It’s been a long time, my friend. Many things have happened. Good and bad.
My father has heart failure. I was at work when I got the call. Dad fell in his tub on Tuesday morning. His coffee shop friends were worried when he didn’t show up in the morning for his usual coffee and they called the police to do a welfare check on him. They broke into his house and found him late that afternoon, he was in the hospital that evening. The police smelled gas in his house too and they got it turned off.
Just the thought of my father unable to move and stuck there for a day breaks my heart. He was very lucky. He could have died.
I lost it at work and went home right away. Tried to look up plane tickets to Minnesota and couldn’t function on the computer. Couldn’t see the screen through my tears. I tried calling to get a ticket and got frustrated when I couldn’t communicate to the individual who was most likely Indian. Mike came home and helped me get a ticket to fly out the next morning.
I bawled the whole flight there. And back (a week later).
My sister, Yvette, left work early and we waited for my brother, Eric, to finish his physical therapy that day for his stroke. We drove together from Minnesota to the hospital in Iowa.
Dad was pretty out of it. Confused and weak. He thought he was lying in the tub for days and thought he was in the hospital for months. He was in a lot of pain too. It was still good to see him.
That whole week was spent with me driving my family back and forth from MN to IA. Eric had to go to therapy and Yvette had to go back to work. My niece was there also so it was nice that we were all able to be together. I got us a hotel room and we found a big bottle of Southern Comfort at Dad’s house. I’m not a big SoCo drinker so I got myself a bottle of wine.
Most of the time I spent talking with the social worker and case manager trying to get paperwork done. That’s very hard to do when you don’t have anything to begin with. Dad didn’t have a Will or Power of Attorney for anything. We tried to get Dad to sign the POA for medical and the Living Will and he was too tired the first time and the second time he said he wasn’t signing anything.
Dad’s place was a disaster! It wasn’t as bad as I thought. I was expecting floor to ceiling junk with a path to the bathroom. But the mess was more due to the fact that he was ailing and couldn’t take care of himself. It was mostly garbage, dirty clothes, food, and papers everywhere. It makes me sad to think this has been going on for so long. He did try and tell me that he was hurting, but we all thought he was playing the “woah’s me” card. Laying the guilt that we didn’t come to visit. We also thought Dad would live like a mess and that was his choice to hoard things and we didn’t want any part of it. Kind of like “you made your bed, you lie in it” thing.
Well. We went to Dad’s place and went inside to grab what we could. Eric got all of his guns (a lot) and we got some others things. Of course, while we were there my other brother, Dominic, called and was telling me what I needed to do. He was still in Florida. I was not happy about that.
First of all, do you have to ask if you should come? Come on! I told him that it would be nice if he came to visit and he didn’t have to worry about Dad’s place we would take care of it. Just a visit. Dominic really made me mad. He was an easy target since he wasn’t there. I didn’t appreciate him telling me what to do. I told him that I was already doing all the stuff he talked about and that we were on top of things. Eric overheard me talking on the phone and told me later he thought about asking me if I wanted him to talk to Dominic but he figured I was doing a good job and had it under control.
Dominic and I talked numerous times throughout the day and each time he would ask if he needed to come. It was really ticking me off. Obviously he didn’t want to. It upset me that he would jump on a plane for Eric and not Dad. It upset me that I listened to Dominic to wait to come see Eric when he had his stroke and then I ended up only being there for one day. I learned my lesson and decided I will go with my gut feeling and not what others tell me to do.
The whole side of Dad’s health was confusing. They did angiogram and said his heart was pumping 10% and normally it should be between 45-60%. They wanted to get his heart up to 45%. They talked about a pacemaker or a Left Ventricular Assisted Device. It was Dad’s choice what he wanted since we couldn’t decide for him.
I asked a lawyer what we needed to do to get him to sign Power of Attorney over for financial matters and he said he needed a note from the Doctor saying that Dad was competent. That was a fun conversation with the Doctor. He said competence is not a medical term and he wasn’t able to do this. So even though my Dad was confused and didn’t know what was going on they still needed to ask him what he wanted. After explaining his choices to him, Dad decided on the Left Ventricular Assisted Device. Turns out they could only do that at the University of Minnesota so they transported him there by ambulance.
They transported him the day that I was flying back home. I was torn about going home. The Doctor also said that Dad could go any minute. Could be days, weeks, months…that was harsh to take. I decided to go home which was difficult to do.
My brother, Eric, was a Godsend. He slowed me down because he walks with a cane. That helped me to breathe. Normally, I’m go, go, go. It hard seeing Dad like this but nice that I could spend time with my sister and brother. One time, Eric and I were in Dad’s room and he was sleeping. I should mention first that my sister bought Dad a very plush soft stuffed dog. We told him he was the perfect pet that he didn’t have to clean up after and all of that. When Dad was sleeping he moved his hand like he was petting and he said “nice kitty”. Eric and I smiled at each other. What a nice dream my Dad was having. That’s awesome!
Dad had visitors every day. He had a couple of lady friends come by. These were his dancing partners. Dad is big on going to Polka dances and such. Loves the shodish. The ladies were so very nice. They teased him about holding that stuffed dog and how it was so nice to see him have his comfort toy. Cute. I think that was the first time I saw Dad blush.
