Monday, April 30, 2007

Coming Home

The last few weeks have flown by me yet again. It has been a whirl of hospitals, preparing my parents house for my Dad's homecoming, and trying, unsuccessfully, to take care of our own personal matters.

I had a dream of the hospital every night last week, and though it was very different from the place my Dad has been staying, it has remained the same in each of my dreams. What I remember most about it are the winding hallways that force you to turn every few feet. This building in my dream was impossible to navigate, and the staff was continuously moving my Dad to a new room, and with each room change we had to walk through the nurses office that was cluttered with so many personal items that I could not walk through without knocking over an entire shelf of books, dishes, or haircare products. I was given the evil eye each time I stepped through the door, and each time I would lower my head and try to walk as carefully as possible, yet I ended up knocking over another pile of something or other. I usually woke up after the third pass. While this dream may seem very cryptic, you would understand better if you could see the state of my parents house, and it is not due to a lack of effort, but to an over abundance of stuff that my Dad thinks is gold. I'm still not sure how we are going to convince him to let it go. I would call Clean Sweep or Mission Organization on him if I thought they could do a better job of convincing him that he does not need his Word 97 boxes, or every issue of Model Railroading Magazine since 1973.

In spite of everything Jon and I trying to keep our heads up. We haven't gone this many nights on 5 hours or less sleep since we were in our teens. It is becoming very hard to function normally, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The hospital was already talking of releasing my Dad today should everything continue going as plan, and then we can begin the at-home recovery time that could take anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months. I know my Mom will be thrilled to have him home again, but I don't think any of us want him to be home nearly as much as he is ready to be home.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Good News

Miracles have taken place in Akron, Ohio, in my father's little hospital room. All tests thus far have come back negative for cancer. In fact, the mass in his esophagus that worried the doctors most just disappeared at some point this week, proving itself to be irritation from the ventilation tube. My Dad is eating solid foods, is talking much more clearly, and was even cracking jokes with us about his being transferred to the Acute Care for the Elderly, otherwise known as ACE, wing of the building. All of us were anticipating his release any day now what with his constant complaints of boredom. But I got the message last night that that will not be happening any time soon. Apparently the tests were finally run on his heart and he needs Open Heart Surgery, a quadruple bypass. I have every confidence that he will make it through and recover from this, but it is the recovery time, more than likely 6 months to a year, that has me worried the most.

My parents were already struggling financially as it was and having the bread winner out of work is not going to help their situation. Not to mention my Dad is 61-years-old going into this surgery. Is that really something he can recover from enough to go back to working on his feet 40-50 hours a week? I have my doubts. And that is why Jon and I have discussed the possibility of having them move in with us, giving them the opportunity to crawl out from under their financial burdens and creating a more stress-free environment for them both, but especially my Dad. We know that it could be tough, living with two more people, and that it would put a halt to our family plans, and completely end the possibility of relocating like we had been discussing for the last few months, but the most important thing right now is making sure that they are taken care of, and Jon and I are the only ones with the room. Of course, we haven't spoken to either of my parents about this. I've been waiting for a time to catch my Mom alone. For me, it's important that she knows the offer is there, whether she accepts it or not.

It never ceases to amaze me how much a life changing event such as this can help put everything into perspective. For the last four months I have been moping around in this cloud of self-pity. I was a ticking time-bomb on the verge of self-destruction. I felt worthless, beaten, and vastly inferior to every other living being in my life. I wanted to crawl into a dark hole somewhere and never come out again, and what is even more frightening is I can't tell you why, because I haven't the slightest idea. But when I got the call that my Dad was in the hospital I was able to snap out of it. I realized that my problems, or more accurately, my imaginary problems were nothing compared to real obstacles I could face in my life. I can't sit here fearing and loathing the small stuff when I could have it a lot worse.

