So a routine doctor visit for my dad 9 days ago has turned into unimaginable sadness and confusion and disbelief for all of us. My father went for a vascular test, got off the table after the exam, felt dizzy and – after having a nurse take his blood pressure, which was suddenly sky-high after weeks of being dangerously low – was sent rushing to the emergency room. They’d get the BP under control sooner rather than later, my great kid and I thought, as we went over there for a brief visit on the way to my son’s Ring Day ceremony that night. We debated not going to the ceremony but my dad was adamant that we must go. He was upset enough that he couldn’t go so, to make him happy, and knowing they’d have this little issue resolved quickly, off we went.
But the next day, after running what seemed at the time some fairly innocuous and routine tests, we started getting the first of many increasingly worse reports that have continued even until today. His heart wasn’t pumping blood at anywhere near a normal capacity. His lungs were filled with fluid and affecting his breathing. His kidneys were having serious issues. Stay until Monday, the doctors told him. We’ll find out the problem and you should be able to go home then. He complained about having to stay a few more days but we convinced him he should. He was in a lovely, private room with a view of a park; he was in a Catholic hospital with an excellent reputation, populated with wonderful caregivers from doctors to techs to nursing assistants; he trusted the advice he was being given. This was but a speed bump on the road to recovery.
And then Monday came and we were hit with one bad medical report after another, our heads dizzy from trying to keep track of doctors who came in and gave us summaries of their analysis of whatever condition they treated and overwhelmed with how would we put all the pieces back together again for my dad. His heart was in serious trouble and needed to be examined surgically, his kidneys were in terrible shape, his lungs were failing and he needed breathing treatments. How could this be? This was a man who – although he wasn’t in tip-top condition – had lived 83 relatively healthy years, a man who until a few months ago was climbing ladders to put something in my attic, a man who truly had no major health issues at all. I called my sister in Seattle, who had been saying for several days that she wanted to come in and see him, and told her she needed to come. Just saying those words scared me probably more than it scared her.
But boy, when things go wrong, did they ever go wrong. And it became – and still is – frustrating to have doctors seemingly contradicting each other at every turn. He needs a defibrillator, one said. No, his heart catheterization indicated no defibrillator, said the other. He’ll need to be here another week, we heard yesterday. He can go home – or at least into rehab – on Monday, we were told today, assuming all goes well with the next round of tests. I left there today feeling helpless and angry. Why can’t all these doctors talk to each other and come up with a plan of action that is consistent?
But, in my heart of hearts, I know that my anger and helplessness and frustration and sadness and yes, my heartbreak, is that my dad – and it pains me more than you can imagine to think, to say, to even write these words – may be coming to the end of his journey here on earth.
I know that I am beyond blessed to – at the age of 56 – still have both my parents with me. My own mother lost both her parents by the time she was 26 and I know many, many people who lost one or both of their parents very early in life. And I thank God for the many, many blessings he has bestowed on me and my entire family. He gave me wonderful parents who love each other dearly and have been married for 57 years, who have raised 3 truly great girls (if I can be so immodest) and been gifted with 3 terrific grandchildren. He has surrounded all of us – especially these days – with love and concern and kindness and a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to cry on when that’s what we need. And I know that my tears and heartbreak are for me and not for my dad. If his journey here on earth is about to end, I know deep inside that he will go to a far better place surrounded by family and friends who he has lost over the years, waiting to welcome him home.
I am trying so desperately not to be selfish with my prayers, to not ask for the impossible, but to ask for strength and grace and endurance and appreciation for all I have been given, for the gift that is my dad. In an ideal world, they will be able to fix what is wrong with my dad and send him home and we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas and his next birthday and their next anniversary all together and this will all have turned out to be a couple of long, tough weeks that will be behind us. But I suspect I don’t live in an ideal world and I’m not sure I can imagine a world without my dad in it.
So all I can do is pray and believe that my higher power will take care of all of us in whatever way he decides is best and trust that, no matter what happens, my dad will always live inside my heart.