Last month when I met with the surgeon and we picked October 1st as my surgery date I immediately began to plan out my medical leave. I knew the activities had to be limited as I would only have use of my left arm.
__Cull through the mountain of unread magazines
__Gather ideas online for decorating for Christmas
__Start eating healthier
__ Rest, relax & pray
When I first called my dad to give him my surgery date he told me he would get a plane ticket to come help take care of me since he knew Bill had to travel and wouldn’t be home while I was still in a sling.
I teased him because he had just been in the hospital himself with a lung infection and other medical problems & I asked what sort of “help” he could have provided. He laughed as well and we talked about the possibility of flying up my mother-in-law who is a retired nurse. He quickly offered to purchase her plane tickets & it gave us both a peace of mind to know that I would be looked after during my recuperation.
About eight hours after my surgery I gave my dad a call to tell him I was stable and in a hospital room. He was short of breath, and was having a difficult time talking and told me he had fallen earlier and had called friends who were just about to take him to the emergency room. Thankfully I was pumped full of drugs and didn’t get too alarmed. My dad has made dozens of emergency room trips & hospital stays in the past few years b/c of numerous medical concerns.
I called him again Wednesday morning while I was in the hospital and he was still short of breath. He explained to me he couldn’t talk because the nurses were coming in to run some tests. I told him I loved him and that I would call him after I got discharged from the hospital. When I called him that evening I was back in the comfort of my own home and the medications that had been fogging my brain had worn off.
This time the phone conversation scared me. He was still short of breath and kept the conversation very short. As soon as I hung up I texted my Aunt Martha and told her that I was worried and asked if she could possibly get a better assessment of his condition and to let me know if she thought me & my brother needed to rush to Houston.
She texted me back with the phone number for the ICU nurse & explained she & my Uncle Clark were packing & would make the 3 hour trip to the hospital first thing in the morning. I called the nurse & asked her if we needed to be concerned. My dad had been saying he had a “really bad kidney infection” I asked the nurse point blank if my dad was in kidney failure and she assured me that he only had a kidney infection and they were taking care of him.
I texted my Aunt @ 6:34 in the morning asking her to update me when as soon as she got to the hospital. I could have easily called the ICU, or even my dad’s cell. For some reason I just sat there waiting for my Aunt. At 9:14 a.m. my Aunt called. I immediately felt shaky & nauseated. My Aunt Martha is one of the strongest people I’ve ever known; as soon as I picked up the phone I recognized the grief in her voice & I knew she was delivering bad news.
My dad’s poor body had shutdown at 6:12 AM.
That’s so like him. I would often call him on my way to work even though it was an hour earlier in Texas, knowing full well he’d been up since 5 o’clock. He and I are both early birds and I guess he just decided to check that one final task off his to do list first thing in the morning.
The next two days were pretty blurry. I didn’t want to take any post surgery pain medication because I didn’t want to be fuzzy or foggy during this whole process.
I can’t tell you how many times each day I ask somebody “what day is this?” Time is all blurred together. It’s been so strange and surreal.
So my “medical leave To Do list” has dramatically changed. Instead of flipping through magazines I’ve been reading through my dad’s 9 pages of notes titled “What to do after I die”. I’ve been talking to the staff @ the Cremation Place that he pre-paid for. I’ve been looking at photos, I’ve been crying, rehashing and regretting. I’ve been communicating with my Aunt , Uncle, mom, and brother. It was agreed that traveling to Texas 2 days after surgery wasn’t a good idea. While I hate not being there, I know my dad would want me to be safe & not to risk anything. Since he chose to be cremated we don’t have to rush & planning a lovely memorial service is the next thing on my to do list.
Maybe it’s better that it happened this way? I already had arranged for time off from work and had delegated my duties to my coworkers. I was already planning on being home all week and “taking it easy”
I have deeply appreciated the kind words from other young adults (hmm-wait, is 44 considered young adult?) such as myself who’ve also had to face the unexpected death of a parent.
I think we all assume that our parents will live a long, full life. The challenge for me now is to accept that although it wasn’t long, my dad’s life was very full.
Rest in peace Big Me.