My Thursday night dose of reality television was interrupted by real life when my sister called worried about Dad.
Christi was debating with herself — should she call an ambulance? Or with the help of our aunt and uncle, pray she could get Dad safely into bed, and that a new day would bring if not a new Dad, at least something closer to Dad’s old self.
Last night his watery eyes were vacant – to where had Dad’s spirit run away, leaving behind Dad’s poor old shell of a body? Dad did not respond to words. He had not eaten supper and it was so unlike Dad not to have his morning coffee in the middle of the afternoon. To pull Dad together, Christi tried to stand Daddy on his own two feet with the help of my uncle. But Daddy was too weak — or maybe too divided to stand.
But just as she did with me, Christi found just the right words to grab Dad’s undivided attention. Did he need to go to the hospital? Urgently, Dad shook his head ‘no.’ Daddy may not be in his ‘right’ mind, but even in this worst of times, he had enough wisdom to decline the need.
So now Christi was calling me for a reality check, probably knowing what I would say, but needing to hear it all the same. And forty miles safely out of sight of Dad’s pleading eyes, I said all I could think to say. What choice do we have, sis? Our family has had more than a few emergency hospital visits. We know the ER as a scary place of dread and dead, but especially for fragile elderly souls like Dad who do their darned best to hang on to everyday reality. So, just to make triply sure, we went opinion shopping at Kate’s, before calling the ambulance.
While Dad was outnumbered three to one, he remained undefeated — even as the ER team was getting Dad ready for his nine o’clock express ride, he was gripping Christi’s hand, pleading for a fourth chance. I wonder if he feared he would not return home. Tonight or ever, take your pick. Both thoughts crossed my own mind. If only we could save him from this ordeal. If only Dad’s legs had shown signs of life, we might have let him crawl into bed, just to keep him safe from the pricks and the prods and the questions that he had no hope of answering without my sister’s voice.
But then we had our own fears to calm. What if Dad had suffered a ‘minor’ stroke? Would we be doing right by Daddy to keep him from treatment? Against his wishes, and even our own, we sent him off to the hospital ‘for his own good.’ Of course, we didn’t add insult to injury by speaking these words. But poor Daddy read our actions loud and clear, and even understood that while love was all behind and running through it, that nothing good would be coming from this ambulance trip, at least in the short-term.
Reality is so hard to discern, especially when you’re up to your eyeballs in it, even when it stares you in the face with vacant watery eyes. But its easier to see where the good and bad calls are in reality television. And while I may not like the final result of Survivor in a few weeks, I was happy at this morning’s outcome. Not because I’m sure the ER staff made the right calls, but because I believe we did. And I like any story where the good guy wins. And even if its not happily ever after, at least Dad has survived this ER visit to live another day and to sleep another night in his own bed. And for Daddy, right now, this everyday comfort is better than whatever’s showing on televison.