I got home last night from visiting my dad in the hospital. My sister, Mel and I went together, and stayed with Marybeth. It was both better and worse than I expected. Friday night, we went directly to the hospital from the airport, so it was nearly 10pm when we first saw him. I don't think I ever would have recognized him if I wasn't expecting to see him.
He lifted his arm to wave to us and said something to the nurse so she'd wait to do what she was doing. We went to his bedside and he looked at us and held our hands. Big open, wide eyes on a thin hollow face. I couldn't have imagined him looking this fragile and aged, but I also couldn't imagine him awake and alert after the last time. So I was terrified and relieved all at the same time.
Laying in a bed for 6 weeks, with no food, and undergoing several surgeries and procedures seriously changes a body. After the initial shock of seeing him in this condition, it was sooo wonderful to hear his voice, even if it did sound 20 years older. He was so sweet and tender, so happy to see us and using all of his energy to ask us questions about our life's goals, why we thought the Soviet Union became evil when they removed all deity from their constitution, and how we were doing on our emergency preparedness. Yes, beyond the weak exterior, he was definitely still my daddy.
Saturday was wonderful... he could lift his arms and legs, roll over slowly to relieve the bed sores, and he ATE for the first time. He had a few bites of jello, some water, and a spoonful or two of chicken broth. He asked for some ice cream with strawberries on it, and relished the few bites he could handle. This was a huge improvement from the times Marybeth had tried to get him to get him to eat before, when everything tasted like chemicals and made him nauseous. True to nature, he was showing off for us.
He was awake and talking to us for a lot of the time, (relatively) and only a few things were cooky. I wish I could have recorded the whole thing. I just don't want to lose a moment with him now. At one point his eyes closed for a minute, then he opened them and said, with a straight face, "I just got up---- walked out of here and went shopping. If I go back out, anybody want anything?" That time he realized it was a dream.
After Marybeth's email last week about his brain function, the doctors put a tube in his belly to drain it and were able to rid his body of a lot of septic fluid. It looks like his colon has developed another tiny hole, one they hope will heal on it's own. The vast improvement in his behavior was attributed to getting rid of that fluid.
We went to dinner that night upon leaving the hospital, and celebrated Melisa, Marybeth, and my birthdays... they're all close. We felt optimistic. Here's an iphone shot of Mel and I--- I wish we had you in one, Marybeth!
When we went back to the hospital the next day, it was pretty clear, early on that things were not quite as good as they were Saturday. He started out by asking the nurse for a list of his meds so he could go home. We thought he was being funny, since the day before, he would have raised his eyebrows a few times and shot a glance at one of us... but this time he was serious. He was so disappointed when he realized we couldn't take him home. My heart broke.
He still made us laugh a ton and had lots of lucid moments.... but he had taken a step back. He was feverish, and SO tired. Just before we had to leave to the airport, he was shivering, covered in two blankets, drifting off to sleep. He opened up his eyes and looked at Mel and me, "it's time for you beautiful people to go now... g'night" and then he attempted to do what he used to do, and smooched the air a few times in front of him as if he was kissing us.... only they were silent, as his lips barely touched.
We're waiting for an update now. They're doing some blood tests and have more proactively drained his belly again. We're hoping for some signs of improvement.
Now I feel an aching for two men. I desperately miss this fragile, sweet, old dad in his hospital bed. I hate that he's there being poked and bothered all hours of SOO many days in a row. And I just wish there was a way to relieve him. I cannot imagine living through that.
And then I see pictures like this one and I miss my big, strong, loud, opinionated, controversial, HAPPY dad. I miss the REAL dog bark he did any time he attended one of my track meets or volleyball games to let us know he was there. It didn't matter if he were amongst a thousand high school students.... you couldn't miss it.
I'm feeling incredibly impatient. I just want him to heal. I want him to be able to be with his family and enjoy fresh air, and sunshine, and food, and talk radio, and conversation, and nascar. I want him to be able to feel some joy so he'll remember why he should keep fighting this awful battle.
Thank you for caring about something so personal to me and my family while I use my blog for our family records, and for keeping my dad in your prayers.