Changes to Dad's Breathing

Over the winter months, I went home to see my family. While my dad and I sat in front of the flickering blue television screen, I began to notice something new: His breathing had changed. He was wheezing.

I tried not to panic when I noticed the change. There had to be a logical reason for the shift. Maybe he was sick. I knew that his exercise routine had been compromised after Rock Steady Boxing had to close its doors during the pandemic.

And he often tells me that he isn’t enough of a self-starter to engage in a routine while he’s at home. But I didn’t realize that it would impact the way he breathed.

Fearing for my dad

Later in the week, I went to see my cousin, who is a nurse by trade. I barely made it in the door before tears began spilling down my cheeks.

I’d never been good at hiding from her, and how was I supposed to bottle up my fears now? The words came out of my mouth like a flash flood. I told her that my Dad was wheezing and that I didn’t want to have to watch him grow old.

It’s one thing to age naturally, doing everything you can to prolong your life. But I felt that it was an entirely different thing to watch someone decline when you feel they could be doing more. Why wouldn’t he ride his bike?

Why isn't he exercising?

When I lived at home, he often asked me to ride a loop around the neighborhood with him. The socialization and time spent together seemed like an extra bit of encouragement to make him active.

But eventually, I moved out of state, and I couldn’t be there for him anymore. When the cold months wrapped their arms around Michigan, he turned to his indoor bicycle to meet his needs. But now, it appeared that even that was an ephemeral practice.

Maybe it was that the fatigue was getting to him. He wanted to relax around the holidays to take full advantage of the season. Or perhaps he was injured.

I made excuses for him in my mind, thinking that there must be a reason. When I finally stopped talking, my cousin told me that I had reason to be worried.

Increasing lung strength

When your lung strength begins to falter, it makes you even more susceptible to illnesses like pneumonia or – god forbid — COVID-19.

She told me that there are devices that you can use to strengthen your lungs. And exercise helps. But desperation and anger filled my mind, not sure that I could convince him to fight harder even if I tried.

The next day, I returned home, trying to open myself to the idea that he was doing his best. My little sister revealed that he had been struggling with knee pain, and my frustration evaporated.

Maybe I just caught him in the middle of a resting streak, and there wasn’t anything to worry about. I tucked my anxiety away, hoping that I wouldn’t have to unleash them again.

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