It is day three of the second worst ordeal of my life. The first was the death of my mother.
On Monday, Dad came to Rosh HaShanah luncheon — cheery as always, gracious as always, happy to be with family, as always. Lest you think he was an angel on earth, he did hold forth as to matters of politics, HOSOB’s painting, or poorly behaved people in his congregation. He doesn’t say anything in a catty way; as to the latter category, he merely sees their inadequacies as explanation of their behavior.
As the lunch wound down, we all said our goodbyes. We all kissed and hugged Dad and wished him a happy and healthy new year. He wished us the same with a force that can only come from a parent to child. It was not unusual. No portents of the coming events.
SOB and I often talk about that one day when Dad is late to a dinner or doesn’t pick up the phone. That one day when Dad leaves us. We always wanted it to be quick and painless – a coda for a life well-lived and a fortunate man who shared his good fortune with others.
We were not prepared for a call that Dad collapsed in the street (on his way to a doctor’s appointment) and had a huge contusion on his head and some bleeding into his brain. SOB and I rushed to the hospital. As the day wore on, the confusion seemed more pronounced and settled. He knows us but he doesn’t really except that he is calm with us and he trusts us. So, there is some comprehension through the haze. And his essential personality is intact. He is a lovely man and the nurses are happy to take care of someone who says please and thank you and generally grateful for the help.
Dad is in ICU and there is a kids’ playroom, so the nurse gave us a ball to throw with him that first day.
Final score: Reflexes: 90%; Cognition: 0%; His humanity: 100%.
For day two, he mostly slept, with notable interruptions of bursts of songs from the Big Band years. The nurses love it but, then again, they haven’t heard Dad’s limited set for as many years as we have. Late that night he got confused and fell.
Day three started with physical therapy. He can walk, with assistance. He had a vague sense of POB and me. He quickly fell back to asleep. He slept through an echo-cardiogram (which looked good even to a non-doctor). He had another round of physical therapy. He walked fast and steady. And he did call SOB by name (no, he does not call his eldest daughter “SOB”). I hope the anti-seizure medication will wear off because it is adding to his confusion. He seems to remember us by name now. A few minutes have passed. Ok, not so much any more. Reflexes: 30%; Cognition: 0.5%; His humanity: steady at 100%.
But wait there is more. Today, the Kumbaya Guitar Lady/The Singing Nun came by because she heard that Dad likes to sing. Fortunately, he slept through it. We, however, could not.
While Dad slept, we spoke with nursing services and got things in order for Dad.
Then I called his long term care carrier. After one hour of terrible telephone music, only interrupted by being transferred from claims to intake to woman from hell, I learned that long term care kicks in after 100 days of 24/7 care diagnosis.
“So, if Dad is still alive, we’ll talk,” I said.
“Oh, no, someone will contact you in 5 business days to go over everything we just went over.”
“But we just went over everything, didn’t we? And what if I am unavailable when the call comes?”
“No problem, m’am, you can schedule the call.”
OK, I thought, let’s schedule a call for a hypothetical need that 3.5 months from now and they won’t pay the full freight. “Great, mornings are best for me —“
“Oh, no, m’am,” she interrupted, “you can’t schedule with ME. When you missed the first call, you can call back to reschedule. But we promise that we will make the first call within 5 business days.”
Oh, great. “Take your time, really,” I said.
It was 5 pm on a Friday and the private nurse service hasn’t called. So I called the service.
“Your call is important to us so please continue to hold, or if you would like, leave a message and we will return the call in 30 minutes.”
Really? Nah. So, I wait on the line. After hearing those words not less than 9 times, I have imagined that the recording said, “if you are a patient and have died while waiting for us to answer, please accept our condolences.” Actually, they were lovely when I finally reached a human.
So now we need to have someone manage the care that Dad needs. A house manager, as it were. We can sit with him and talk to him and feed him, but fill out the forms? Are you kidding me?
So, SOB, POB and I chat while Dad is sleeping. We discuss that HOSOB should bring the painting that Dad critiques and tell Dad that he won’t change the size of the car in the street scene. Just get it off his chest. Or maybe HOSOB can tell Dad about the dangers of fracking, because while we agree with him, we don’t need the details. At least not now, when we can only focus on Dad and, possibly, showering and brushing our teeth.
BOB arrived and we sat with Dad through dinner and for a while afterward. Dad was awake but confused. BOB got to do the manly things that we girls hesitate to do so as to give Dad some privacy and dignity.
Sidebar: BOB asked Dad if he was sleeping well in the hospital, and Dad nodded yes. This surprised BOB because unfortunately he has been hospitalized a few times and can never get a good night’s sleep. SOB offered matter-of-factly, “sleeping well in a hospital requires a brain injury”. We say the craziest things when we have to wear hair-nets and sterilized robes, while sitting on in our Dad’s room in the ICU Burn unit because there are no beds in regular ICU. All these plastic surgeons running around and my father is in bad shape and I have to stop from thinking, “should I ask someone about my droopy eyelids?”
So, what have we learned today: brain bleeds are bad but if you have one you can sleep soundly in a hospital and everyone looks ugly in hair-nets. Was this knowledge really necessary? Nooooooooooooooooo.
I always worried how Dad would die. But I never worried that there would be anything left unsaid. I am lucky that way.