It'd been about three weeks since Dad was last admitted to hospital, so it shouldn't have come as a surprise when he was picked up by the ambulance again on Friday night. The long weekend stretched ahead, unnerving and quiet, watching the phone. I stayed at home until Sunday, when Mum called to say the blood thinners appeared to have given Dad a stroke. She was terribly upset and we made the executive decision - I was on a plane within 90 minutes and at the hospital about three hours after her call.
Again, we went through the cycle of godawful followed by euphoric with improvement followed by comedown on realisation that the new normal appears to be not as good as the normal of three days ago. I could write details of a possible stroke, recovery of the right hand side of his body, a deep vein thrombosis, swelling, scans, Dad's latest symptoms -- all in the name of charting the progression of the disease that is stealing him from us. Who knows, maybe in future I'll want to remember this, to be able to individually recall the hospitalisation episodes and what happened when. But I suspect that all that will be important and remembered are the conversations with Mum which broke my heart (she feels she's lost him already and I'm not going to say she's wrong), the few laughs I elicited from Dad, the tiredness with which he faces the world, the loss of some of the words he was looking for.
My sister K retreats a little further. She held off coming, until we knew more about the prognosis. She's talking about visiting on Queen's Birthday weekend, 1 June, when she has four days off. That's a month away. I thought last night about Dad a month ago. She's probably well aware of this, but the difference between Dad a month ago and Dad today is not insignificant. There is risk in leaving it another month. That's not to say that she has to respond in the way that I do -- I hunger for time, I greedily hoard and soak it up, returning to my husband to grieve. She doesn't process in the same way I do, nor does she share the privilege of having a P to ease the burden and shoulder her grief. But I find I can't stay quiet when I suspect that she might live to regret her decisions. I need to find the balance, a way to speak to her.
A acquaintance's 61 year old father-in-law passed away suddenly over the weekend. I won't go into detail (it's a public death, due to the circumstances), but she too is pregnant and P knows both her husband and his recently deceased father. The horror and the grief must be enormous for them. Selfishly, my heart screamed when I heard, envious and terrified - at least it was fast, at least it was a quiet, gentle death. There's no way to compare, there just isn't. I was lucky enough to have six wonderful weeks with Dad, in person and over the phone, between diagnosis and the first real downhill run, knowing that time was finite. But oh my god, I'm not sure I wouldn't trade it for the knowledge that he doesn't have to suffer this way, that Mum doesn't have to live in this extended, surreal, awful existence wherein she feels he's shut down emotionally and is going through the motions, no longer available to her. I saw it last weekend, and wondered whether it was the burden of caring for him that was causing her to pull away. But now I know better.
I probably don't mean that I'd prefer a quick loss. I'll probably look back and be so grateful for the moments that are scorched in my brain - sitting at the kitchen table, watching him scarf a cake I'd baked with chocolate ganache, the late summer sunshine falling on his face. Sitting outside at the table commenting on the peace, the view, the sunset. Watching him instruct P in use of the circular saw, holding the pieces of ply in the garage for P to cut. Sitting on the couch with feet tucked away to one side, holding his toes. His 'yeah-hear-hears' of excitement, burbling up from his chest.
Dad's eyesight is failing. Before the hospitalisation, Mum sat on the couch, he on a chair on the opposite side of the coffee table. She was crying, and he couldn't make out her features to know what was going on. Christ, that kills me.