Just before Thanksgiving we discovered my father was in the hosptial in SC where he has lived alone for the last 10 years. He was very ill and they were reccommending hospice. As I mentioned earlier I had a whirl wind trip to see him in the hospital. It was a long and exhausting trip for such a short one but I'm glad I went and I feel good about how it did go.
I started my trip on a Thursday evening driving 3 hours south to Kalamazoo where I met my Sister Big and taught her how to post a comment in return for a warm bed and some microwave popcorn. Yum! I slept pretty well after the initial onslaught of coughing that worried me that I was struck with an upper respiratory virus that would inadvertently kill the ailing I came across in the hospital. But I slept hard and well and woke up without a cough but fighting an ugly sinus infection.
I picked up my mother (who lives about 4 miles from Sister Big) and drove 2 hours to the Detroit airport. Mom talked the whole way, which was fine with me because I find driving very boring and do require some entertainment from my assistant driver. Once we got there and were settled, I pushed my mother around in a wheelchair (because of her heart condition) from check in to flight. I think that made her feel weird, but I tell you, find an invilid next time you fly because they'll take your right to the front of the screening checkpoint and you get through in a breeze! No waiting at all! Then they let us ride on one of those beeping carts! It was amazing how many people were totally oblivious to a beeping car right behind them. They just kept walking and didn't bother to move at all...weird. That's us on the transporter thingy.
Then, I had the great misfortune of being stuck sitting next to a man who, although I'm sure he's very nice, had awful body odor. So bad that I stuck my hood over my head trying to create a veil between him and my airspace. To get away I would have had to move away from my mother and sit far away, which I felt was too obvious...so I suffered silently. This is where I was momentarily greatful for the sinus infection.
We arrived in Florence finally. Picked up our rental car and headed to the Nursing Home. WOW, was that a depressing place! I've never been in a nursing home in my life and I was struck by how stark and lifeless the building itself seemed. The residents were a shock for me too. Many of them very disabled and I had the opportunity to hear the displeasure of a tenant getting his shower.
I filled out a ton of paperwork, my signature getting less and less legible as I went. I'm the youngest of 8 kids and I get to be the one to "put my dad in a home"?? ...Gee, thanks. They then took us on a tour and since my mom was tired I pushed her in a wheelchair. I tried to take this opportunity to break it to her that this was all a ruse and we were actually putting her in the home and she was going to be Dad's roommate. She didn't fall for this but it gave me a big laugh! I put up some pictures in my dad's room and met his roommate-a double amputee. Then we set off to see dad. (Here is a picture of his side of the room.)
I wasn't sure how I was going to react to his condition. I felt like I'd be ok but I wasn't sure. Seeing him sick in bed was quite a shock. He'd always been so strong and full of life. He lay sleeping in bed whimpering as I softly called to him. Touching him woke him, and he looked right past me to mom stretching his arms wide to her. Then after this reunion he whispers to me"Honey, I didn't even see you there". He was so happy to see my mother that even though I was right in front of him all he saw was her. (My parents are no longer married, they've been divorced for about 12 years after being married for 43.)
My dad barely ate that night, dozed on and off and didn't move himself at all. It was pretty discouraging but I was still slightly hopeful having been told by the nurse that was told by the case manager that was told by the Dr. (you following that) that if he did well in the nursing home we could take him home to Michigan. Mind you I don't know what "well" means and no one was there to really explain it.
Mom and I spent the night at the Hospital Guest House across the street. Thank God for that place because it was only $20 a night.
The next day my father was much the same, but for some reason on Sunday he perked up. He started eating much more and the nurses even got him up and put him in a chair to sit. That afternoon my mother stayed with him while I went to the nursing home to make sure they had a better understanding of our goals for him and then to the rehab center he came from to see if I could find his belongings- which I did find-YAY!
When I got back to the hospital, I found my mother laying beside my dad in bed. Apparently my father latched on to a nurses arm and would not let her leave until she helped mom get in bed with him. This embarrassed my mother a bit but she obliged knowing he really wanted the contact since he had been mentioning that she should lay down with him since we arrived. I think you can see my mother blushing in this picture but Dad looks pretty happy.
That last day mom and I decided we'd had enough crappy hospital food so I took her to Ruby Tuesdays for dinner. Wow, their Turkey Burgers are excellent! I then dropped her off at the Guest House and returned to sit with my dad for awhile since it would be my last time seeing him before flying home to Michigan. Here comes a few moments discomfort me me!
While I sat there, he tells me about how my mother asked him while they were laying together if he still loved her and he didn't answer her. He had some trouble speaking but finally he told me that he wanted me to tell her that the answer was yes. I promised him I'd tell her. He also asked me to tell him what happened between the two of them because he didn't understand. I panicked, not sure what to say... I made some vague reason that he dismissed as not being it, so I went cosmic and told him that sometimes we don't get the answers to our questions but sometimes knowing the answer doesn't even matter, we just have to go forward.
He asked me if he was going to live or not and I answered that I thought it was up to him and he said he supposed I was right. I mostly said this because of the vast difference I saw in him on Sunday compared to the other days, I think us being there motivated him to take interest in his life.
I tried to prepare him for his move to the nursing home the next day, I told him he was not going there to live but to get strong enough to move back to Michigan and that he had to remember this no matter what. I stressed that he had to eat and work with them to make himself stronger. I told him about his room and his roommate. He wanted to know how his roommate lost his legs but I didn't know. He promised me he'd remember to eat and get strong.
As I got ready to leave I told him that I loved him and he was a good Dad. I think he appreciated this, he didn't want me to leave. He held my arm for a long time and kept saying if he could find his wallet he'd give me some money so I could stay. I assured him it wasn't money, that I needed to get home to my family and job but that mom was staying here and would come see him. I kissed him and said goodbye, stopping in the chapel to write down a prayer that he would get strong enough to come home to Michigan and if that is not the will of God that he not be alone when he goes into that good night. I left feeling like if that was the last time I saw him I was satisfied and happy with it.When I arrived back at the Guest House my mom was just getting off the phone with dad. She had been worried because I had taken longer than she expected. She said while she talked to dad he told her I had something to tell her. She asked him why he didn't just tell her and he said that she'd have to ask me. I rolled my eyes and said "what, are you two in middle school? Are you going to have him circle yes or no?" I think that whole exchange made the situation more comical. I do hope she deals well with this new odd relationship they have, but only time will tell.
I hope i didn't just bore you all death. I promise you I'll be funny next time.