Sunday, February 19, 2006

Phone Home. Tonight.

Have you ever been in a situation where you couldn't verbalize, explain or quantify it, but you just knew that something was wrong?

I was talking to my dad on Friday, pursuant to hearing that he had been diagnosed with pneumonia and given antibiotics and bedrest, checking in on him. He sounded a little bit "off" and I almost talked myself out of being worried. I called my sister just to talk through my ostensible overreaction which prompted her to leave work to go check on him. I then called the Baby Daddy to get on home to watch The Bambina, and I headed on up to his house as well. Even as I was driving up there, I was preparing my defense for having created a family drama where none existed. But a part of me had a bad feeling, just knew that something was not right even if I couldn't say specifically what.

Short story long, we got to my dad's house to find him lying in bed, gasping for air and looking gray. Niiiiice. Cue the 911 call, the 14 hours in the ER, and various diagnoses ranging from pneumonia to congestive heart failure to rampant infection of unknown origin to ARDS to multiple organ failure.

It's now Sunday and I'm writing this while sitting next to my dad's hospital bed where he--finally--is getting some sleep. He was up all night unable to breathe due to fluid in his lungs and heart. I went home last night to get some sleep and awoke to my sister's "get here now; things are not good" phone call. It was such a punch in the stomach because he had seemed to be improving last night to the extent that I actually left the hospital and went home to get some desperately-needed sleep.

My mom and sister have gone to get us some lunch and I am sitting here, quietly reading some Robert Burns to my dad as he sleeps. As I look at him, this now-frail, struggling-for-breath wee man, I feel the same way I do when I look at the Bambina. Those tender feelings for someone you love infinitely, want to protect desperately, and want to meet their every basic need. It is a feeling simultaneously heartbreaking and humbling. Heartbreaking because I want him to once again be the dad I know, the eccentric, gregarious, devil-may-care, completely embarrassing, energetic, go-get-em man who taught me to fly with the wings I have rather than curse my wingspan.

It's humbling because I feel a sense of gratitude that I have the opportunity to care for him, that I can alleviate his pain in some small way by rubbing his feet or putting the straw in his mouth for water or (dare I say it) helping him with his physical needs while ensuring that I give him his dignity as both a man and as my father. So many people don't get this opportunity; they lose people suddenly, shockingly--or they lose them over the course of years where no amount of tending can alleviate their pain and trauma. I feel lucky to have this time with him, whether he is conscious of it or not.

I believe my dad will be okay and will live to embarrass me again. But I also believe that if he does not, that being so close to him during these days will someday give me a peace and contentment that I cannot currently see or feel when I ponder what my life without him would be like.

So what's my point?
Never silence your inner voice when it's telling you something is wrong. And call your mother. Call your father. Tell them you love them. Do it every week no matter what. You will never regret it.

1 comment:

runner said...

I'm already dialing. Thanks for sharing this, E. It is truly remarkable that you can take something so personal and make it something universal without being maudlin or cheesy.

Good thoughts to everyone there from the West Coast.