Thursday January 3, 2013
Tuesday, New Years Day, Mom called at 1:00 p.m. She said Dad couldn’t get out of bed. She had severe bronchitis and couldn’t help him. Could I come over?
When I got there, Dad was up. I heated up the lunch the kitchen had delivered for him, made him an Ensure, kept him company for 30-60 min. There was talk about him skipping meals. (When I pressed Mom later, it turned out he’d maybe skipped 2 meals in 2 weeks since Mom got home, so that was a red herring.)
Dad was getting around with the walker with great difficulty. He fell onto the couch trying to let himself down and couldn’t scoot back without my help. I got him settled down in front of the Rose Bowl game and took my leave, went to Buybacks. That’s what I do after I see the folks, treat myself to a CD, DVD, or book. It’s therapy. I’ve made my peace with it, and learned how to do it with some moderation, timewise and moneywise. Immensely preferable to getting drunk.
I was still at Buybacks when Mom called again. Dad couldn’t get out of his chair and Bedford had called 911. I got there just in time to see Dad wheeled out on the gurney.
I stayed with Dad in the ER for several hours. He was coughing and spitting a lot, vomited the entire contents of his stomach once. The x-rays showed possible pneumonia, but it was hard to tell, they said, how much of the cloudiness was the existing asbestosis. He wasn’t running a temp. Most other indicators were negative except anemia, which was also nothing new. At one point, they started to test his walking with a view to possibly sending him home. They took his BP, then had him stand up. His BP plummeted 30 points. That put the kibosh on his going home. After that decision was made and I’d heard the diagnoses, I left with Dad’s blessing.
Went to Barnes & Noble, sat in the coffee shop, had an Americano and a cookie and read a story by H.P. Lovecraft, and bought Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson.
Next day, Wednesday, my brother Richard emailed that Dad had congestive heart failure and pneumonia and a high fever. He had pulled his IV out. I had an attack of dread: it’s the beginning of the end and he’s refusing nutrition.
Turns out he was delirious from the fever. Rich said he had thrown the covers off and said when Rich asked that he was getting in bed. Dad, you’re in bed. Oh. Then he pulled off his oxygen tube. Whatcha doin’, Dad? Just taking off my glasses.
Later the nurses got him comfortable again, able to take medicine and rest.
Today, I’m taking Carol to her cataract surgery at 11:30 and going to see Dad then.
Meanwhile, I’m absorbing the fact that, if Dad’s suffering from congestive heart failure, even if he comes home, he’s not going to be with us much longer. Six or seven years ago he had double valve replacement for congestive heart failure. For the last year or two, his heart has been relying totally on his pacemaker. Another quarter-million-dollar operation is not in the cards.
For 60 years, I’ve been Dad’s doppelganger. It’s the mother of all two-edged swords. From him, I got my temper, alcoholism, abysmal self-esteem, intelligence, creativity, and my sense of integrity and responsibility.
When he goes, a huge part of me’s going to go with him. Perversely, it’s also going to be liberating to finally be free of my abuser. I fully expect to be an emotional basket case on some level. I think of that scene in E.T. where E.T. is dying and Elliot almost dies with him out of sympathy. I might act out, or I might internalize it and go into depression. If I act out, it could take the form of self-destructiveness, or emulating his worst characteristics, or abandoning and repudiating my good, worthy, creative self. However, whatever else happens, what I do not expect is to relapse into drinking or smoking. By the grace of God one day at a time.
P.S. Back from the hospital. The nurse says he's stable. He looks worse than I've ever seen him, even after the bypass. I mean, oh my God. He's alert and cooperating with the staff, though, so that's good.
Oh, yeah, Carol's having another cataract surgery today...