In the Midst of All the Emotions, Chaos and Commotions

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A note from Heather: I feel very fortunate that my dear friend Megan has agreed to share her stories here on THS. [don’t you love that really fun photo of us together? Megan uncovered it from the depths of 2001, and emailed it to me this week. MEMORIES….]  If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written about Megan, you know that I think the world of her. I like her so much that I want to share her with you.  When I asked her to be a part of THS, I knew I would love what she contributed to the site. I knew her stories would be high quality and full of honesty. I knew she would make us laugh and think and want more. 

This is part one of Megan’s family narrative In the Midst of all the Emotions, Chaos and Commotions.  It’s a powerful piece and we’ve broken it into three parts, which will each post this week.  It is more than simply a story to make us laugh and think and want more.  Megan opens her memories up for our taking as she shares about her father’s diagnosis and death, and her own understanding, growth, and life because of it all.  I hope take time to let this story move your heart and poke your soul awake. 

In the Midst of All the Emotions, Chaos and Commotions, Part 1
by Megan Orcholski


“You cannot imagine how time. . . can be. . .so still.
It hangs.  It weighs. And yet there is so little of it.
It goes so slowly, and yet it is so scarce.
If I were writing this scene, it would last a full fifteen minutes. 
I would lie here, and you would sit there.”
Wit by Margaret Edson

My Dad had been having headaches.  One night as we turned onto West St., coming home from the bar, he said, “It’s probably brain tumors!” with his big goofy grin.

A few months later, on Aug. 9th, a Monday, Dad went to “get his cat scanned.” That night, we sat around our kitchen table.   

A week later we knew:
It was in the middle of the middle of his brain.
It was the size of three golf balls.
It was malignant.
It was inoperable.
It would not respond to radiation.
And no one had ever seen this type of tumor in this part of the brain before. 

He was immediately sent to Mayo Hospital, 3 hours from our home.  “I finally won the lottery,” Dad would tell people, “Just the wrong one!” 

Even though it was inoperable, they knew he would die if they didn’t.  That’s one of the few things they did know.  I wasn’t there, but I love imagining the scene where the doctors tell my mom and dad about doing the surgery:

“We’d give you the odds, but we’ve never seen this before, so we’ve never done this surgery before.  You could die, you could be fine. You could be blind, you could be paralyzed, you could be a vegetable.  We don’t know, we’re messing with your brain.”

Immediately a shunt was installed, a tube that pulls fluids off the brain and puts them in the stomach where the body can process them.  And a date was set.  I don’t know how to explain the details, the trips, the information, the preparation that took us from August to November.  But I can tell you that after the diagnosis, my father never drove again, never rode a jet ski, never worked.

It’s weird what you remember, the memories that stick out. For instance, I didn’t have anyone to go with to my junior homecoming dance that fall.  I wasn’t going to go, and two of my friends Carrie and Erica, made me drive to Madison and get an outfit.  I remember that Dad came along.  He couldn’t drive anymore, but he hadn’t had the big surgery yet.  He rode in the passenger seat, and I drove, with the girls in the back.  We picked out pleather pants and a pleather tube top, the one Britney Spears wore, but mine was neon blue.  I vividly remember that drive, in my brown Chevy Oldsmobile Royal.  That car was significant because it was my main means of transportation, and I was my sister’s main means of transportation.

Months later, after the surgery, after I had fallen in love, it was in that car that my younger sister accused me of being a slut.  She had figured out that I had let my boyfriend touch my breasts. 

I remember that accusation. 
As a family, you are often each other’s targets of accusation.
And that’s ok.

When I did go to homecoming, I didn’t go out to eat with my friends, I went with my parents.  We went to Damon’s where we were surrounded by tables of 8, all in formal dresses, staring at the odd family; me in pleather, the 3 of us eating shrimp and steak, all enjoying it like it might be the last time we got to eat out together. 

