When we took my dad to the hospital on Sunday January 22nd it was to get his cough looked after. It didn’t seem serious at the time.
He had pneumonia and was put in single room. On Monday evening, he, Des and I hung out and joked around. It was easy to laugh, my dad was laughing as hard as us. The jokes were funny as they came from and went places. The back of my head hurt from laughing. As I said good bye I was looking forward to seeing an improvement in the pneumonia at lunch when I saw him next.
Tuesday at lunch didn’t reveal the improvement in energy I had been excited to see. There wasn’t the same vitality that had been there the night before. The symptoms of the pneumonia seemed to be less, he wasn’t coughing as much, but he didn’t really want to get up. His appetite dropped and while he ate the hospital food and some of the stuff we brought from home, he wasn’t attacking it anymore. Before I left that evening we chatted trying to get out by the weekend. We believe what we want to believe and that colours how we remember things. I know I felt that there was a good chance we’d be home for Saturday or Sunday and he could be back to dying from a brain tumor.
Wednesday he was moved to a double room although it didn’t make much difference. My dad slept most of the day, only getting up to go to the bath room and when the staff needed him to do something. He talked quietly and very little. It was almost peaceful because I didn’t know what I was seeing. To me Dad was sleeping off pneumonia, the medication was working and rest was what was needed. I left optimistic again for Thursday.
I would have missed something about this day had Des not pointed it out when it was happening. The patient that my dad shared the room with on Wednesday night moved out before noon on Thursday. The staff seemed to change the way they engaged my father. I didn’t really notice it at first, although I realized I had seen it when Des said “they seem to be regarding this as a palliative case now.” They were.
Friday was the same thing. The family at the hospital as much as they needed to be. The doctors and nurses doing what they do. IVs to help with this and that. I’m starting to feel my grief cycle ramp-up. Great early, good for most of the day and then the low points later in the day. The walk to the car as I go home this night chills my optimism more than it chills my skin. I know he’ll be there in the morning, I just don’t know how much more of this he can take.
Saturday, mom and I meet Des at the hospital. Nothings changed. The IVs are current. Dad is breathing and resting. Lunch, some other stuff, talk with the nurses. Do whatever it is we do, but as the day progresses, it feels different. The day light fades, and I have what I believe are to be my final moments with my father. It’s close to 10 pm as I get off the phone with an old friend who had shared a mutual fondness with my dad. The room is quiet except for the IV and the oxygen. My dads breathing is slower and lacking the consistency it held this morning. I hold his right hand, look at his face and wonder why I didn’t think it would be like this in the end? When we were in Ireland and he would pick me up and carry me, I couldn’t have imagined that between that moment and this one, the path our time together would take. Strobbing through my mind are pictures I have of my dad doing the things I remember. Laughing, working, driving, cooking, teaching, everything that my brain seemed to ever experience with him taking its moment to reveal itself and the memory that has become a piece of my personality.
There had been a linear decline over the last 7 days. I don’t know how someone leaves a parent knowing that they’ll never see them again but I did. When the phone rang Sunday morning I knew why I left.