We brought a tape player and some tapes Dad had at home. I made sure he had some polka music. He even had Chopin which surprised me. I made him listen to it one night. One day he was more coherent and clearminded so I played Cribbage with him. I told him “no mercy”. Of all the times he would beat my ass at cards I was not going to miss this opportunity. He laughed. We got halfway through and he was so tired he was counting up points that weren’t there. I stopped playing so he could rest and we never got to finish. But he was kind enough to say that I beat him because I was so far ahead of him. I guess he was able to play with someone else there at the hospital too. He loves his cards!
One day we were leaving to take care of business and as we were walking out Dad said “I’m sorry.” I stopped dead in my tracks! I went back to him and held his hand and told him “it’s ok, Dad. Everything will be ok.” He said he was sorry he was such a hassle and he was sorry for everything. Oh the agony, the sadness in his eyes! I felt so bad and yet so good that I got to hear him say that!
The whole trip was worth it just to hear him say that. Just to tell him that I love him so very much!
He didn’t get the Left Ventricular Assisted Device. The Doctor at the U of M said what he needed was stints or bypass surgery. He didn’t want to do the bypass surgery though because it was too risky. His heart was in very bad shape. They did another angiogram and MRI. They said he had three heart attacks at some point. He doesn’t recall them. They decided to put stints in. The Doctor had some trouble with the first one and only got half of it in. Then he stopped the procedure and said he would finish it on Monday. This was Friday or Saturday when he did this. That bothered me that Dad had to get the surgery done twice.
But! Now, Dad sounds so much more clearer on the phone. He’s still tired and confused. But he’s getting around. He’s now in an Acute Rehab assisted facility. My lovely sister found a good place close to her home. She was able to get him to sign the Power of Attorney for medical and the Living Will. Now we only have the matter of financial business to take care of. It’s so hard to take care of business for a person who’s unable to take care of themselves and they don’t have their papers all in order. We’ve been all stressing about this. We grabbed a lot of paperwork from Dad’s place and I bought a bankers box and files and went through a ton of paperwork. Spent a whole night working on this to try and get things started for my sister before I left. Since Eric has his own issues to deal with Yvette said she would take care of Dad’s business. I did what I could and then turned it over to her.
We’ve all been a total wreck! Eric has been the rock for us this time. I was heading back to the hospital one day and was under the impression I was going alone but Eric called to tell me he would come back with me. I was so relieved! I had anxiety that day about driving down alone and trying to handle things on my own. We stopped at Dad’s place to pack a suitcase for him and I got a call from the hospital. They asked my permission to give Dad his first angiogram. They told me the risks involved and I rushed to get out of the house and to the hospital so we could be there for Dad. Dad’s house was 20 miles away so I was passing everybody on the road. Eric laughed when we got there and told the lady friends visiting that it wouldn’t have been a bad ride if I wouldn’t drive so slow. 100 mph. He was exaggerating of course.
That was when the Doctor told us that Dad’s heart was pumping at 10% and he could go any time. I couldn’t stop crying after that! I tried to compose myself when I was next to Dad’s bed talking with him. I even scolded Dad for trying to sit his bed up when he was supposed to lay flat for a while. I scared him when I did that. I don’t remember the last time I saw Dad scared. I felt so bad that I got excited over this and I apologized profusely to him that I didn’t mean to do that.
Eric spent time with Dad while I spent it talking with the social worker, case manager, and financial advisor there in the hospital. I was having a very hard time keeping it together that day. That was the worst for me.
On the lighter side, while we were walking into the hospital. Eric decided not to use his cane. I said “remember when we were kids and you used to call me retard? Well now I really can call you retard!” He laughed and then he said “if I had my cane I would beat you up with it”. That’s my brother. Stinker. He told me how he would tease his buddies and tell them that he was smarter than the rest of them even with half a brain. I really got a kick out of the name for his Fantasy Football team. His team’s name is Off Daily. He said this way when anybody beats him they could say “I beat Off Daily”. What a character! What really amazes me is that he is going bow hunting this deer season! He’s going to use a mouth piece to pull the bow back. He’s already gone to target practice and was able to hit the target! That is wonderful! I’m so proud of him!
Well, everyday is a battle. I’m up and I’m down. Mostly down. Life goes on, right? And to top it off, I’ve retained a lawyer for the divorce. I guess I can say that Mike is pleasant. Amiable. We’re talking and communicating. I still can’t help but stress over that though.
Oh! And then…Eric tells me while we’re driving that when Dominic came to visit him in the hospital he told him he has a brain tumor! Nobody knows about it. Not his wife or daughter. Not anybody in our family. Just Eric. Eric wasn’t even supposed to tell me. Geez! What else can happen? So all I know is that it’s not cancerous. It isn’t growing. But it is inoperable. I’m glad Eric told me. I would have hated myself if I told Dominic off on the phone. I don’t want to have any regrets. Eric said he didn’t have any regrets with Dad and didn’t want to start by missing an opportunity to drive down and see him. That got me thinking a lot about regrets. Maybe I’ll write about that some other time. I’m tired now.