My Life Turned on a Quarter

Today will be two weeks from the moment my entire life changed with a single phone call. The one in which a stranger left me a message from my parents line to tell me that my father was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and she was waiting with my mother for me to arrive.  Five minutes later, panicked, I called back and got the details. I told my mother that I had to do an inspection first before I could get her. I was oblivious to the seriousness of the injury. Now, knowing everything I do, I would have left immediately instead of doing my job first. But I was in denial that it could have been anything worse. (This wasn’t the first time my pop went to the emergency room.)

After rushing through my home inspection I got in my car and hurried over to my parents to retrieve my mother. For a brief moment, during my drive, I had a spark of dread that my father would be dead and I would have to take care of my mother (who has alzheimer’s.) As the anxiety began to engulf my chest, I told myself to just take things one at a time. Everything would be all right.

I arrived to my parent’s house with the security screen and front door wide open, my mother was waiting for me inside, shuffling items in the dining room. She had packed up his wallet and all of “his pills” in a basket and was ready to roll. (It turned out they were her pills and not his. But, oh well.) She was already fearing the worst, and I, uncharacteristically, told her not to think that way. We didn’t know yet, and to do so would only make it worse.

She agreed and continued to spin the lone quarter in the palm of her hand.

We arrived at the hospital, with no knowledge where to go. Even the quick description from the security guard in the E.R. was super vague and not at all helpful. When I finally figured it out, I called around and eventually found out he was in surgery.

My mother was beside herself, even then. Again I told her to not worry, we would find out what was going on when he was out.

For the next thirty minutes I calmed myself by playing a game on my phone as my mother babbled on with nonsense about “jesus” and “the Christians”… her usual go to commentary from her diminishing brain.

I am almost certain that doctor’s take a course in medical school wherein they learn to deliver bad news. The moment the surgeon removed his net cap I knew my father was gone. There wasn’t a doubt in my body. However, what I would soon learn was that he wasn’t “gone” physically, but rather mentally. He had arrived unresponsive and stayed that way until the end.

As it turned out, my father had fallen and hit his head when he had gotten up to pee in the early morning. What time that was at I have no idea. Getting a straight answer out of my mother is near impossible, and her story (which she recounts in graphic gory detail) changes each time.  My father had asked my mother for help, and her response was to run outside and call for it from anyone who might hear. She encountered a bus driver who told her the number to dial an emergency (you know, the one everyone fucking knows) and when she got back inside she forgot it completely, thus she returned to the front yard. This is where she encountered the stranger who called 911, like a normal person, and took care of my father as instructed by the emergency operator.

After the surgeon removed a portion of his skull to relieve the massive amounts of bleeding, he was moved to the ICU. Room 11 for child 11. It was there that I was handed the gauntlet to be the one to make all of my father’s decisions. My mother couldn’t even grasp what was happening, and was distracted by my father in his hospital bed. So the nurse’s calmly rattled off their assessment of the situation and asked me how we were to proceed. I wasn’t ready to make these decisions. This man’s entire existence rested in the palm of my hands.

I had concluded that the hospital should keep him on life support until my Aunt arrived to say goodbye. Once she had had her moment with him, I gave the order and they removed the tubes. I told myself I wanted to be there when he went, but I regretted it almost instantly as I watched him arch his back, take his last breath, and hear his heart slowly stop beating. It is an image I will never forget.

Today, two weeks from being told my father was mentally gone, I have to put on a brave front and lay his body in the earth. But before that, I must deliver his eulogy. One in which I most likely will not write and just deliver off the cuff; against the advisement of the preacher, but fuck him. However my own hatred to spite another person will only harm myself and I will inevitably detest myself for not even attempting bullet points.

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