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Back in the ‘hoodand up to no good.

December 7th, 2009

Rather unexpectedly, I flew to St. Charles this morning. I’m now, after one of the longest days of my life, laying on my old bed, rooting around the internet, and trying to just not feel anything for a while. Let’s rewind a little, shall we?

The day after Thanksgiving, my mom phoned to tell me she had taken Dad to the emergency room. My dad’s 89. He’s been through a lot in his lifetime; the Great Depression, World War II, cancer, open heart surgery… even me during my teenage years. And as he’s gotten older, he’s always seemed a hell of a lot younger than his actual age. He installed furnaces and air conditioners well into his upper 70s and did service calls into his 80s.

Last week, it turned out he had some problems with gall stones and his intestines and he went into surgery to get it all straightened out. After the surgery, he had to stay on the ventilator for several days because parts of his lungs collapsed. And then he went through a day or so of not really waking up, of not really being conscious for more than a few minutes. After they gave him some drugs to force him back to reality, he came down with a lung infection and now pneumonia.

This morning, his white blood cell count got a lot better than yesterday, showing that the pneumonia is improving. But I spent the day in the hospital. He’s still confused. He says things out of context, or that kind of relate to what people are asking him. For example, the speech therapist who is helping him eat asked if I was his daughter. He responded by explaining that I was adopted. I made a little joke out of it, but it’s so strange to hear things that don’t quite make sense from a man who’s always been sharp as a tack.

They’re not sure if it was the general anesthesia or the pain medication that caused the confusion, but they’re sure it’ll clear up more and more every day.

What I’m worried about is more general than all of these things. I’ve been with my Dad for many big surgeries, many hospital stays. But something’s different about this one. I felt it last week, that this, for some reason, was different. Seeing him today, I realized why.

We’re all praying he has a full recovery, can go through the physical therapy necessary for him to feed himself again, pull himself up in his chair again, and maybe use a wheelchair from now on if the walker is too much to handle. Obviously that’s what we want.

But maybe, for the first time in my life, I’m wondering if that’s not going to happen. Maybe when I spent time with him today, he seemed more tired, and well, a little more ready to not be feeling this bad any longer.

I had a little cry in Target tonight. I stood in the office supply aisle by the shredders and just put my head down and cried. (Naturally, my eye makeup bled everywhere but I was able to find the Mirror Aisle soon enough.) I’m sad that my Dad has to go through this, and I’m sad that I moved away over a decade ago. I’m sad for all that lost time, and more than anything, I’m sad that the man laying in that hospital bed has changed so much from the man who raised me. He’s still that same tough giant inside, but in a smaller, frailer container.

When I told mom I was coming today, she didn’t tell me not to for the first time, maybe ever. Usually when I offer to come for something like this, she just tells me to come when Dad feels better and can enjoy a visit a little better. That’s how I knew, before she said anything at dinner, that she’s worried too.

So, I’m here for a couple of days. I’m working from here, answering my blackberry, working on documentation, and spending some time with my Dad. He knows I’m there. He talks to me a little. And he understands me when I blabber on about Sandra, or the dogs, or our house, or the holidays.

I’m sad, though. Even if he recovers, I know this is a huge setback. I know he’ll likely never really walk again, he’s lost so much strength. And I know that there’s a long and hard road for him to travel in order to go back home.

And there’s that very real, very present possibility that the fight has left him, that it’s getting closer to time.

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