Friday, May 19, 2006

Coming home

On Saturday morning, I'll be driving back home to Greater Metropolitan Pultneyville. I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and not breathing whatever pollen it is around here that I'm allergic to.

And having a little time alone. It was important for the family to be together, and I've been doing a lot of work to make sure my Mom is set with all of the insurance paperwork and legal stuff, but now I need to recharge. And try to get back to my own life. And try to come to terms with what happened.

This next part gets a little personal. I'm writing it more for me than anyone, so feel free to skip it.

Dad's condition had been deteriorating more quickly in the last few months than it had the past few years, but it was always assumed that he'd be moving further up on the liver transplant list, and would potentially undergo surgery some time this year. His liver was riddled with fluid-filled cysts and had swollen to over 120 pounds, and it was very difficult for him to move. But he was functional, alert, and able to get around with the help of a scooter.

When he suddenly got overwhelmed by a blood infection that shut down his over-stressed kidneys, he spent three agonizing weeks in the hospital, only to be told that his condition was now too serious to get a transplant. That's when my mom first called me and told me the news that he wasn't expected to survive much longer than a month, and I started packing to come home.

When my brother picked my mom up at the hospital to bring her home to get some sleep, my dad gave up. My mom got the phone call the minute they got in the house. Mom had told Dad we were all on our way and would be there in the morning. I'm pretty sure that the last thing he would have wanted was to have a roomful of us watching his last moments. So he gave up.

I had called him on his birthday a few days earlier, and he sounded awful. I was so alarmed, I couldn't think of anything to say, and there was a long awkward silence, and I broke up a bit before saying goodbye. I keep feeling like I should have gotten in the car right then and there. I should have gotten in the car when he first went to the hospital.

I'm going to have a lot of "should haves" and guilt going through my head for a long time. I'm also going to keep dwelling on what must have been going through his mind in his final minutes. There's a lot of my dad in me, and I can't help but project a little. It's not particularly comforting.

But I promised him a long time ago, when he first had surgery to attempt to correct it, that I would absolutely make sure that Mom would be alright. That's been my job #1 these past 2 weeks. And I've done right by him; I know I have. There were loose ends, and a lot of things they never got around to discussing (avoiding it, I'm sure), but every issue has been identified, and all the processes are underway to make sure all of the hard work he did to provide for her for the rest of her life will not be wasted.

Mom's been really strong. She's had to face this possibility for some years now, and those last weeks in the hospital brought it pretty clearly into focus for her, even though she wouldn't let on over the phone during that time. Yet, there's a lot of my mom in me too, and I can catch a few things about her that tell me that it's still going to be a long road. So I'm going to be worried about her. My brother will be moving back into the house, and she'll be taking care of his dogs when he's working, so she won't be alone. Financially, she won't have any worries at all, though there will still be some uncertainty for a while until everything comes together in the next month or so. And I'll always be just a phone call away to help there.

But I'm still going to be worried about her. But I'm pretty sure she'll be okay.

So now I need to get back to work and get my life in order. There is a lot I need to learn from all of this; obvious things, simple things. My priorities and motivations will change. And hopefully, I will continue to do right by my father.

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