she as always calmly passed on her words of wisdom and reassured me. I look forward to seeing my parents again. I hope they know how much they mean to my sisters and me. I am so proud to be my parent’s daughter. They have taught me so much and everything I am or have today is only because of them. The best parents, in every sense of the word, I could ever ask or hope for!

This has been heartbreaking not just for me, but for extended family and friends too. I remember so many people visiting my father in the hospital, and then visiting him at home. No one can believe this is the same man who once lived his life with such joy, with much grace and aplomb. This is the same man who worked hard to get to college. This is the same man who is fondly remembered by friends as a notorious prankster in his college days. This is the same man who in the 70s, traveled by sea on a ship for days, to reach the Middle East, in hopes to start his career. This is the same man who worked hard to provide the best for his loving wife and three daughters. This is the same man who excelled in his workplace and worked loyally for the same company, for over three decades as a General Manager. This is the same man whose towering personality no one could deny. This is the same man who was like a brother and even a godfather for many. This is the same man who was the life of every party, every single social gathering. My father is no longer that same person. Illness has greatly changed him over the years. But yes, he is one of those fortunate souls who have had it all. Just like the Job in the Bible. I take this time to remember a lot of people out there and to just express gratitude. Firstly I’m thankful for the wonderful doctor and nurses who took care of my father while he was in the hospital. I’m supremely thankful for my mother, my Mommy, the rock of my family. I’m thankful for the male nurse back home, who toils each day to look after my Appa, when we three kids cannot be around for help. I’m thankful for extended family who were always on standby to help and just be with us during that time of despair. I’m thankful for my husband who was so supportive, even being miles away at the time. I’m thankful to all those people who took the time out to come all the way and visit my father. I’m thankful to all those who sent the most sweetest messages on his birthday in September. I’m thankful to everyone for remembering him in prayers…

As I’m almost nearing the end of this post, I just remembered. The other day, my husband saw me typing this post, and he asked me ‘Oh. Really? You’re sharing all this? Isn’t this all very personal to you?” The reasons why I’m doing this post are manifold. One, I guess I’m doing this for myself. For a long time I tried bottling in all my feelings and putting up a brave front. But I suppose I’m trying to feel a little lighter by letting it all out. Second, if anyone reads this and is going through something similar, I just want them to know they’re not alone. And that we all just have to come through because everything will pass. Even the hard times too. Third, this is a medium for me to let it out into the universe that I’m so proud of my parents, because I’ve never really verbally told them so. Fourth, I just want anyone who reads this to know that old age is challenging. My parents might not be very old. But what I’m getting at is that, in so many households, there is a couple. A husband and a wife. And that’s it. Children have left their homes in the hopes for further studies or a job or to start a family of their own. And then those very same parents, who brought you so far, are alone back home. What I’m trying to say is that it’s necessary for each of us to be mindful and thoughtful of our parents. Age, illness and death are all inevitable, intangible factors of life that no one has any control over. But one needs to remember and be grateful. Because life is so short. It’s so important to be thankful for what really matters and to not be bothered by the trivial or the superficial or what the world makes you think that you ought to work towards. And with that, I’m going to experience fall this year, just looking forward to new experiences, any kind of enlightenment, and keeping in mind to make every single day count.

 

 

 

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