Oh Daddy. It’s been a terribly long day.
I hope you’re resting easier now. I hope the fever is gone — that all the bedding changes, necessary but tiring, are over. How many sponge baths did you endure today?
It’s been a day for wondering. Biggest of all, I wondered where you are — is this just another chapter in your ongoing struggle to stay alive? Or have we turned the page to the final chapter and don’t yet know it? I wish I could skip ahead, just like I do with a really good book when I’m too tired to stay up any longer to read, to see how you and this particular story are going to end.
The nursing home called Sis at 1:00 AM. Listening to the litany of indecipherable clues, Christi finally had to ask, “Are you telling me to come?” Surprisingly, there was no pause. “If he were my father, I would.” It really does help to cut through the vagueness with sharp, penetrating questions. I need to remember to do this more often.
Christi threw on a jacket, brushed her teeth and picked up her eyeglasses and her purse before she hurried into the dark to sit by your side. She could have woke up Jane to go with her. But she decided to drive herself instead.
The drive was thirty minutes. Quick. No traffic. She had a full tank of gas. And by this time, Christi is a well-oiled machine. Christi can respond to your distress calls with no need for help. Wouldn’t you say, Daddy, that Christi has grown up a lot over the last eleven months?
Of course, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. We aren’t made to go it alone, are we? I know Daddy, how relieved you must have been to see Christi’s face when she walked in the door at 1:45. Can you blame her if Christi wasn’t similarly relieved?
It didn’t take Christi but a few minutes to call me. An hour and a half later I walked in with Jon. It was 3:15. Christi waited until a more decent 6:00 AM to call Jane. And an hour later, Jane walked in with Aunt Jo. Where else would mother’s sisters be, but by the remnants of mother’s family?
It was a long terrible day. But Daddy, even though you were mostly oblivious to it all, there were moments of terrible beauty throughout it.
The hospice team we engaged are wonderful. I can tell they are old pros at this business of compassionate dying. I sense that they will steer us through whatever is to come. The will let us know, the best that they can, where we are in your book of life.
Then there were all the kindnesses we received throughout the day. Breakfast brought in by Jane. Coffee and snacks made by Dottie, the manager of the nursing home kitchen. All your nurses. Everyone trying to make a painful process less trying. It was only later that I thought that this is how it should always be, that we should always go out of our loving way for others.
Then there was your ever faithful sidekick Larry. Larry didn’t at all appreciate being closed out by a wall of curtains. I just smiled as he asked the nurse to push back the curtains. Larry wanted to keep his practiced eye on you. I felt sorry for the nurse — in these days of HIPAA, what’s a compassionate nurse to do? I offered her a helping hand — I told her to please push back the curtains — that Larry was your family too.
What else is there to say at this point of the story? But that I love you Daddy. I hope you get a good night’s rest. I hope the same for all who love you and us. Because tomorrow promises to be another long day. But don’t worry. We’ll get through this. We can hold hands through the scary parts.