I could have lost my Dad this week, or I could have been told that I was going to lose my Dad in the near future, and I hate to think what that would have done to me had I not been able shed all of that negativity. I need to be a stronger person, and unfortunately, I am my only source to becoming one. One step at a time.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

This Gonna Hurt Like Hell


When the phone rang at 11:27 Wednesday night and my bother-in-law's name appeared on the caller I.D. screen we knew it couldn't be good. I let Jon answer it, and when his eyes began to tear-up and his end of the conversation was only "Uh huh. Okay. Are you all right? Do they know anything?" I knew something was wrong with one of my parents and more than likely my dad. He's the only one who could make Jon cry that quickly.

When he hung up the phone I immediately asked, "Are my parents okay?"

"That was your mom. Your dad is in the hospital. He was having trouble breathing and was rushed to City Hospital in an ambulance. They don't know what's wrong, but she said she will give us a call as soon as they do. Your sister and her husband are there with her."

"I knew something like this was going to happen. I've been feeling it for a couple of months now. My dad doesn't care about taking care of himself."


My dad suffered a severe heart attack when he was only 44-years-old. I don't remember much; only him lying on the couch, looking as though he was in a lot of pain, and telling one of my brothers to call mom at work. They handed the phone to him after they got her and he told my mom to come home because he had to go to the hospital. I didn't know what was going on, but it obviously wasn't good. My little sister and I were shipped off to the babysitters for the night where I vaguely remember sleeping on the couch, waking up in the middle of the night, and pulling the rotary phone up next to me. I tried calling home but no one answered, and so I went back to sleep with the phone next to my head just in case my mom called.

My dad was lucky 17 years ago and survived a heart attack. He was diagnosed with diabetes and many changes were implemented into our lifestyle. We started drinking skim milk, which was quite gross at first but eventually grew on us, we had to use artificial sweeteners, and very, very lean meats. The two things we couldn't get my dad to give up, unfortunately, were cigarettes and Reese's cups. Still, the candy was, for the most part, an easy fix because you either just didn't buy it, or if you did, you kept it hidden from him. The smoking, on the other hand, was something only he could fix and it was obvious that he didn't want to fix it.

And so the reason I say the man doesn't care about taking care of himself is because for the last 17 years he has smoked like a chimney, and for the last 17 Easters he has quietly raided all of our baskets for those darn Reese's Easter Eggs that send his blood sugar through the roof.


My mom finally called back around 6:00 on Thursday morning. She said that my dad was being kept in the Critical Care Unit but that he was stable. He has suffered from congestive heart failure and pneumonia, which is why he was having trouble breathing. He was not breathing on his own so they had him hooked-up to a ventilator and had to keep him sedated because he was fighting against the tube that ran through his mouth and into his lungs. She said that he had suffered from a second heart attack but the doctors could not tell if it was 2 hours ago, 2 days ago, or even 2 weeks ago.

I took the day off from work and spent it at the hospital. My dad looked pale, uncomfortable, and very frail in the hospital bed. He was under for the most part, but occasionally he would open one eye and cough, struggling against restraints that had his arms tied to the bed as his reflexes wanted to pull out the massive tube that was running down his throat. I felt useless, but unable to be anywhere else.

The hospital has been very understanding of our large family. Even though signs are posted at every door about the limit of 2 visitors at a time they did not protest when we had all 6 of us kids, 2 spouses, my mom, and my aunt and uncle in the room at the same time. We tried our best to keep quiet, to not disturb my dad or any of the other patients in the unit. We were all worried, but we were all functioning, which I took as a good sign.

Very late into the evening the doctors began reducing his intake of drugs that were keeping him under. They said they needed him awake, and breathing on his own, in order to remove the breathing tube which was prohibiting them from running further tests on his heart. They still needed to find where the blockage was and determine what type of surgeries would be needed. And by the time that I left Thursday night around 8:30, he had come around enough to grunt that he was hungry and wanted some water. And though his communication skills were poor with an obstruction in his mouth he managed to ask, "What is wrong with me?" My mom and older sister did the explaining.


I went into work, even though it obviously wasn't a very productive day. I spent most of it explaining to my co-workers what was going on, how he was doing, and what the next plan of action would be. I kept it light, tried to appear optimistic, mostly for my sake, and gave everything that I had to give. I looked like hell and felt even worse. I'm sure most of them wondered why I had come in, but the feelings of uselessness at the hospital were too much for me to bear.

