Wednesday. 3:30 am. I was awakened by twisted legs that betrayed my exhausted body. I was forced out of my warm cozy bed to try to straighten out the pain when a bout of nausea slapped me in the face. I stumbled to the bathroom where I spent the next hour crying out “please help me!”
Of course my husband snores so loud he and sleeps so deep that he never heard me. I staggered back to bed around 4:45 and tried to grab just one more hour of sleep. 6am came too soon. I opened my eyes to a text message from my sister. It said “I think Dad had some kind of seizure. He fell at 3:30 am. I think he needs to go to the hospital. Say some prayers.”
I knew it was going to be a bad day. I just knew it. I started to wake up the kids. The sudden change of weather had everyone searching for clean jeans instead of athletic shorts. Tucker couldn’t seem to wake up. He was groggy. ‘I’m still throwing up, ” he complained. Great, time to call the doctor. It’s been a month of Tums and Tagament and that’s not normal for an 11 year old.
I got everyone off to school. I wanted to lay back down and take a nap but too many things were pulling at me. Blondie crawled in my bed and said “Mama you have to take care of me today. I don’t feel good.”
A wave of anger washed over me. I guess because I knew I wanted to, and I knew that I couldn’t…
By 10:30 I had Tucker diagnosed with a stomach ulcer. I called the nurse for Blondie. I headed to see my doctor. I drove 25 miles to find out that I can no longer refill my medicine. Another Obamacare bonus just for me! Yay!
While I drove home I called my mother. I tried to beat around the bush but I finally told her “Dad looked really bad the other day, I am afraid he might die soon.” It’s hard to say a man dressed to the nines in polished shoes looks bad, but his skin was nearly orange and there was a shake to him I hadn’t seen before.
I’d just seen him the week before and I left feeling shaken by this pillar of a man. In fact when the weekend came, my husband and my son went to drive a Nascar with him, and I said “have a good day, this may be the last time you get to do something like this with Pawpaw.” I don’t know why I am cursed with this damn intuition, but I’m always right and sometimes it really sucks. My mother assured me that he finally had a doctor’s appointment but I couldn’t help but feel like it wasn’t enough. Still, I have a zoo to run so I went home and picked up my son who jammed his thumb in football. He needed ice and ibuprofen. Then I went shopping for Blondie’s favorite potato soup. As I was checking out, I got a call that one of my children needed a change of clothes. I headed to the elementary school. I got there just in time to find my youngest child in the Principal’s office. Apparently she found her teacher’s redirect comical. She was told to “put a bubble in her mouth” (aka shush) and she laughed. Not a good move for Miss Priss. I took her home and made her miss iTigers and dance class.
I cooked the soup but Blondie was gone again before it was ready. Then Daddy called, he desperately needed paint thinner to finish a car, so I dished out soup and headed out again. When I got to the shop I spent a few minutes visiting a cousin who happened to be there. Then I loaded up the kids who rode along and we headed back home. Just as I pulled into the driveway my phone rang. “He fell again. We’re headed to St. Davids.”
I jumped back in my Yukon and headed out. My oldest son went with me. Just as we got to the next town, Blondie called. She had a fever, doctors wanted her to go back to the ER. There I was, desperately wishing I could be in 2 places at once. But I knew my mother needed me the most, so on I drove to be with her. By the time I got to the hospital his breathing was shallow. He was intubated. Things weren’t looking good.
Doctors came in a out.
Bleeding in the brain.
Transferred to another hospital. Non-responsive. Call the family…
The calls were hard. Some people cried uncontrollably. Some were angry. Shock. Lots of shock. This man was only 63 years old and the older I get, the younger I know that is.
I checked on Blondie, more tests. 11pm. There was this moment. My mother was crying over him. She begged him to wake up. She said “yell at me. Tell me to leave you alone. Scream that it’s too cold in here. Come back to me!” She wept in his shoulder. She grabbed his hand. “Hold my hand Carroll”, she pleaded with him over and over. There was one tear in his eye. The doctors found no response. I think he said goodbye. I think the one faint squeeze of my mother’s hand was his goodbye.
1am another sister arrived. She cried. We waited. I checked on Blondie. She was admitted.
3am another sister arrived. More tears. My mother finally realized that he was gone. Blondie called. I told her all hope was gone. She told me to go get the brain surgeon and force him to fix it. She cried. I cried.
5:30, the last sister pulled in. A long night on the road, I’m sure. I wanted to hug her but I couldn’t. She was the final piece of the puzzle. His advanced directive clearly outlined his wishes. Tubes were removed. We stared awkwardly as the monitor beeped slower and slower. I watched his heart rate. 78. 56. 42. 58. 63. 35. 24. 14. 9. 6. 6. 000000000———
Blondie called. Right as the moment passed. She felt it. I felt it.
It was the longest day. I stopped by the hospital. Surgery for Blondie in the morning. I went home. I broke little hearts with the news. The boys cried silent tears. They asked technical questions. Miss Priss pounded her fists and told me no. He couldn’t be dead. She wanted her Pawpaw back. She reached for Heaven, disappointed that she couldn’t bring him out of the clouds.
I bought new coffee mugs and made hot apple cider. We tried to snuggle and watch movies. I felt so cold…
I tried to close my eyes. I saw his face over and over. My regrets tangled with my joys and my sorrows kept me from sleeping.
My dad and my daughter both went to the hospital at the same time. But he died. My dad died. Yes, he was my step-dad, but he was my dad just as much. He was flawed and grumpy and strong and brilliant and he loved me and I loved him. I was blessed to have 2 dads, and now I’ve lost one and there is so much to process.
Forgive me if this isn’t the only time I weave my words around him and these memories that are calling out to me today… Rest in peace, Dad. You were wrong. You said only the good die young, and that guaranteed you another 50 years. Guess you had some good you didn’t know about….