Sensitivity warning: My family may not want to read this.
I hadn't much thought about how my family views the fact that I live my life in the open, online. During this past week, when everyone was here, it became clear how at least one family member is troubled by my need to take my virtual underpants off in public all the time.
It sucked to learn that, but I suppose it is every writer's dilemma. Hide the truth and be a boring-ass writer, or let the demons out and watch friends and family recoil.
So I started thinking about writing about Dad's death and how it was for me and whether I should expose that nerve or not. If writing a blog has taught me anything, it is that the posts I can barely bring myself to write are exactly the ones that need to be written.
I may have to do this in several parts. I don't know if I have it in me to do it all at once.
Mom called as I was getting out of the shower Wednesday morning and said Dad had had a stroke and that she had called the ambulance. Then she said, in her characteristically mom way "Don't hurry."
I know what she meant. I know she wanted to say "Don't panic and run your stupid head into a tree on the way like people always do," but it still made me shake my head and laugh. Dad is having a stroke, but don't hurry.
When I got to the emergency room, Dad was in distress, eyes open, chest heaving, trying to breathe, moaning "Harrrrrrr ahhhhhh" though his oxygen mask. His eyes were unseeing, though, and the first doc that talked to me let me know, subtly, that there wasn't much hope, something I could also see in the eyes of the nurses as they gazed at me.
The doctor, Dr. Kooros Samadzadeh, started talking to me about options for either "comfort care" or medical care. Meaning was it ok to let dad die, or should we make a foolish attempt to save his life.
Except he didn't put it that way. He had a long, long explanation full of long, long examples about different kinds of patients and their different kinds of needs based on all the variables in their lives. The examples he used were all 40-year-old men, which looked to be about his age.
I finally snapped. "Can you," I said, moving my hands from far apart to close together "Cut to the chase?"
"No, no," he said. "I want to be sure you fully understand what I am talking about. I couldn't sleep at night if I felt I didn't explain this to you." And he launched back in.
After about 3 more minutes, I said "EDIT."
But he refused. He kept talking on and on until plants grew up around my feet and the sun set and the birds took to roost. Ok, not that long, but almost.
I started hyperventilating and tears began squirting from my eyes as they do only when I am really, really angry and frustrated. When I am hurt, I bawl like a baby, but when I am mad, my eyes are wide open, fists clenched, and the tears just fly out of my eyes.
"I don't mean to distress you," he said. "We don't have to have this conversation."
So he was giving me two choices. Either listen to his long-winded doctor-blather or not make decisions about my dad's care.
"No," said. "I know what my dad wanted and what my mom wants. No extraordinary measures. Do not resuscitate. No intubation. Comfort care only."
I felt like a giant marble statue towering over a field of broken glass. I have never felt so alone, or so grown up. I was doing a terrible, adult thing but I knew exactly what it had to be. It was nothing about me. It was about my dad, who could not speak for himself, and for whom I had to make the right choice.
I had to be made of marble. I had to let my heart shatter inside my chest while the outside of me stood strong and the world fell away around me.
Thankfully and right on time, my cousin showed up and hugged me and held my hands, prayed and hung out with me. We got Dad moved up to a room and then the whole family showed up and then it was just waiting and breathing, forgetting to eat, drinking hospital coffee.
At about 10 pm everyone went home to sleep. I was going to stay for a while and then go home and then I knew I couldn't leave my dad alone. In case he died. The thought of him fading away into death alone was terrible to me, unthinkable, and I could not take that chance.
So I sat for that long night and talked to him and sang to him. I sang "Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this Place" and "El Rey," because the lyrics talk about how sad everyone will be when the guy dies, but also they say something that would make him laugh:
"With money and without money.
I always do what I want.
And my word is law.
I have no throne or queen.
Or anyone who understands me.
But I'm still the king."
If he could hear me, I apologize for my singing.
I also prayed, though Dad isn't much of a pray-er.
I had my 27-bead prayer mala, so I did the Prayer for Protection 108 times. 108 is a magic prayer number, or so they say.
"The light of God surrounds us.
The love of God enfolds us.
The power of God protects us.
Wherever we are, God is,
and all is well."
I'm afraid he may be mad at me about that one.
Then I looked up "The Walrus and the Carpenter," on my phone and read it all the way through, because Dad loved to quote from that poem:
"The time has come, the walrus said,
To talk of many things.
Of shoes, of ships, of sealing wax,
Of cabbages and kings."
It was a long long long long night. The mist poured down over the hills and crept about the town. We were on the sixth floor. The hospital was quiet and the half-hours crept by like days. I tried to doze in the uncomfortable chairs and woke up every few minutes.
The worst part, other than the fact that my dad was dying, which was pretty bad indeed, was the fact that I had that stupid Kesha song stuck in my head:
"Before I leave, I brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack
Cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t coming back"
I guess it was the part about leaving and not coming back that made it relevant, but I was so mad that it kept playing on a loop in my head and I couldn't stop it and I couldn't tell anyone because it seemed awful and sacrilegious for one, and for another none of my family would know what I was talking about because they hate music like that and so do I, but they play it at the gym, so it is embedded in my brain like an evil unstoppable parasite.
At 5:30 a.m., my brother came in to find me nodding off. He jumped visibly at the site of me still sitting there and gave me a hard time about why I didn't tell him I was going to stay all night. I didn't know I was. It just happened, and I'm really glad it did because I'll always have those hours of just me and dad and the night.
Ok. I'm cooked from writing that. Maybe I will write the rest. Maybe I won't. You already know the end.