Tuesday, April 08, 2014

A Birthday Wish ...

Today would've been my Dad's 69th birthday.   I started this blog ten years ago to help me deal with the aftermath of his heart attack.   The eight months following his collapse were quite literally hell on Earth.   The drive from Litchfield to Memorial was the beginning of the longest night of my life.  He had already flat lined three times and hadn't regained consciousness.  The cardiologist told us if he survived the night, they would do surgery ... but since he'd smoked for nearly 40 years, the chance of his survival was slim to none.  When the doctor said that, I saw my mom sob for the first time in my life ... and it scared the hell out of me.

She wouldn't leave Dad's bedside.  She sat next to him without sleeping all night.  My brother fell asleep on a couch in a conference room off the Cardiology ICU waiting room.  Which left me ... by myself.  My ex-husband wouldn't have anything to do with my family.  Despite my calls ... and the fact that we lived six blocks from the hospital ... he refused to come up.   So I spent the night walking the halls ... and staring up at the night sky.

I prayed ... hard ... and I made a deal with God that night.  I told him ... if you have to take Dad ... take him tonight.  Don't make him suffer.  I can take the loss ... but don't make him hurt.

The night passed ... and the next morning Dad had eight by-passes.   He flat lined again ... more than once ... and we found out several weeks later that he had a stroke on the table.   He came in and out of consciousness ... his kidneys were failing.  We called the family ... he was dying.  My sister-in-law came up from Tennessee.  And ... I was still alone.  

We found out he had contracted a staff infection in the operating room.  The staff infection was inside his heart incision ... and it was eating away his sternum.   His incision literally burst open in front of Mom.  She'd rarely left the hospital other than to go home and take a shower every few days ... and this was almost too much for her.  They rushed him back into surgery ... cleaned out the infection ... cut away the dead bone ... and reconnected his ribcage.

I was taking a networking class at the community college when all this was going on ... balancing my full time job plus the courses required for my recent promotion at work.  They interrupted the class to tell me I needed to go to hospital immediately.  

When I wasn't taking leave or at class, I was working like a dog ... carrying my school books to the hospital every night after work ... staying until ten or eleven.  I rarely got to see the girls.  One of the things I regret about that time is missing most of College's One's senior year of high school.  Dad was in hospice and had only a few days left ... and Mom made me leave his bed and go to College One's graduation.  She said I'd never forgive myself if I missed it ... and she was right.

He would be a little better ... and then his blood pressure would drop.  He would be a little better ... and then the doctors would tell us to call the family.  This went on from October to June ... the constant, never-ending roller coaster.   He died on June 13th ... and I was angry.

I was so ... so ... angry.   I'd made a deal with God ... and he reneged.   I told him that he could take Dad that night ... and he didn't.   So why did we have eight months of so much pain?  So much constant sorrow?

I'm better now ... now that I'm removed from it, I see those eight months as a gift.  I had eight months to say goodbye to him.  I had eight months to hold his hand and talk to him ... he told me stories about Viet Nam ... he told me about his friends that died ... stories I'd never heard.   I'm past the anger ... and most of the grief.

Mainly the grief I feel these days is that he isn't here to see my life now.   He would be so damned happy.   I like to think my Dad was there to meet my best friend when she died ... and I guarantee you, she told him about the one man she approved of ... and I bet they both had a good laugh at how much I wanted that cookie ...

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all
Your Christmases be white

Bing Crosby - White Christmas

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