My dad had a stroke the first week of October. It was the best worst thing that ever happened to our family. Before the stroke, my father was an abusive, nasty alcoholic. He drank warm vodka every day, smoked two packs of cigarettes a day and berated my mother, my sister and me every day. He was just horrible to be around and my relationship with him was very strained (and becoming borderline nonexistent). I honestly only spoke to him or saw him because my parents were still married and I am very close with my mother, so some contact with him was unavoidable. I started distancing myself from him a long time ago and I had only physically seen him two times in the entire year before the stroke.
In the days and weeks immediately following the stroke, my sister and I made a huge effort to spend time with him in the hospital and subsequent nursing home. I think that although she and I had talked about something bad happening to him for a long time, when it actually happened it was a wakeup call for everyone. I always loved my father (and knew he loved me), but the alcoholism just destroyed our relationship and any semblance to my old dad that I knew. I saw that person emerge again once he was forced to not drink while getting medical help after the stroke.
My dad has been home now for a few months and has made a lot of healthy lifestyle changes. He even just joined a health club this week so he can swim to try to strengthen his arm! I am really proud of him for trying to be healthier, but also really worried that he could start drinking again any day. He just recently started smoking again (after quitting in October)- his doctor cleared him to drive and he went out and got a pack of cigarettes immediately. Regardless, I will always be grateful for having the chance to reconnect with my dad without him being a horrible, drunk beast. I know that a stroke is a terrible thing, but for my dad it was a serious wake up call that he seemed to really answer. I guess I am taking it day by day- if he is sober and being “normal”, then I have no problem talking to him (and replying to his long emails, which have decreased in number and are not mean like they used to be anymore!) If he starts to drink again, then I will just decide then whether or not to cut off the relationship again and keep him at arm’s length.