So our nightmare with my Dad and his illnesses continues. For about 11 days, he was in the hospital, a really good hospital but – to us – a sad and ultimately confusing place. Different doctors told us different things, sometimes within mere minutes of each other. More testing needed to be done, they told us, for us to really come up with a plan. I sat my mother down and said in essence to her “no more”. No more invasive testing, no more medical procedures, no more poking and prodding and making him more uncomfortable than he already was. Whatever these tests would find, would it really make a difference in what is likely to be the ultimate outcome? She came to the same conclusion I had. Enough already; send my dad, her husband home.
We had, each in our own way I think, started down the path to accepting the true reality of my Dad’s situation. Three major illnesses were diagnosed, each making the other two worse. What can we do, we asked them, and one of them was finally good enough to tell us to get him into rehab. Make him stronger, he said. Therapy and rest will be good for him. He’ll be back on his feet in about a week.
So we investigated and visited and interviewed people in rehab facilities and picked what seemed to be the best one, mere minutes from my house. They promised excellent care and understanding and focus on our goal, which was to get him home, the place he wanted to be. And maybe I’m naive or trusting or gullible but I always take people at their word and so, when things don’t measure up to what I’m told, I get disappointed usually. But sometimes I get angry.
My Mom and I have had to become fairly vocal advocates for what my Dad needs. We ask him what’s been done for him while we’re gone and he tell us what he remembers and then we try to discern whether his memory is solid or faulty on one issue or another. Because he’s so disoriented, so confused, so sad over what’s going on that we’re not quite sure what he understands or comprehends. Today he asked me why he was in rehab. He didn’t remember what had landed him in the hospital in the first place. I told him the whole story of what had happened and he didn’t seem to remember a lot of it. And I can accept that but his clear sadness, what seems to be him withdrawing from us a little more each day is breaking my spirit. I’m trying to be strong in front of him and my Mom and even my great kid and holding on to what little self-control I have at this point is so important to me. But the last few days, I lost it. My patience was at an end when dealing with the rehab center and I let them know how angry I was; I sobbed on the shoulder of my dentist’s office manager today when she asked me how my dad was.
Friday night we got a phone call from the rehab center. We have a medical emergency here and we’re rushing him to the ER. Should we come there and travel with him to the ER, or just go right to the hospital? Take your time, the nurse on duty told us. It will be at least an hour before we can get an ambulance here. So off we raced, exceeding the speed limit ever so slightly, to get to the rehab center. We called on the way to let them know we were almost there. Don’t worry, Nurse Ratched told my mom, the ambulance still isn’t here.
We got there and raced in. And he was gone, already en route to the hospital. Why didn’t you call us and let us know to turn around and head there, we asked? Why didn’t you let us know? And we were met with a boatload of attitude from as rude a medical professional as I’ve ever encountered. I left shouting and my sainted mother – who, if you know her, would know how little she ever loses her temper – walked out calling the nurse an a**ho*e.
We met up with my Dad at the ER and he was crying and confused. From what we could gather, he was woken up and told he was being taken to the hospital without being told why. I want to go home, he said. I’m tired of all this, he complained. And what could we say? Because that’s what we want too and it doesn’t look like it’ll happen any time soon.
Fortunately, the medical issue was resolved within hours and about 4:00 a.m. we all made our way home, he back to rehab and my mom, my great kid and me back to my house to try to sleep. But sleep didn’t come easy, even though my body was exhausted. My mind wouldn’t stop.
I sat for a long time on my couch and thought. Thought about how 2 weeks before – no time at all, really but a lifetime ago in truth – I had gone about my daily activities thinking that life was good and that my parents were invincible. True, my Dad had been slowing down for a few months but it was nothing serious. He wasn’t sick, as far as we knew. It was just age catching up with him.
But now I know that’s not true. We all incorporate a certain amount of fantasy into our lives, tell ourselves lies to help us get through the day, the week, the year. We convince ourselves that the bad stuff happens to other people, that somehow we – and the ones we love – are above it or invincible to it. How we love to tell ourselves these things to help us keep on keeping on. And then one day it all comes back to smack you in the face.
I know how this will end. My Mom knows how this will end. My great kid knows how this will end. My sisters may or may not – I hold no special insight into their souls and talking about this is a topic we don’t really broach easily.
Writing these words, writing on this topic at all makes me weep. I know my tears are for me, and not for my Dad. I know I cry for what I am losing even though my faith in God enables me to believe that a better place awaits him. But cry I still do. And cherish every minute I spend with him, every old story we re-tell and laugh about, every episode of Judge Judy we watch and comment on, every chocolate shake I bring him and watch him savor, every time I help him stand up or sit down or give him a blanket or adjust his pillow. All of it is precious.
In my heart of hearts, I know that none of us is promised tomorrow. But please let me have some more tomorrows with my Dad.