You get really good at enjoying those moments, at knowing you should be conscious, fully aware, so that if it is the last, you will remember it.  Even years later, after he died, that has stayed with me.  Every time I hug my mother goodbye, I know it may be the last.  Each time I visit my best friend Natalie, I take in her smell extra deep, just in case I never get to again.

To be continued…

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9 thoughts on “In the Midst of All the Emotions, Chaos and Commotions

  1. Mel

    I don’t usually comment on too many blog posts, I like to just enjoy in the wings. But, Megan this post brought tears to my eyes. Especially this line “everytime i hug my mother goodbye, I know it may be the last”. Four years ago my dad passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack, it was the most devastating event of my life and to this day it breaks my heart. The point of me writing this is because the last day I was able to see and speak to my dad was the Thursday before the heart attack (the attack was a Saturday) we were in my parents back yard and I was helping them do some yard work while waiting on a friend. When the time came to leave I yelled a quick “bye mom and dad, I love you” and they yelled back, and my dad said “love you, kid” (he called everyone kid). But at that moment, and I will never forget it, I had this tugging awful feeling to just go up and give my mom and dad a kiss goodbye. It would take an extra 10 seconds to do but the urgent feeling of having to do this was overwhelming. So, I did, I ran up the hill, gave my quick kisses and I was off. And that, is the last time I ever got to kiss my dad goodbye where he was able to say to me, “love you, kid”. For that feeling, whatever it was, I’m so happy I followed it. Anyway, I’m so sorry for such a long comment, but I just truly loved the message at the end of this post. You never know what can happen and when something is going to be your last whatever. Thanks for the great reading. Thank you, Heather for letting Megan share her stories on your blog.

  2. Liza

    Both Megan and the previous comment made me cry. My father was diagnosed with a neurological disease eight years ago. Last year he was also diagnosed with dementia. Watching my once brilliant, witty father become a different person is the absolute hardest thing I have ever done. It breaks my heart thinking about everything he is going through. My brother was visiting me a few weeks ago and I told him how hard it was going to be after dad died. He responded: “will it? I mean really? don’t you want some peace for him?” I looked up at him with big fat tears streaming down my face and said no. I’m not ready for that yet. I cannot imagine a world without him, even if he’s not exactly the person he once was.

    1. Megan Orcholski

      The absolute worst feeling about my dad’s death was before he died. We knew the cancer had come back and we knew he was dying. Both my sister and I had long trips planned and we were basically like, “Don’t die while we are gone!” My partner at the time had a cousin getting married in England and I had lived in London the previous year. So I wanted to take him to my favorite place in England which involved a 5 hour train ride down to the western point. We had a great couple of days, stayed in a bed and breakfast and walked on the coast. Sunday we rode the train back, which happened to be father’s day. I called my Mom in the train station before the train left and she answered by saying “He’s still alive but….he’s been put back in the hospital.” It was such a jarring conversation and on fathers day that it destroyed me. I was a wreck that 5 hour train ride back. That is the single worst feeling of fear I ever felt about my dad (or maybe about anything!). I spent the whole time not understanding how I would have existence after he died. The day he died was one of the best days ever because all of my family and friends showed up and we laughed and told stories and ate all day. His funeral was amazing cause 800 people I adore came and hugged me. I’m not saying it hasn’t been hard, but I am amazed at how powerful the mind and imagination are. They are tricky and demanding and they will fool you into forgetting how strong you are and how lasting your memories are. You will never be ready (I so loved your story cause I connect. As you will read, I always say that we lost him twice-once at diagnosis and then 5 years later when he died). But it’s so much different than your mind can imagine.

  3. Pingback: In the Midst of All the Emotions, Chaos and Commotions, Part 2 » Then Heather Said

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  5. Kimberly Kelly

    This story moved me incredibly. We lost my Dad six years ago and there are moments I still can’t believe it.I will forever treasure the special moments that my sisters’ and I shared with him. Thank you for sharing your story.

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