My Dad

She climbed out of the front seat of my car and said, “Oh G-da let me take you with me.” Lydia grabbed his photo from the dashboard and stuffed it in her pocket as we walked into church.

Timmy what made you think of Gda that you are crying so badly? He says what! with anger. I ask him again and he says what do you mean, I think of him everyday, all the time.

It’s been 116 days since my dad died. My eyes fill up with tears every time I look at that sentence. The door to his bedroom has been locked since. It’s been 116 days but it’s really been way longer. As we enter Lent I remember last Easter was when I noticed he seemed different. He was having trouble doing everyday things. He had a terrible stomachache and didn’t eat his filet I bought him. He loved filet. He told me to put it in the freezer and he’d eat it another day. He never did eat that filet.

We did everything we could but nothing could save him. We took him to his primary doctor and they said his blood work looked good. They blamed his Parkinson’s for the neck pain. Three days later we brought him to the hospital for possible stroke. They could find nothing wrong. They kept him for observation. Except they will fail miserably in observing him.

May 10th at 6:00 I was sitting in my dads hospital room with my three kids and six months pregnant with my fourth baby. We waited an hour in the room because when I got there they needed to do an ultrasound of his heart. They asked if I wanted them to wait until I left to do it and I said no do what you need to do. I should have said yes. By the time they wheeled him back in it was time for us to go because we were on our way to see Max play baseball. He really wanted to go to Max’s game. We visited for about 10 minutes. We set him up with his dinner and put on Wheel of Fortune. He was very eager to get the show on because it was the 7,000th episode. He ate Salmon for dinner. Brandon cut it up for him. I said, “So Dad how are you doing?” And he said, “I’m fine but how are you doing?”

The nurse told us he was being discharged in the morning. That night at about 10:30 he will have a heart attack and my life will change so drastically. The pain is like no other. I could feel my heart shredding to pieces like the claw of a tiger just ripping my insides. My siblings call my phone on repeat but my phone is on silent. I get woken up by the light of a FaceTime call from my brother. He says Dad had a heart attack. And I respond oh is that what’s been causing his sickness. I didn’t understand that he meant right now dad is dying of a heart attack. Erica gets on the phone and says the dr wants to know if he has a living will. I yell no. And I fall apart.

I fall apart the whole drive to Bethesda Heart Hospital screaming to God to help me. We all pull up at the same time and a security guard brings us to a private room where we sit from 2am until 6am in silence. The doctor comes in and says he’s stable but says you do know your father has severe heart disease with 95-100% blockage in all his arteries. We were able to repair 2 and now we will freeze his body to lessen brain damage. I’ve taken care of my dad for 7 years. Never has any dr mentioned heart disease.

We walk in to see him and he is hooked up to 7 machines. He is in a coma. The dr says he won’t show any signs of recovery until they unfreeze him. It’s now May 11th. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and my moms birthday. We decide because he is still frozen that we will continue our Mother’s Day plans with my mom and take shifts sitting with Daddy. Victoria takes the first shift. I take my mom to church and home for breakfast. I’m frying bacon and the phone rings. It’s Victoria completely hysterical saying the dr just came in and said he’s not gonna make it and we need to pull off life support. I never did eat the bacon. I walked out the door and drove to see this doctor. He looked me straight in the face with his facts. And I stared right back. He asks me if I have any questions. I say no. I tell him I know what I know and he knows what he knows. I do not shake his hand. We never see that dr again. We also do not pull life support. My father still shows no sign of life. Our new address is Bethesda Heart Hospital. My parents are divorced so that leaves me decision maker. On day 7 my dad is still not awake. We see signs of life but the drs and nurses do not. Their response to any movement is that it’s just body reflexes and not purposeful.

The drs call a family meeting on day 8. I am dying inside because I’m afraid they’re going to ask me to pull life support. The meeting turns out to be all good news. They say that my father can breath on his own when they turn the machines down. Worst case scenario he will go to a nursing home. Best case he will go home and need help. And then they ask with that diagnosis do you want to keep going with treatment. I was confused. They tell me that some family members will choose not to because they don’t want to take care of them. Then they ask me to sign a DNR. They say even though his body is responding if he doesn’t wake up there’s nothing they can do. I look around the room at my siblings and my mom. I ask Tim what he thinks. No one can help me. No one knows what to do. I decline to sign the DNR and tell them we will revisit the situation on Day 10. Jessica reads some articles about how it takes some people 10 days to wake up. I avoid the hospital on Day 10. He doesn’t wake up and I’m afraid they’re gonna ask me to sign a DNR again. Hospice has been to our room. The lady tells Sam that if my dad ever wakes up he’ll have the mind of a newborn. Tim calls hospice and has her removed from our case.

On Day 11 around 6:30 I’m singing country music to my dad. I can see his eyes moving under his eyelids. I turn the music off and start talking about old times. I bring up my red mustang and he opens his eyes. I’m dying as I write this because I remember how happy I was. So full of hope and faith. I started screaming. I run down the hallways screaming praise Jesus! The nurses come running. It’s only been 11 days but these people are family now. We are all hugging. His nurse goes to his bedside and yells “Tom” and he turns his head and opens his eyes and they yell for the doctor. The doctor comes in and says his name. Tells him to open and shut his eyes. Then he looks at me and smiles. He says this is good but he has a very long hard road ahead. And he leaves. He was right. The road would be very long and very hard. I call all my siblings and I send them video. They all come to the hospital and we breath a sigh of relief.

In the next 5 months we will celebrate the birth of my son, Silas and the death of my father. We will cry tears of joy the first time my dad speaks. I will video every milestone he makes. He will get better and then as I’m shopping for my girls birthday party supplies on July 25th I will get a call that he started puking and aspirated. Later that week he gets pneumonia. He will get it 3 times. I have to tell my father who is working so hard to learn to do new things that his body is not working. He will learn to write with a marker, sing karaoke to Pretty Woman, stick out his tongue, blow kisses, shake hands, speak, raise his arms to his head and lift his feet off the bed but I will have to tell him it’s not enough.

When I tell him we both cry. He chooses to go to hospice. He sees Tim and reaches out his hand for a shake and then he cries and Tim cries. And I ask him again about hospice to be sure.

I don’t know how I survived. I have so much more to write.