Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How Soon We Are Put to the Test

{ Excerpts from my journal }

17 December 2009 Thursday

Mom calls me from the hospital sobbing. "He's irascible and mean. He says I'm stubborn and unforgiving. He's yelling at me and at the nurses. He tried to walk out of the hospital but the nurse finally told him he has wires inside him all the way to his heart that the doctor must remove first, and if he leaves his insurance won't pay for anything."

Way to bully the bully, Nurse Ratched.

Somehow I know that what my Mom needs is for me to take charge and tell her what to do. She and Aubrey do this for me when I call in hysterics.
"Pull it together, Mom," I demand. "You know this is up and down. You know who Dad is and you are dealing with him under the worst circumstances of his life. Don't act like it's falling apart. You get it together and be there for him. Just let it roll off right now, and give him time to make changes."
She calms down, "Okay, okay, you're right."

They have been waiting all day to be discharged from the hospital and my Dad is desperate to see the kids before we leave for Utah.

Chani comes over and we all make a "WELCOME HOME" sign for Dad. We start a fire. Clean the house.
Eventually they get home. Dad is wonderful with the kids. He shaves his beard and mustache first thing. He looks DIFFERENT. I have never seen his hairless face. It is part of his new self he says.
Cecily and Caroline sit in his lap, as they did the night he left for the hospital. We have come full round, bringing countless stitches, weakened bodies, and stronger spirits with us. He is finally at peace, eating the best smoothie of his life and holding grandkids.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


{ Excerpts from my journal }

16 December 2009 Wednesday (continued)
He calls Aubrey while I am sitting next to him and tells her to buy the house with the apartment because he and Mom are going to drive out in May to stay for a few months, maybe serve a six month mission in Palmyra.

Aubrey calls me a few minutes later, "Are you with him?" she asks exasperatedly. "What is he talking about? Something is going on. He sounds different."
"He's glowing," I say.
She is crying. "I know. I can feel it, hear it in his voice and I'm not even there."

He wants me to shave his beard and mustache. I'm nervous - nervous that I will cut him, but more nervous to see his face without it. As though everything has changed so quickly that taking his beard will take a part of his identity. I don't want any part of my Dad to be gone, not when these past six days have planted in me the fear of all parts of him being gone.
Grah comes and I pass the responsibility of shaving to him. We mutually decide the one razor we have is not sufficient to remove all the hair. Dad settles for tomorrow.

They are talking about fishing, all the things they will do.
"Things are going to change," my Dad tells Grah - his only son. "We're going to be doing a lot of things together."
"We're putting a permanent basketball hoop up when we pave our driveway," Grah tells him. "I figure we can play some one-on-one, half court. It's time for you to teach me to play basketball."
Grah leaves - he was visiting on his lunchbreak - promising to return tomorrow.

Dad tells me about the cardiac ICU nurse that met him when he came into emergency. She asked if he was feeling ok. "NO," he replied. She looked at him for a split second and said "You're having a heart attack. Come with me."
When it became clear that he was going to have open-heart surgery and who the surgeon would be she said "You came in at the right time. You're getting the number one surgeon in all of Nevada."

Eventually I had to leave sending my Mom back with the voice recorder trying not to miss all that he was offering.

Tonight as my Mom and I sit talking, eating milk and cookies in front of the fireplace before going to bed, she is crying tears of joy. "I have never been so happy before. I think this is the happiest day of my life," she says. "Always before there have been dark corners, hidden sorrows, but today they are gone."
She told Aubrey earlier "even if it all goes back to the old Wayne - I had today. I can survive on today."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shaking Hands With Palestine

{ Excerpts from my journal }

15 December 2009 Tuesday
Today my Mom is with him. About seven hours. I did not see him, but she says he is talking a lot, and making plans.

16 December 2009 Wednesday
Twice now I have come through the Emergency Room doors as entrance to the hospital and found a grown man in desperate, hopeless tears, with someone beside him offering what comfort they can.

Today his bed was empty as I came around the corner. Dad was sitting in the chair having a breathing treatment.

"You're beautiful," he declares from behind his mask. "Those are nice jeans, are they new?"
"Kind of, " I answer.
"You probably wear them because Matt thinks you look hot in them."
"Matt thinks I look hot in most everything."
"Those are really nice shoes," he adds.
"Dad, I don't know that you have ever noticed my shoes before."
"Jessica, I am noticing everything today," he tells me with tears in his eyes. These are the first of many tears I will see in the next three hours.

My father is in awe over everything. He is friends with everyone. His nurse, Yvonne, has a very limited number of smiles, but she is willing to give him a few because he is too solicitous to resist.

