Monday, December 28, 2015

Dad's Final Hours from Afar

Yes, okay, it was true, father was 92 and he'd had a roll-over accident during a 4 wheeler ride in the desert with my eldest brother. Anyone else at that age and you'd expect consequences. Long drawn out painful consequences, but Dad was going to live forever. I was confident of this truth.

Hearing details from a distance is much different than being at someone's side. Deep down I knew this, but refused to acknowledge it. My brother sent daily emails--all in the positive, humorous style of the entire family. "Dad has 4 broken ribs and a small puncture in one lung", but here's a photo of him smiling, relaxing on his couch with happy hour lifted to the camera holder.

The undercurrent of the story was that the pain was great and the first hospital doctor insisted on tampering with his meds. Meds that had only recently been brought into a delicate balance to keep the fluid in his lungs at bay. Several days later, brother messaged us that Dad woke up in the morning struggling to breathe. He drove him to a different hospital this time. One that had been either recommended or where Dad had had a previous positive experience.

The first daily message and photo showed Dad hooked up to all possible and necessary machines to keep his oxygen levels up and to drain the fluid from his lungs. Soon the photos showed him walking carefully with assistance down the hallway. My eldest sister had joined brother by this time.

Then December 1 arrived and after work I sat in Karyn's hairstylist chair, keeping up a lively, heartfelt banter about our parents' health. I could feel the constant vibrations of what had to be a text discussion amongst my family members. The knowing/grown-up part of my brain that I'd been trying to tamp down was concerned, but I decided it could wait. Cell phones shouldn't be something we have to always pick-up. Real people should be the priority. Besides, what could I do at that moment that I couldn't do later?

Once I climbed into my car for the drive home, I pulled out my phone before turning the ignition key. My neatly piled heap of denial came tumbling down, as I read my eldest sister's words: Dad was ready and wanted to go. I raged and howled and weeped to no one, as I navigated the car through rush hour traffic. I blamed the desert. I blamed the doctor at the first hospital. I wished I could immediately materialize at his bedside.

Looking back at that moment, what I remember most was how Karyn had delivered a statement that seemingly foreshadowed the whole event, "When our parents are that age, they can handle one or two big medical events, but no more than that. Too much and it's more than their bodies can deal with." And (at that moment) I raged at Karyn the hairstylist.

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