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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Turning Down a One-Way Road

So that’s that. My mother most likely has Alzheimer’s. Or so said the nurse practitioner at my mother’s follow-up MRI appointment. Quite the change of diagnosis from “it’s just stress” we had been told just a year prior. (Not even a full year.) The only good thing that came from the previous visit was a baseline to see her degression. And there is a lot.

The nurse practitioner showed me, and only me, the scale of it. I don’t know why she chose to reveal this information to just me, maybe she thought I wouldn’t have had an overreaction or that I would be able to comprehend what was happening. Whatever the reason, it is what it was.

The decline on her results was sharp. Almost entirely a straight line down from where she had been. I wish I had taken a photo or had them print it out to fully digest what I was seeing. I cannot stress this enough, it was severe.

I posted the results on twitter and the outpouring was so overwhelming. Those that had gone through something similar were the ones to offer their assistance or advice. Even some who haven’t, offered an ear to bend, fully providing (a stranger on the internet) their phone number. I am overwhelmed with love that I don’t even know how to process that. It showed me a world that seems almost counterculture to what twitter appears. It proved to me that at our core human beings are a community and will gather to care for each other.

I don’t think my mother has very long. I arrived at that conclusion by one, witnessing her descent over the past few months (which has been rapid to say the least) prior to concrete test results; and two, being haunted by those three graphs.

The part that frustrates me the most, above knowing I will lose my mother, is that there is NOTHING I can do to stop this. This is a one way road and it’s all downhill.

Cancer Kills Humor

My aunt is dying. There is no other way to put it and for herself or her children to keep trying is… I cannot think of the appropriate word.  I don’t mean to appear callous or cruel, because I don’t want her to die just as much as they, but I have accepted that in her case the possibility of recovery is next to none.

She has thyroid cancer.  Apparently it is the kind that is the fastest growing and most deadly, and unfortunately occurs primarily in men. It would appear that time is telling her that it is time to go. The two doctors she has seen have flat-out denied her treatment, because of where its at and how large it is they don’t want to take on the risk of operating on her and have her die. (Granted she’s going to die anyway…) The lie she told my mother was that she just needed to have radiation to shrink it and they would operate.  Whether she intended to deceive my mother has yet to be seen.

Before I knew all of this, and was aware that the doctor had suspected it to be cancer, my mother asked me to send my aunt, my mother’s best friend, a get well card because she could use something to perk her up. What I did instead was piss her and her daughter off.

I thought my card was humorous, it joked that “a bible verse would be good right about now, too bad you have a heathen for a nephew” and I thought my personal message was spontaneous and off-the-cuff funny. However, it was not received in the manner I intended it to be taken. For me saying “I may not pray, but…” I might as well have said “Fuck you, I hope you die” because that was the response I got.

Since then her daughter has unfriended me on Facebook, which means any hope for an apology from me has absolutely dissipated.

I know when I’m at fault.  Hell, I blame myself for everything eventually. That is why I have an addictive personality.  I always feel that I am a mistake, not that I just make them.  So I will eventually come to the conclusion I need to apologize. BUT if you unfriend me on Facebook that is guaranteeing I will say nothing of the sort. My pride on the matter is petty and ridiculous, I know that. It is the conscious effort that goes into the action where I find umbrage.

So, I sent another card to my aunt to apologize.  This time however it was a religious card that said NOTHING about prayer (amazing, I know), because in fact I do not pray and felt any mention of it would add insult to injury. I apologized and told her that there have been only 3 women in my life that helped shape me to be the person I am today: my mother, grandmother, and her. Fingers crossed she won’t see it as me mocking her faith or telling her she deserves to have cancer. Who knows in this wacky world.

The reality of the situation is everyone handles crisis and grief differently and we need to be patient with the ones when something in the vein of my situation occurs. The thing I find humorous is that it was the cousin that unfriended me who said exactly that many years ago.