How My Father's Stroke Ended Up Healing Me In A Powerful Way

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How My Father's Stroke Ended Up Healing Me In A Powerful Way

Missed a call from Mom: not unusual.

Then a text message from Mom. ”Call me please.” Hmmm, that's unusual.

Normally, I'd work returning a missed call from Mom in between coaching calls with clients.

However, this Monday morning, the “call me please,” text lit a fire under my ass and I returned Mom’s call sooner rather than later.

Of course, I also couldn’t ignore the gnawing feeling I’d experienced all weekend that something was amiss, nor the eerie dream visits from my Dad just the night before. Yep, it was time to call Mom back A.S.A.P.

My first thought was, she’s just calling to say they’ve changed their plans for their road trip to the National Parks. Boy was I wrong!

“Your Dad’s had a stroke!” mom said.

Ah, crap! was my first thought, quickly followed by a bitchy (in my thoughts) shout out to the Universe, “Thanks for the curveball! I don’t need this, this week!”

You see, when it comes to my Dad and me, there's no love lost. Our relationship emanates around how much the two of us are a pain in each other's life. Sure, we play the game of “It’s good to see you,” and "I love you," but that lasts about 3.5 minutes and then we struggle (a lot) to talk or be in the same room with each other.

As Mom’s words sank in and the reality attached to them, I realized what I really wanted to say was, “Crap. I’m not ready for this.” As much as we’re not close, I wasn't ready to watch him leave this earth. Besides, he just turned 72-years-old the day before this all happened. He was too young (at least in my eyes).

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All right, all right. He’s not the first 72-year-old to have a stroke, but he’s my Dad, and I have the spoiled-little-boy right to own the market on grief, shock, and confusion in this moment. My present moment. Here’s why ... 


  • The man I’ve yet to resolve crap with.
  • The guy I can hardly talk to for any length of time, but feel obligated to.
  • The "love the sinner/hate the sin" guy about my homosexuality
  • The gun-toting, wildlife hunting, ATV riding "man's-man" that just doesn’t get that I don’t care about wearing camouflage (unless it’s onboard an Atlantis Gay Cruise during an afternoon Dog Tag T-Dance)
  • The guy that can’t comprehend religion vs. spirituality yet seems to dig Deepak Chopra and Oprah … go figure!

As you can see, none of this is about me. I take no ownership of why our relationship is rocky. There’s no reason for me to extend the olive branch, he's older and wiser -- so, it’s his responsibility (or so it would seem). Plus, he’s retired so he’s got lots of time on his hands to heal the wounds that he created, not me.

I mean, I’ve got a business to run, kids to raise, so I really don’t have time to fix what he’s messed up.

Darn it, I am just like my Dad ... the way he was with his Dad, and don't you dare try to make that comparison. Only I can. If you do, you're wrong!

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On top of all that, he’s also the guy who just doesn’t really get what I do as a life coach, motivational speaker, podcaster, blogger, and author. In fact, the closest he can get is to say I'm a counselor. Close but no Cuban Cigar Pops! As you can see I’m a little bitter because I just don’t get what I need to get from my Dad. In fact, he can’t even have a stroke when it’s convenient for me!

But then, enter stage right, or in this case the door to my Dad’s hospital room, Nurse Dan!

The handsome, rugged, man’s man nurse who come to assess my Dad’s vitals. Obviously, I was more smitten with Dan than how my Dad was doing, but that was pretty much par for the course, neither my Dad nor I could really dive in and just be with each other, even in deep crisis. We are both cut from the same cloth of it's all about me.

In true Dad nature, Dad starts his "me man, you man" chat it up with Dan. I was rather surprised that Dad didn’t view Dan as being less of a man because he was a nurse, but I quickly began to realize, I was being a jerk in my own head with that thought and told myself to shape up or get the heck out.

My own assumptions, interpretations, limiting beliefs about my Dad were making me less of a man at this moment. Then the tables turned and I had my own metaphorical stroke when I realized the true significance behind the prattle that Dan and dad exchanged.

Let’s tune in…

Dad: That’s my son, Rick! He’s from Riverside, California!

Nurse Dan: Nice to meet ya, Rick.

Me: Nice to meet you! (Of course in my mind I’m thinking…Hot hunk alert instead of asking, “How’d Dad's vitals!”)

Nurse Dan: What do you do in Riverside?

Dad interrupts, in typical Dad In Control Fashion, before I can respond.

Dad: I don’t really understand everything he does, but he’s kind of like a counselor but he calls himself a life coach. He helps people figure stuff out.

Me: Mouth agape, little shocked by my dad’s response, especially after just suffering a stroke, I begin to wonder, “Can we keep him on these drugs because they sure are working!” Then, tripping over my words I respond "I’m a life strategist, blogger, podcaster, author, and motivational speaker."

Dad: See I told you he’s pretty damn smart.

Nurse Dan: Oh wow. I keep telling my wife she should write a book.

Me: I just sent my book proposal to two publishers, hoping for publication this year. Let me know if she’d like some insights.

Dad: See, as I said, I don’t really understand everything he does except for the author and speaking stuff, but it’s all pretty cool.

Turning away, my lips quivering, tears about to bust all over Dad, Nurse Dan, and the bedpan, I realize I’m having my own "Sally Fields" moment with my Dad. Man did I want to shout, “You like me. You really, really love me. And you're proud of me!”

At that point, I resisted the urge to ask Nurse Dan to check my vital signs to ensure I wasn’t having a heart attack, and no it wasn’t so he’d touch me.

I knew then, that Dad and I had crossed over. Not into the great white light, nor to his version of Heaven, or my version of the next part of my spiritual journey from this human experience. I realized we’d just had a (rare) moment. A big Father, Son moment where we got each other and I’d become more of a man, letting go of stuff and the outcome for once.

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A moment where life just rose up to meet us, right where we both were – scared, vulnerable, listening, and actually hearing one another. It was a moment that was powerful, scary, exciting, and frickin’ amazing.

In fact, I actually felt the warm smile of the universe as she walked out the door of Dad’s hospital room, Manolo Blahnik heels, clicking down the hallway, as she sashayed away in her Zac Posen Strapless Seamed Trumpet Gown in smoky charcoal silk!

At that moment, because of a blood clot that wedged itself in the base of my Dad’s brain stem, our hearts opened up. No open-heart surgery is required for either one of us.

I chalk this experience up to three things, plus a stroke.

  1. A handsome angel by the name Nurse Dan got curious about what I do in Riverside, California so that the words could flow out of my Dad’s heart.
  2. A willingness to grow up and be more of the man I was truly meant to embody, with fewer judgments and assumptions weighing me down.
  3. An unexpected stroke and slap in the face that shouted “Wake up and live for the moment because life’s too short.” A compelling message both my Dad and I needed to hear.

All I can say is thank goodness for big moments in life that cause us to see, what really matters, is only what really matters, not what we selfishly contrive ourselves into truly believing matters! And I’m much more thankful than I’ve been in years that my Dad is still here, still driving me batty, still struggling to talk to me, but at least I still got him for that, for now!

Rick Clemons is a certified professional coach, speaker, author, and podcaster who inspires corporations, entrepreneurs, college and university students, and individuals to make their bold moves.