This is a little something I wrote on September 1, 2009. I thought it would be appropriate to post it here to give some insight to the past few months… tami
The drive to my parents’ house never seemed so long. Three a.m. phone call – dad’s going to the hospital – stop by to pick up his I.D. and insurance card on your way. Someone has to stay with mom, and truth be told, her care is more involved than I feel able to provide. So, I elect to be the one to meet dad in the E.R. All I know is he was having intense abdominal pain in the night. The doubled over, Jesus Help Me kind of pain that you just can’t ignore. Driving along, I pass a convoy of fire trucks from various California cities and counties on the freeway. Must be relocating to another fire, I think. They are heading away from the Big One, the Station Fire, which has doubled in size every day since it started. Or maybe they are going around the mountain to the backside to catch up with the advancing flames in the high desert. As the crow flies, and as the flames burn, the town of Acton is just the other side of that ridge. But driving there, as we humans must do, is another matter.
Arriving at my parent’s house to pick up the documents, I find every light on. It looks like a place the paramedics have just invaded. My brother is giving mom a breathing treatment for her acute emphysema, sitting by her bedside with his head in his hands. I can’t help but wonder about all the lights. It seems like such a harsh environment – so different from the calm I encountered while visiting the afternoon before. I decide it’s just because of the commotion tonight, and I’m on my way with the promise to call as soon as I know anything.
A paramedic ambulance approaches in the opposing lanes of traffic; I think they must be returning to the station after dropping off my dad. No one’s around, I guess it won’t hurt to go 55 on a city street just this once. As I drive, I’m strangely calm ‐ yet the tears well up. Dad’s 90, I tell myself, it’s just a matter of time. . I know all this in my head, but losing my precious daddy and mommy will be a tough pill to swallow one day. Please God, just not today. My son starts his freshman year of college this week and it would be nice to get him settled and grounded before he has to deal with such a loss. And my daughter has just started her senior year of a very demanding college major. I’d really appreciate giving her some more time, as well. We never have time to mourn a loved one’s loss, do we? It’s just something that we DO. I know my thoughts are selfish, yet practical at the same time. But when has God ever been practical? No, He is all‐knowing and just, but practical? I think not. I give up my trivial pursuit and give in to God’s omniscience. A prayer, “he’s your child, Lord, take him home in your time,” wells within me and I know that’s exactly what will happen. Whether it fits my schedule or not.
At the hospital, I find dad sitting up, apparently pain‐free. It must be confusing to be 90, your body constantly in competition with your mind. He wonders why I’m here, wonders why he’s here, then wants to know if I brought his hearing aids. I didn’t. Still, he seems to be able to hear the doctor and me if we speak loudly. We’d know for sure if his answers made any sense. First thing I notice is it’s time for me to give dad another pedicure. Which, I might add, we both enjoy immensely. Something about the silliness of laughing our way through foot soaking and nail trimming is comforting. I’m wondering, though, how could his toenails have grown so long in a few short weeks? And how does he manage to wear shoes with those things?
A girl seemingly too young to be working the E.R. night shift asks for dad’s I.D. and insurance card. My big brother sure knows the drill, I think, and hand her the documents he’s prepared for me to bring. She asks whether he was admitted two weeks ago when he was here. My foggy non‐caffeinated brain finally connects with the information she needs. No, he was just here for a foot x‐ray. I notice the bruising across his toes is subsiding. Another mysterious pain and evident injury of an unknown source. He thinks my frail little 90‐year‐old mom kicked him in the night to cause the foot bruising and suspected fracture. If that’s even a possibility, I should only hope she had that kind of strength in the daytime. Oh, and there’s the black eye. “All I did was scratch a little scab,” dad says.
Dad keeps asking the time; 4:45, 5:00, 5:11, 5:13, and finally is distracted by the radiologist taking him for a CT scan to locate the source of his pain. He still insists he’s fine, which I hope he is, and just wants to go home. I don’t blame him. At this point I’m thinking it’s a good thing I forgot the hearing aids; the beeping noises are enough to give me a headache ‐ they would only serve to confuse him even more. Back from the CT scan and lying down now with a warm blanket covering him, he seems resigned to staying here until they are done with him. His incessant “I want to go home,” has stopped and he is resting peacefully. He has also stopped apologizing for causing me the trouble of coming here.
Like most medical emergencies, we have good news and bad news. The good news is a pesky hernia caused the pain. As the doctor, a man of infinite grace and patience even as his long E.R. nightshift comes to an end, shows me how to gently press everything back into place he mentions the bad news. The CT scan has revealed an aortic aneurysm of epic proportions. Anything over 5.0 centimeters is considered a ticking time bomb. Dad’s is at 7.1 centimeters and is long, thoracic and abdominal.
When I think of my many friends who have lost a dad, mom, or even a spouse, I am reminded of how blessed I’ve been to still have both my dear parents at 90 years of age. They will celebrate their 71st wedding anniversary next week. I was their late‐in‐life baby surprise. Although they are frail of body and weak of mind, the spirit keeps holding on to life with a vise grip – perhaps for each other. Our days are indeed numbered by Almighty God. In the flesh alone, both mom and dad should have been gone by now ‐‐ but God has more for us to learn from them. More about ourselves, perhaps. Or maybe, more about Him.
As we wait, and wait, and wait for the discharge papers, I help dad to the restroom a few times. Even that doesn’t seem like a chore anymore. He laughs when his hospital gown touches the toilet water. At least he still knows what’s funny. And I realize God has used this morning to remind me that each day is a gift, and I will cherish those gifts with my heart and soul.
Exactly one month after this little trek to the hospital, I was back there again – for the last time with my dad. The hospital staff lovingly and with great care helped us walk through the last few hours of my dad’s life after discovering a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Dr. Lee knelt and prayed with the family, nurses came to express their condolences, and it was a peaceful, quiet and painless home‐going for my sweet dad. His heart stopped beating on October 1, 2009 at 10:09 p.m.