When I came home I called my mom for an update. She had good news in that he was breathing much better, on his own, and would hopefully be able to remove his ventilator soon. She also had scary news that the doctors, in testing, had found a tumor in his esophagus, which was small but more than likely cancerous, and two more in his stomach for which my dad has to be transferred to Cleveland to have the biopsy done. We are hoping that the lump in his esophagus is only irritation from the breathing tube, and that the two tumors in his stomach are benign. We won't know anything until next week.

By the time I arrived at the hospital last night they had removed his breathing tube and restraints, and he was sitting up in bed watching the news while my brother and sister worked on a crossword puzzle at his bedside.

"Hi Daddy, how are you feeling?" I asked as I took his hand and smiled. "O.K." was all he could manage in a very raspy, gurgley voice. "Well, you look much better," I said and sat down to watch tv with him.


I'm jumpy whenever the phone rings. While he was visibly doing better when I saw him last night I know he's not quite out of the water yet. I feel as though every muscle in my body is cramping up with stress. I have so many things that need to be done at home but I don't care to do them. It is just after 11:00AM, when visiting hours begin, and all I want to do is be there.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Enough Already

There were blizzard like conditions through the night and into this morning. We are around 3 inches already and I'm told we can expect another 3 throughout the day. Darn you, lake effect snow.

I've decided it's a conspiracy when you have a better chance for a white Easter than a white Christmas. Christmas around here was very gray and muddy, but Easter will most certainly be white, and very cold. It's been that way for the last four years, at least.

It makes me glad that I haven't gone shopping for any a new clothes to wear for the holiday. All of those poor people with their new gauchos and sandals are probably devastated at the drastic change in weather.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Musings of a Would-Be Recluse

Why does it seem like time is standing still when it is really flying by? I lost March; I can't remember what I did with it, but I do remember spending most of it in this same, unsatisfied state that I feel currently.

Last night I told Jon that I had an unrelenting case of the Blahs, and in return he said he thought I might be getting sick. I mumbled back at him, "Yeah, sick of a lot of things." I explained to him that I was sick of my commute, losing two hours a day that I'm not getting paid for; that I was sick of my job that just isn't challenging me anymore. I was sick of feeling weighed down by mortgage payments, car payments, grocery bills, and gas prices; I felt as if the world was out to nickel and dime me. I was sick of my hair, which hasn't been cut since I last mentioned it two months ago, and is now down to my elbows, because I don't know what to do with it. I was sick of being too tired. I sit at my desk all day thinking of playing tennis, or gardening, or walking the dogs, or playing catch with Jon when I get home, but by the time I've made that hour commute my eyes are glazed over and we're lucky if dinner gets made. Yeah, I'm sick all right, but not in the way he meant it.

I never had grandiose plans for my future, short of wanting to be a news anchor for a while, and that short-lived thought diminished when my mother sat me down to say, "You know, honey, you just don't have the look to be a news anchor." And while I see her point, because I probably had sweat and dirt stuck to my forehead from my last ballgame, I also stop every once in a while and ask myself, "What 12-year-old does have the right look to report news?" Of course, I didn't think that at the time. I just took her word for it and walked away thinking, "Okay, I'm not pretty enough to report the news, but maybe I can still marry a major league baseball player." Then high school came along, my fear of my peers worsened, and my "career" of choice was to become a hermit. I consider myself lucky that a job at the library practically fell into my lap, that I was lucky enough to meet my husband so young, and that he could make that future life as a hermit seem a little less appealing. If it weren't for those two occurrences, which happened nearly simultaneously, I may have been a very successful recluse.

I'm not sure what I can say in conclusion except that, after 5 years of turning it down, the option of moving out of Ohio is looking more and more attractive. We initially thought that we could never leave our family, but as I feel myself pulling away little by little, I'm beginning to think that we could manage it. I suppose my only requirements would be that we could afford the lifestyle we have here, which could be hard, and that there is an IKEA within driving distance.