As horrible as the last couple weeks have been, and as much as I may not be able to get my HEART to truly FEEL it right now, there’s something that I see in my mind’s eye, that seems to fit coldly, “logically,” etc.
There was this day back in April 2017–the 6th, specifically–that I got off work, went about my usual routine of doing whatever and winding up back home, eventually. Only that evening, when I walked in the door, I saw through the ‘passthrough’ that Dad was laying on the floor near the fridge.
He was alive, he was EMBARRASSED, but he was alive. He thought he may have blacked out for a moment; found himself on the floor. I tried to help him up to no avail…and we wound up calling 911.
He refused transportation to any hospital–he FELT fine, he’d claimed, etc. The EMTs had managed to get him up and helped him to his chair out in the cave, and that was kinda that. And not a “great” thing to spring on Mom when she got home.
Plenty of other “details” rolling around in my head as I let them, but they’re not necessarily relevant here.
Long story short, though, that Sunday morning–the 9th–with Mom here, too, 911 was called to transport Dad to the hospital. And we spent the vaaaaast majority of the day in the ER, and they finally admitted him. During the wait, he was insistent that I still go to work the next day, that he was fine, etc. Even then, he didn’t want me overly worrying about him.
And so I did. I went to work that next day, and the day after. Even after a terrified moment with crossed signals with Mom and getting into the hospital to “visit,” I somehow managed to work that week. And the situation had felt personal in a way that I never actually shared it with any coworkers.
Then Dad was transferred to a nursing home in Mentor for physical rehab. I still remember when Mom referenced he might be there a couple WEEKS how shocked I felt, at how SIGNIFICANT that seemed. That Dad would be out of this house more than a couple DAYS had already been a long time. Thinking of a couple WEEKS?!?
And the situation continued to…continue, and we had those couple weeks of the hallucinations and such, and whatever else….but he came back to us. Mentally, anyway, at first.
And those couple WEEKS stretched on. Into MONTHS. The doctors never were able to figure out what happened, what caused him to black out or fall or whatever. Nothing was ever determined as to how he got to where he could barely even move. It was some “perfect storm” was what we were told–of a number of things including a UTI that had raged–unknowingly to us all–for weeks before he fell.
Medicare decided he wasn’t getting better, up to their standards ON PAPER, fast enough. They were going to stop covering his stay at the nursing home. Fortunately, the VA came through, and while there were a couple weeks there that he was stuck basically “just” in a bed–with Mom and me visiting every single day (though he had me skip weekends, he wanted me to “have a life”)–ultimately, he wound up at Eliza Bryant in Cleveland, paid for by the VA…the first week or so in July.
Mom would visit him every day during the day…and every day after work, I would stop by. Sometimes we’d talk more than others; sometimes it’d be more of a quick greeting, pleasantries, and he’d send me on my way. He was always so worried about ME and MY “having a life of my own” and I always just kinda let him…though none of it was more important to me than him.
And then in November, the medical folks (and us, of course!) thought things were well enough and we’d get him back home. But shortly after I’d gotten home that night, he fell in the bathroom and we had to have EMTs out again to get him up. And the next day, he was back to a nursing home for about a month.
Just a few days after MY BIRTHDAY, we had to put Ziggy to sleep. That was a Thursday. The following Tuesday, Dad came home, and we had him here–excepting several hospitalizations, including for pneumonia and the cancer–for just over 4 years.
And maybe I’m just rambling here at this point; sooooo many more memories tied up in all that time; so many “moments” at least from the specific visits. But I think what I’m driving at, from the start of this post…
That day that I walked in and “found” him, he was alive.
And as challenging as the 8 months after that were, as taxing as allllll his “health issues” have been, and as much as all three of our lives changed that night and in the years since…
We GOT those years.
It’s very possible, very likely, that every single time I got to see him, talk to him, help him with anything…that every single time since April 6, 2017 was “bonus,” a gift from God.
I’m having a REALLY hard time with it right now; as I type this Sunday evening it’s been 10 days. I want him back. I was already scared as heck that Tuesday, and Wednesday, and while I was not looking forward to the prospect of more months of a nursing home…it was ALL supposed to be in context of his being alive. That we’d still have him. I would still have him.
I have moments that I’d swear he’s just in the other room. I found myself in the movie section of Walmart actually scanning the movies for something that he and I could watch together. This afternoon at Meijer, I was heading for where they have the iced coffee so I could get at least a couple of those for him.
But our “bonus” ran out, and I had NO IDEA it would happen so soon. WHEN it did. I didn’t know the finite size of the gift, and I missed so much. Took so much for granted.
He always came home.
I can’t begin to know what it was truly like for him, on his end; and I know he went through more than I can even imagine as he was the one actually going through the medical stuff. As hard as any of it was on me or Mom…we were “outside” and it was all stuff he was directly facing head-on.
But he always came home.
When he had bad days or week, always had that morning that he’d seemingly “suddenly” be back to normal. I’d go out to the cave and he’d be awake, alert, smiling, greeting ME cheerfully, and the relief that would hit me.
He’d BEATEN the cancer. He was technically in REMISSION. He was here with us. Christmas was supposed to be low key. When he wasn’t feeling well…fine, we were gonna do our “Christmas meal” a few days later when he WAS feeling better. We were supposed to have New Year’s Eve together, as always. Cross the threshold of the years, and be in 2022, him, Mom, me, Daisey, Chloe, Sarah. Just be together, and thankful we’d all made it through another year.
But our bonus ran out.
And I’m writing these words instead, trying to focus thoughts, trying to keep my mind from going back to that hospital room. Trying to hold myself together because my life is now missing something huge, and I’m just…lost.