I am not sure how to even start this post; I stared at the blank white box for a while. How does one come back after so long and tell the tale of 4 months in a few words?
My life is not the same as it was back on June 6th, so much changed so rapidly. Perhaps if I put it down chronologically it may make some sense, but then the emotions are so raw still at times that I know I'll still be moving back and forth on the time line. Guess this will make this post a melancholy tale with some Tarantino aspects to it.
My daughter's graduation was followed up by my sister getting transferred to headquarters here in the Sacramento region; she has decided that for the time being she is going to live with me. This has been wonderful and I really enjoy having her here. I have signed up for 2 more marathons and we are training together. The bad part is that I have somehow injured my IT band and though I fear it is lingering from the San Diego Marathon, I am not 100% certain.
On June 23rd, in the evening, my sisters called me from dinner in LA, and told me that our father had called an ambulance because he was having difficulty breathing. I was concerned, this man would never call an ambulance; it was always a fight just to get him to go to the doctor let alone the hospital. So I decided to make the 1.5 hour trek to Turlock from my home and arrived there just before 11:00 PM. My sisters were going to hit the road from the Imperial Valley and had a 6-hour drive to get back home.
When I got to my folks house, my kids stayed there with my niece and nephew, while I decided to head to the ER. Vince, the neighbor, spoke to me and he and Amy (his wife) told me that it wasn't a big deal and that my dad actually wanted to walk to the ambulance and not be put on a gurney. Vince figured he'd be home soon after some respiratory tests.
Now if you are not from N. California, this is the time when the valley was full of smoke from the 300+ lightening ignited wild/forest fires. So for a 68 year old man to complain about his breathing didn't seem to be too out of the ordinary.
I arrived at the hospital; my dad was surprised to see me as my mother didn't tell him we were all coming. He would have been upset at us for being so concerned. This was a proud and stubborn man we're talking about here. (Yeah I get it from him) My mother was a mess, she was frightened and frustrated, and so I spoke with my dad, the doctors and my mother. We were told that he would have to go and get an ultrasound on his thigh, as they were concerned that he may have a clot in his leg. His pulse rate was really low and he was on oxygen to help get his platelet count up.
During the ultra sound, I was with dad, he was very agitated and since he had lost weight and we had now discovered he had acute pneumonia, the pressure by the tech was painful. This made my dad's endorphins kick in and he got nauseous and faint. I quickly had to get him some water. Well the doctors didn't want him to drink anything in case they had to give him a transfusion in the morning, but I scammed a cup of water from a radiologist and got my dad settled down.
From there he went to the CT scan for his chest, mom and I were not allowed to go, the test would take 20 minutes and when he returned he was panic stricken. I was very concerned and my mom and I pleaded with them to let us give him some water which he was pleading us for. The transport guy was very nice and gave us water and ice chips and wheeled him back to the ER room.
It was about 12:30 now, and I decided to call my sisters and give them a heads up on what was happening. They were somewhere in the far southern Valley and were on their way, though still almost 3 hours from the hospital. I had told my dad that they were coming while we were at the Ultra Sound.
Around 12:50, my dad became very agitated and honestly, a bit scared. He was not lying down; he kept pulling off the oxygen mask and complaining that he couldn't breathe. He got blood into his IV by flexing and contracting his arm as he resisted attempts to make him lay back. I got up and took his hand and calmed him, got him to lie down and soothed him to relax. I remember seeing my dad look at me and as I rubbed his head he began to settle down. In my whole life I had never felt that close to my father.
Around 1:05 in the morning, as I caressed his head, my father looked intently at me; he stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest. I remember shouting at the nurse to get help, that his heart was stopping and he wasn't breathing. I remember vividly, my mother grabbing my arm and pleading to make him breath. The staff working on him for 20 minutes, performing CPR and putting him on a respirator, his heart restarted and they worked to get him as stable as possible. My mother and I just held each other through this ordeal, we were stunned and somehow, after dad was on the respirator, I got the courage to leave the room and call my sisters.
I told them what had happened, that mom was a wreck and she insisted that when I called them I would implore them to drive safely. I let them know that mom couldn't handle anything else happening to our family that night. I had gotten into an argument with my sister Premjeet on the phone on whether to call family members, it is funny what happens to your emotions at a time like this; how you set your priorities and who you become close too, having lived away from Turlock for over a decade I had not stayed attached to the family scene. I chose to avoid the gossip, fights and malcontent behavior.
My sisters arrived after 3am; I am somewhat hazy as to what exact time it was. Dad couldn't draw breath on his own and for his pulse to stay at a good level his oxygen was near 100% on the machine. Before my sister's arrival my mother and I sat and held each other and discussed my father's request that he never be kept alive on a machine. My mom is a strong person and she actually wanted to make sure that I remembered my dad's wish so that if we had to come to that, I would be able to stand up for that against any objections from my sisters. We discussed whether we should tell any of my dad's siblings who were in the area, but decided that it would cause a scene in the hospital.
We were surprised to see one my dad's sisters and her daughter arrive at the ER, claiming some sort of psychic connection to something bad happening to us. I was flabbergasted and dismayed, as I knew that this would lead to a scene, and it did. My emotions on this are too intense, so it will be in another post....
They decided to move him upstairs to the Critical Care Unit, and we were in an adjacent CCU room filling out forms while they got him settled in, about 10 minutes into the forms, a nurse came in and said "you guys need to come into your father's room". We got there to see them scrambling to do CPR, there were now nearly 15 people from Nurses, orderlies, doctors, technicians and surgeons and us and for 30 of the longest minutes of my life, worse than the 20 I endured a few hours before, they worked on my dad. I held my mother and my youngest sister, and I remember how badly I longed to see a flutter on the EKG after they would use the defibrillator on him. I can barely type now....
30 minutes after we had gotten in that room, the doctor turned and said "I'm very sorry, we can't bring him back. He didn't suffer or feel pain" There are many times when something emotional will hit you like a kick in the gut. Never had I felt this, I was stunned, shocked, saddened, it was as if the air in my lungs was blocked and I didn't think I could ever take another deep breath. My mind went back to 1am when I was holding my father's hand, when I felt it go cold, when I saw him look at me and then close his eyes. I realized then that my father would never look at me with those eyes ever again.
The eyes that smiled, that glared, or twinkled with some mischief. I wish I could have said something more to him. Instead of calming him with a soothing "Don't worry Dad I am here, I got you" I could have told him how proud I was that this man with nothing more than an 8th grade education could come to America with $20 bucks, a strong back and an even stronger will and make a great life for all of us. I wish I could have told him that even though I was distant, I always was my father's son and wished I had realized as a 20 something what I knew as a 30-something.
My father was gone that early morning of June 24th, 37 years to the day he stepped off that plane, with his wife, son, daughter and $20 dollars. I sit here today, and still can't believe it, that 3 days later I'd be reading his Eulogy and the day afterI would scatter his ashes.
I've not spoken about that, about scattering the remains of my father 25 days before my 40th birthday; or the feeling of emptiness it has left inside me, I have yet to tell anyone how painful my birthday was as I realized reading my card that it would say from mom instead of from Dad & Mom like it had my whole life. In my heart I believe that my dad is in a better place, free of all his illness and pain, having conquered his vices and made peace with his maker. I wish I could look into those eyes one more time, could get one more piece of advice, or joke, or heck even have him yell at me again.
It has been 3 months today since my dad left us, 3 months for me to write down in detail everything that happened that night. I don't know how much longer it will take for the healing to start, time will tell
Sleep with Angels