Dr. Romeya comes in, one of the two surgeons who performed the bypass. Dad says "you have a great smile."
"Thank you," Dr. Romeya answers with a mysterious accent. "God just made me this way."
"Do you mind if I ask where you are from," Dad inquires.
"Palestine," the doctor answers.
"My niece and nephew went there and they said they loved Palestine - liked it way better than Israel. Not that they didn't like the Israelis, they just liked the Palestinians more."
Dr. Romeya is smiling again - truly a beautiful, full face smile - graciously, slightly sheepishly accepting and simultaneously deflecting my Dad's compliment.
"They are good people," the doctor says. And I wonder if he is speaking of the Israelis or the Palestinians.

There is a bit of conversation about Iranian missile testing, spread of nuclear technology. At the end we mutually agree we just need peace.
"We need to get together, like you and me, right here," my Dad says with more tears. Dr. Romeya deliberately, thoughtfully extends his hand and his smile to my Dad, who takes it in a kind of fraternal grip.
"Yes, we are here together. This is what the world must do," Dr. Romeya says as he takes his leave.

Friends, friends, and more friends.

At some point during his exchange with the surgeon a man comes in to collect the rubbish from my Dad's room. "Hi Jean," my Dad greets him by name, "how you doin today?"
"Good Wayne, thanks."

Dad compliments Dr. Ngueyn - nice hair, the pulmonologist - nice tie, Grah - nice shoes.
Goodwill and kindness springing from his new heart.

He says he has blessings to count and I want to record them to remind him later when the honey moon of new life has faded.
Nita is more than half the blessings of his whole life.
He says he needs to do more for her,
mend broken fences.
Mostly on his part.
Shave his beard to be ready to serve a mission.
And "Shhh, this is a secret, I'm going to learn to dance,
so I can dance with your Mother.
Probably have to be line dancing,
something I can do in cowboy boots."

I ask if he is seeing anything as a blessing that he might not have recognized as such before the heart attack and surgery.

Oh yes.
1 - The School District. I've been blaming them for my issues, my depression, but it's not their fault. I've had a job for twenty years that has provided for my family.
2 - The heart attack itself. It is closing doors and opening doors.

"Everything is changing," he says.
There is a glow around him; kind to everyone, grateful, hopeful.
"70 pounds in a year," he says
"In 52 weeks?" I ask.
"Well, maybe 18 months."
He doesn't argue with the dietician, a cute girl called Jen.
"For Jennifer?" he asks.
"Yes, Jennifer," she confirms.
So he sings Donavan's Jennifer, Juniper, and I sing with him.

Jennifer Juniper, hair of golden flax.
Jennifer Juniper longs for what she lacks.
Do you like her ? Yes, I do, Sir.
Would you love her ? Yes, I would, Sir.
Whatcha doing Jennifer, my love ?

Then he speaks to this Jennifer with an impressive Scottish brogue, "like Donavan," he says.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Would That I Were His Saving Angel

But at least his cherub if nothing else.

{ Excerpts from my journal }

14 December 2009 Monday
His curtain was closed when I came in but he recognized me right away when I pulled it back just a bit. Improvement. As I walked toward him my Dad held his hand out to me and said "You are so beautiful."
"So are you," I responded , kissing his forehead.
"No I'm NOT."

Today he is mean in his thoughts:
I HATE this place. This is worse than Auschwitz. They have it down to a science. They take no time getting to know their patients. Everyone is ignoring me. Who is that person - Get out of here (to unknown person). I tell you, when we got here the other night I already hated it. I was ready to turn around and go home. I was going to tell your mother to hire Scott Mitchell to sue this place - some kind of investigation - somethin'.
Then he grabs my hand as I raise or lower the bed for him, fetch the nurse for pain meds, ask for some apple juice, and he says "You're my cherub."

Later he puts his hand on my cheek and says "Ohhh, you were the one with me at the door when I said I wasn't feeling good."
I take his hand from my cheek, grasped tightly in both of mine, "I should have called 911 Dad. I'm sorry."
He just smiles.
His smile tells me its ok, because whatever did happen, however it all worked out - it worked out. He's here, smiling.

Now he sleeps. Now I will read - catching up on my Book of Mormon challenge.

He just woke up. "Oh, I thought I was home," he laments.
"Tomorrow Im going to try to convince your Mom to bring my lap top. She probably won't, but I would like (dramatic pause) to try."
"I don't know if they have wireless internet here," I say.
"I don't need internet. I can write. I'm a writer."
"Oh," I say. "Well, you should start something new, something stream of consciousness."
He's drifting back to sleep.
"For posterity," I say.

He wakes up as Karen, the night nurse, comes in to check on him. "Do you know how many people are worried about me and praying for me?" he asks her.
She takes the bait, "How many?"
"Hundreds . . . hundreds of millions," he declares.
"My Dad is well known for his exaggeration gene," I tell her.
Karen looks right at him with a hand on her cocked hip, smiling just a bit and says "Oh Wayne, you've told me that a million times."
Karen plays ball in the big leagues.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Quotations For A Sunday Evening

{ Excerpts from my journal }

12 Dec 2009 Saturday
I sit beside my Dad having sent my Mom home to rest. Another attempt this morning to bring him out of sedation and remove the ventilator. Unsuccessful.

