We call something science when the reactive outcome is predictable between types of matter; like when two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen react to form water; and when water, yeast and flour react to form bread dough; and when…“D’oh!”…a child reacts to a long road trip to form that predictable whiny line: “Are we there yet?”
This children’s query popped out of my own mouth unexpectedly this week while speaking with the director of nursing at ‘Dad’s’ rehab center. But in the crazy way that life works out, this question from my past frames so precisely the most nagging question of my present; for in fact, these last two weeks of my father’s life feel a lot like one of those long and whiny road trip’s of my childhood.
Same as then, Dad is in the driver’s seat, a little blind to all the nuances of the medical calamities he’s running over, to all the danger signs he’s ignoring, to all the exit ramps he’s missing; just like then, Daddy is lost, and I think he’d like one of us kids to take over at the wheel. My sister and I have the power if not the desire; it’s our hope that Daddy will make his own health decisions as long as he’s able and willing. But then and now, Daddy shies away from decision making; and so different from then, Dad no longer has Mom to play navigator.
What seems clear to all is that Dad has suffered a major setback. He’s passed through dehydration, where we found the state of pneumonia and then through dysphagia toward the current state of feeding tubes. Dad has taken in sights that he hoped to never see. Daddy is worn out; he sleeps most of the time and when he’s awake he seems far away. But whether or not he sleeps, Daddy’s sad. And this makes me sad too.
So I’m lost. I confess to not knowing Dad’s current medical state. Nor do I know in which direction Dad’s heading; is Daddy becoming better, becoming worse, or lost somewhere in between? I’ve no map, no landmarks, no navigator, not even a hunch. And while my sister and I talk all around it, the only thing we can scavenge up for sure is that there is something very different about Daddy.
Looking for that elusive reality check is what took me to the director of nursing. And not one to beat around the bush, I came right out with my questions: “Was it time for us to call in hospice?” “Are we there yet?”
I know these questions are difficult to answer, even for someone who practices in the medical field. Medical science is not as predictable as the other branches of science since the human element makes all reactions unique. And even if it were, the nurse doesn’t know Daddy and we who do have no medical background. So overall, it’s the blind leading the blind.
For who but God can put together the pieces, to know where Daddy is right now and in which direction Dad is heading. But it’s the nurse’s sense that we are not yet ready for hospice because we are not there yet. And so we wait. We wait to see where Daddy will take us next. As we wait for the gift of hindsight to inform us later of where we are now. And for now… I simply pray for travel mercies.