Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Eleven Tuesdays, part 2

It was on another Tuesday, 6 November 2007, when my dad was admitted to the hospital because he wasn't eating or staying hydrated.

What we'd learned was that his cancer was stage IV, inoperable, and had spread to both lymph nodes, both adrenal glands, and his left hip. There were three tumors in his lung and three tumors on his femur which were interfering with the ball joint and making most movement involving legs very painful. They also found a blood clot in his lung which posed a more fatal, immediate danger than the actual cancer.

He was scheduled for radiation therapy and given morphine for pain, mostly due to his hip. He was still smoking early on. Over time, he went from a well-intentioned scaling back of his usual activities (smokes and Budweiser all day), to a few beers with his meds to help him sleep, to not being able to smell even an open bottle of wine without getting sick and puking up what little he'd eaten that day. His mood was deteriorating, and as his emotional state declined he became downright hateful to my mom. He would barely eat because it hurt to swallow. I suspect there was an huge amount of self-anger and self-pity in him, which is certainly expected for someone who learns he could be dead soon (and it's his own damn fault), but per his nature he hid all that behind an increasingly vitrolic wall of non-emotion.

It was partly this which led my dad to his hospital admission. He had driven himself to his radiation treatment when the doctor basically told him he had to go to the hospital and stabilize. An ambulance took him. I left work early to pick up my mom so she could bring his truck home. When I walked into the room, my father, a 62 year old man who'd inspired such fear and violence in me, broke down and reached for me as a child would.

I don't know what happened then. I cannot name the emotional or spiritual mechanism that caused it, but my heart solidified. I hugged my dad without thinking, sat with him and held his hand, asked him questions that allowed him to tell me things he needed to get out, and supported his crotchety decisions even when he raised hell with the nurses over his blood thinner. This was not a reaction like the one I experienced while driving to Benzonia, a patronizing reaction due only to my own fear and selfishness, this was 100% heart and soul love like I'd never felt it for my dad, like it was a natural thing I'd been doing my whole life, possibly even longer.

I visited or called my dad almost every day to ask about his meds, his treatments, how much he was eating and how he was resting. Over time, all the staff of his floor/section learned what I'd learned about my dad: that no matter how sick he is he's still a jerk when he doesn't get his way. My dad spent his 63rd birthday in the hospital, and when we took the kids to see him he was such an ass to my mom I wanted to slap him; I didn't care that he'd done 14 chemo treatments in ten days. He also spent Thanksgiving in the hospital, though he was allowed to come home for a few hours, during which time I visited with my wife and sister, and again he treated my mom so abusively I wondered why she bothered taking care of this man, dying or not.

After his return to the hospital, his blood pressure would not stabilize and he got an infection. The chemotherapy was killing him by this time and we all began to wonder if dad was going to ever make it out of the hospital. I could not visit my dad because they were requiring gloves and masks in the room, and I'd caught a cold. All of this, as well as a childish spat with my sister over the Thanksgiving weekend, put me into a spin I'm only beginning to recover from. But again, I'm being selfish.

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