yesterday morning i had to tell my father it wasn't working here at home (my sister's house). that he would be better managed pain wise and comfort wise back in the hospital. i didn't have to say it, but we both know that meant he'd be going in and not coming back out.
this couldn't have come as too much of a surprise, but you know it was. he didn't wake up knowing this was it. i feel bad. but this is for the best.
he asked to nap and wake him at 1pm. he bathed and shaved. he dressed carefully in his good pants and nice sweater. his scarf. inexplicably, he's taken to wearing a black stetson.
we get to the VA and go through a maze until we find the right spot to talk to his oncologist. and it becomes apparent how fucked up the VA is when my sister receives a call while we are in the waiting room, five minutes early for the appointment:
'this is the VA calling, is your father aware he has an appointment today?'
'yes. we're here now. in the waiting room.'
they come out and call him. apparently for the first time in FOREVER they are ahead of schedule and he's already late for an appointment he's early for.
we go back to a windowless room. the by the book doctor comes in and asks him questions. my father answers them all wrong.
no he is not eating 3 meals a day. try 3 bites. he answers the pain question right but downplays it. he is not as strong as he tries to appear. oh my god we talked about this! he knew what was up before we came! i know why he's doing this. because he can't really remember and because he doesn't want to stay. this is the cancer version of cock blocking.
my sister starts to look worried. he needs to stay. this is better for him. she can't do this anymore. she's been working so hard caring for him. it's getting too hard to care for him in the way he needs.
dr. c comes in. dr. c is straight out of a 70s cigarette ad. or a porno. i don't like dr. c. he is brusque and has zero bedside manner. i decide it's definitely the cigarette ad. he'd never make it in the porno.
he tells my father what we all know, that he's not well enough to withstand even a bit of chemo. but that if he puts on weight and blah blah blah he might be able to.
by now my sister is getting that panicked look on her face. and i am not sure what to do. i told my father what was decided and he's trying to block it. my sister is talking but not saying what she wants to because this is so so hard. and how do you say i can't do this anymore to your father? i don't have a relationship with these doctors. and i am leaving in two days. i am practically an interloper here.
dr. c asks him all the questions dr. by the book asked him. he answers them all wrong. but dr. c, bless his fucking heart, he looks out of the corner of his eye at me. and i shake my head no at all the questions my father is answering in the positive. my father is confused, yes. but i know he's answering the questions that way to get out of staying. he needs to stay.
and then my sister asks dr. c. if all we are doing is waiting for him to get better for chemo or worse in general. we all know it but don't say it that my father is not going to get better for chemo. we choose our words carefully. my father is dying and confused, but he's not an idiot. he is the writer with the million dollar vocabulary. this is delicate territory.
dr. c mentions hospice and that 'we' can wait to see if he gets better for chemo, and STILL use them. he can wrangle it. this means hospice at my sister's house. my sister is crestfallen. i see her face. she cannot do this. i look at my father. i see his face. better yet, i know his heart. he can't do this. doesn't want to.
something has to be done. something has to give.
so. i choose. in front of the doctors. in front of my father. i choose. and i choose my sister. just like i've always done. just like i always will.
'my father can no longer be at my sister's house.'
and it sets the ball rolling. dr. c says he'll fix it and admit my father today. dr. by the book is not pleased. hospitals are not for this kinda of thing, he says. not for the dying with no acute symptoms. as if death isn't an acute symptom. but i hear what he's saying. and he's right. but this is one of those cases. this is one of those times. dr. c clearly wants dr. by the book to shut up. moreover, he's the boss so dr. by the book is now just annoying him.
dr. c tells dr. by the book they are taking the 'conversation' outside.
the doctors start to argue in the hall. you can hear dr. by the book pleading his case for the integrity of what a hospital 'should' be used for. dr. c says 'didn't you hear her? she can't do this anymore. we have to take him. that's our job.'
i like dr. c now. go dr. c. go VA. my father served this country and he needs it to give back right now.
my father won't look at either of us.
i feel like the world's biggest asshole.
because i said the words out loud. i know deep down my father knows this is best. but on the surface, i am an asshole and now my father is here. and not leaving.
later we are taking my father up to where he had stayed before.
we walk in and it's like going somewhere with lady gaga. they call out his name. 'you're back!' they cry. everyone on the floor coming over to see him, to say hello, to touch him.
one comely nurse is asking him if he's been working on the poem he started when he was last here, 'i will now that i'm back because you're the inspiration' he tells her. one guy in scrubs is grabbing his hand and clapping him on his back, 'how are you doin' man? good to see you.' another nurse comes in to say she wants to tell him about her camping trip.
apparently, my father has not lost an ounce of his charm.
even with the big welcome and a large room with i kid you not probably the best view in seattle, this is very difficult at best. the food is slow to arrive because it arrives only at a designated time. the pain meds even slower. the doctor is young and annoying. it's loud in the hallway. and of course i wonder how we thought this was best. it is. it is. but when you're dealing with dying there comes a point when everything is second guessed. especially if you're the one doing the guessing.
we wait to see that the food is edible (always a gamble at the VA) and that he gets his pain meds. then we leave.
and i realize i can't go home in two days. not yet. there's been a change of plans. i realize i can't go home and i miss my kids and the husband so much it hurts. my father can't go home either. ever again. i wonder what he misses.
i cry on the way home. i cry in target. and then i drink too much wine and stay up too late and when that no longer works i cry myself to sleep.
and in the morning, i write. just like my dad.