Wednesday, January 16, 2008


A week and a half ago, there were some things in my life that I thought were really important, and my focus was completely on them. My teaching and coaching were paramount, and I was also pretty fired up about my blog. Man, did that change in a hurry. Spending three days in an intensive care unit will do that.

My father-in-law, John Engberg, is one of the most thoroughly decent men I have ever known. Since my own dad died when I was only 24, he has also been my father longer than my own father was. A week ago Saturday, John was making breakfast for friends--something he loves to do. He did the same thing for our whole tribe every day that we were in the Twin Cities during Christmas vacation. A week ago Sunday, he admitted that he hadn't been feeling well. On Monday, he went to see a doctor, and by 2 AM Wednesday he was on life support.

It's hard to describe how difficult it is when something like this is going on with someone you love, and you are 365 miles away. If you were to measure the closeness of an adult to her parents on a scale of ten, my wife would register at about fifteen. As the phone calls kept coming and kept delivering worse and worse news last Monday and Tuesday, she was being emotionally torn apart. We spent several hours last Tuesday night waiting for the phone call telling us that he had died. When I finally got into the car on Wednesday morning for the seven-hour drive, the chances seemed dim that we would get a chance to see John again while he was alive. We definitely did not expect him to make it through the day.

But John never has been one to go down easily. He made it through Wednesday, and even though we doubted that he would make it to the weekend, he did. In fact, his heart and kidney function seemed to improve, and it began to look like he was out of immediate danger. Nevertheless, when they cut off the sedation and tried to wake him up, there was no response.

By Saturday, it looked like we might be in for a very long haul. I'd spent a lot of time holding the hand of a man whose hand I'd never hold under ordinary circumstances, told him I loved him, and kissed him on the forehead. I had commitments here, so I decided I'd better get back to Warroad. But the hockey game I came back to just didn't seem quite as important, and when I came to school to work the next day, it was hard to get into it. Heaven knows I had enough to do after missing three days. Doing the necessities was hard enough, and I couldn't even look at my blog. I kept on thinking about John and his wonderful wife, Maxine. I watched my father die thirty-two years ago, and I watched my mother die a year ago, and being in that room with John was too much like that. I held out little hope that we would ever have the John that we all knew and loved completely back again. My wife flew back on Sunday evening, and he still hadn't responded to anyone.

On Monday evening, they took John off the ventilator, and he continued to breath on his own. Yesterday, he gave one of his sons a thumbs up, and later he said that he had to go to the bathroom. By nightfall, he was mad at his wife because she wouldn't get him out of that damned hospital. Maybe we will get the old John back after all! John's not anywhere near out of the woods, yet, but right now, we're feeling a lot more hopeful than we were a week ago.


Blogger Deb S. said...

You have every right to feel hopeful! What an amazing story! Good for John. Good for you for writing such a thoughtful post.

Hang in there. You and your family have my prayers. Please keep us posted.

By the way, Happy New Year.

1/17/2008 2:33 AM  
Anonymous Zeke said...

Sort of makes if clear what is important! I also watched my Dad die and I don't wish that on anyone, so I hope John comes along well. He sounds like a neat guy.

1/18/2008 3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fingers crossed for your FIL.

And ... hey! You threw me. I thought you weren't going to be blogging until hockey was over :-)

I'm glad to see you still blogging (even if it is light).

Mark Roulo

1/18/2008 7:04 PM  
Blogger ms-teacher said...

Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for your FIL. He sounds like a quite a fighter. This was a very thoughtful post and it really expressed how much this man means to you.

Take care :)

1/18/2008 7:57 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

My sincere thanks to all of you who commented. It has been a roller-coaster ride like none I've experienced before. A setback one day (John had suffered one a couple of hours before I wrote this post, but I didn't know it), and then a comeback the next. My wife flew back down on Thursday, while I stayed here for our hockey games. It's hard for her to see her father like this, but at least now she can communicate with him, and a week ago we didn't know if she'd ever be able to do that again. Thanks again for your thoughts and kind words.

1/20/2008 2:29 PM  

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