Dear ICU Dad,
When things really started to go wrong in January, I was afraid. I had already done a four year medical tour of duty when I lost my mom to cancer as a teenager, and I recognized almost immediately how bad things were getting with J. I know, based on that experience, that men can really struggle in these situations. I was not sure how you would react, whether you would withdraw from us, whether you would leave me alone to deal with this. I wasn’t sure if our family could survive.
I should have had faith in you; in the honorable, reliable, beautiful soul that I married nearly five years ago. You have risen to this challenge. After the first three weeks, you had no choice but to return to one of the more demanding jobs in the world. But several times a week, you would get on a crowded train with a suitcase and arrive at PICU, ready to pick up the baton for me while I went home to take care of Max. Most nights, you continued to work from the vinyl hospital chair, angling the phone to avoid the hiss and thump of our baby’s ventilator and the desaturation alarms coming through on the conference calls you were leading. Then, three interrupted and hard fought hours of sleep later, you would shower and shave in the disgusting parents’ bathroom and return to the office to work another full day. Most of the people you work with had no idea where you had been.
We have also managed to shield our older son from the brunt of this ordeal, thanks in no small part to your boundless energy and patience. You still chase him around the park and our apartment with all the patience and love you have always had. Just last week, when you had your first possible day to yourself since December, you instead sent our nanny home and just hung out with Max around Brooklyn all day long.
When my spirits have flagged, your relentless optimism has buoyed me. We have managed to share laughs in the bleakest of moments. When I have felt unable to continue the endless hospital vigils, you have shouldered the load. When I have shut down, you have forced me open again, refusing to let me retreat into the loneliness and depression that lurk around all of my corners these days. I am a better mother and advocate for our children because of you.
Things have not been perfect. We have had our share of difficulties. At times, I don’t think you have appreciated the drain that endless days in PICU have been on me. I know I haven’t properly appreciated the strain you are under balancing your job with this situation. But you have easily and completely forgiven me my trespasses as I have forgiven you yours. This is the cornerstone on which our new family is being built, and it is a sound one.
You are a force of nature, my dear. You are a father in every sense of the word, a leader for our family, a steady and selfless source of strength, love, compassion, courage for us all. I don’t know how you do it, but I am so grateful you do.
Happy Father’s Day, my love.
P.S. One comment. It is a little annoying that through all of this you trained for and ran a personal best in the Brooklyn half marathon. I mean, at some point it’s like you’re just trying to make the rest of us look bad.
P.P.S. Don’t worry, this lame post isn’t your Father’s Day present – we got you a new iPhone.