13 December 2009 Sunday
(Five days of being unconscious)
By his side again - four minutes past 4pm. My Mom got here this morning just before 10:00. The doctor had removed the ventilator at 9:15. Rumor has it he has been a bear all day. His verbal greeting to the doctor and nurses after they pulled the ventilator out of his throat was a raspy, angry "What the HELL?" But my Mom says that he nodded when she asked if he could hear her.

Things have been violent and crazy, doctors in and out, multiple nurses required to keep him down. He's shouting and grunting, mostly slurs. When I got here he had slid down the bed with his right foot on the floor. Ann (the nurse) said he liked that position and they decided to let him stay that way, leaving his legs free while his arms are still tied down.

In the two hours I've been here he has begun to emerge. He is talking - somewhat slurred but mostly understandable. Once he realized I was here and who I am he said (with the most prohibitive dry-tounge lisp you can imagine) "Jeth, do me a favor, bring me a knife. I gotta cut theethe thtraps off."

"Is your leg bothering you?" I ask.
"No," he responds tersely, "but my TIE-DOWNS ARE!"

He tries a new tactic. "Nurthe, if you untie me, I abtholutely promithe I'll be good."
So she did. She told him he could be untied while I'm here.

"Are you gonna feed me ice?" He asks me.
"I don't have any more. You ate it all."
"Yes you do," he accuses, and then demands "go get some more."

In his most imploring abandoned voice he cries "Ohhh pleeease - come on. Can we go home?"

"What do you need Dad?"
This he yells in desperation as his sheet has fallen to one side exposing the nakedness he does not know has been his common exhibition over the past four unconscious days. I have tried constantly to cover him as quickly as his restless body uncovered itself, but at some point nakedness ceased to diminish his dignity. His thrashing meant he was alive and that was more joyful than exposure was embarrassing. But not for his conscious self.

"I'm SO frustrated!" he snarls through clenched jaw.
"About what Dad," I ask in a calm and therapeutic way.
He looks me straight in the eye and says "Figure it out."

The nurse asks him - what's your name, your last name, your birthday, how old are you, all of which he responds appropriately to. Then she asks him who the president of the United States is. Uh-oh, I think.
"Uggghhhh," he says.
"Ok, no political affiliations." Ann deflects. "Just asking who the president is."
"Ohhh - baahma," he answers with a slurry sneer.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Disagreeable Harbingers

While we are in the midst of a totally life changing experience right now, and there is much to tell in that vein, I am not yet prepared to leave the words that will help me write about all the things of life that come after death.

Death is no respecter of persons - persons either living or dead. He comes and he takes and he leaves and we reel either way. Part of my reeling is writing. Part of regaining my balance is writing.

{ Excerpts from my journal }

3 December 2009 Wednesday
We are in Las Vegas. It is, of course, too late and I should have been asleep two hours ago. Matthew is left home alone, working feverishly to finish his dissertation for submission by December 31st. It is hard to imagine our life without the task master of "Dad's book." I wonder how things will change - but I can't let myself wonder too much yet.

8 December 2009 Tuesday
My father is at Sunrise Hospital in the midst of open-heart surgery. He suffered what seems to be a massive heart attack while sitting in his chair laughing and talking with us. Holding Cecily and teaching her to say "ta-da."

He tried to drive himself to Quick Care knowing something in his chest didn't feel right and my Mom was at a church meeting. He went to two locations - neither open - came home and called my Mom to come drive him to emergency. There they determined he was still having the heart attack. Right aorta 100% blocked, left aorta 80% blocked, angioplasty unsuccessful. They took him to the OR around 11:15pm to begin a three hour, open-heart, triple by-pass surgery.

This is . . . surreal. I have not cried yet. I am afraid of opening the flood of tears. Chani and Scott came to the house and are staying the night here.

OR doctor called the house during surgery to get my Mom's cell phone number. I asked if he was at liberty to give any information. He said "No, but everything is fine, he's ok."
"So, he's alive?" I asked.

I cannot wish this away. I cannot let myself feel the reality of it.

It is 2:20 am. I go to bed now. My Mom is not home yet. Wait to hear more in the morning.

9 December 2009 Wednesday
Matt will be here in seven hours. I want his presence desperately.

My Dad is ok. Still sedated, still un-present in his current circumstances. We can't go to him, not even my Mom. She went to the hospital and was able to look at him through a window and see him sleeping, but he can't know she is there. He's an agitated fighter - in danger of pulling out all the carefully placed tubing.

I spent the day talking and talking and talking. I took my Mom's cell phone and answered every call that came to her throughout the day. She gave me a list of everyone she wanted to know, none of which she could bear to talk to herself.