1st part of a growing story around family and getting older
March 4. 2016.
Mum handed the phone to me. It was Dad in the hospital calling to see where we were.
"I feel like I'm in a vacuum; I don't know where I am or what's going on"
The day was not starting well for him, or any of us by default. He'd just had surgery and wasn't reacting well to the pain 'relief'. The short version was because of his ageing mind and body.
Mum stayed home each evening when I'd visit so all could have some comfort. Mum was safe and as relaxed as one can be; while Dad had company and I knew what was going on.
"I keep waking up in the night and I don't know where I am"
It wasn't the words that were hard to hear it was the expressions that were torturous to see. The entire stay had injected a child-like fear in my father's eyes that I couldn't ignore bathed with a look of love for my Mother that was both heart-warming and breaking.
"It's not fair on Mum; she deserves better than this. All I want is to give her a better quality of life"
And it was true. That's all Dad ever strived for. Before the surgery the Doctors huddled at the end of the bed and they explained the risks involved.
"For Joe Shmoe down the road this would be a simple procedure, however because of your previous health issues and the extent of the inflammation, you are a very high risk patient. I want you to understand the seriousness of this and that there can be many complications during and after the surgery"
The Doctors directed their speech at my father; my Mother solely fixated on the Doctors words,
"Yes. We understand" she said confidently.
While Dad heard nothing looking at Mum in silence; every movement, expression, glimpse of anything. He tortured himself worrying about her. I always hated the clich'it was like there was no one else in the room' until I find myself having witnessed this first hand.
I felt like I was peering into a room I shouldn't, inching farther back towards the door. This was the warm-break heart moment. This was the moment I realized I hadn't truly felt love for someone yet - only seen it in my parents. And that's where I began to unravel.
March 9. 2016
We sat for hours, Dad and I, waiting for the discharge papers in a little waiting bay at the end of the ward. I knew it was a good idea I came alone - he was getting frustrated already. Dressed, unhooked to beeps and flashes. Ready to go home.
I saw someone familiar in a gown still hooked to the beeps - I figured she was familiar due to the amount of times I'd passed her in these disease ridden hallways. I remembered she had the yellow sign outside her room. MRSA; warning patients, visitors and staff to wear masks, gloves and aprons. But she wasn't in her room right now. I felt her looking at me and I tried to make idle chat with Dad to keep his mind off the waiting.
'Hey! You work at Burger World!' she came close and extended her hand for me to shake, 'you're the Manager - I knew I recognized you!'. I shook her damp hand and the yellow sign flashed in my head. What now? Run and wash my hands in the sink she's sat next to?
'Hi, yes I'm off today - haven't seen you there for while?' - In fact I'd never recalled seeing her at all but decided I could use this line since I had actually seen her in the hospital for over a week. Something to sound as though I wasn't an asshole even though I had absolutely no interest in speaking to this person. I wasn't getting paid and I was with my Father. She smiled over at Dad - he was more polite than I. I didn't introduce them for two reasons - 1. Why the fuck would I? and 2. I feared she would then try and shake his hand and we'd never get out.
So there we sat in the awkwardness for a little - we couldn't get up and go anywhere except back to the room that was being prepped for the next patient anyway. She turned and took what sounded like a painful deep breath.
'Do you still have those burger deals on a Tuesday? We used to come in every Tuesday.'
This arduous back and forth continued for a while then she began describing her illnesses and how often she had been in before sort of gesturing a query as to why my father and I were here. Not something either of us were happy to discuss. Mainly because she is a complete stranger and it's none of her fucking business. I dodged the question and the Doctor came to discharge us, interrupting right on cue.
I later found out I had run a red light camera on that drive home. I wasn't surprised.
March 12. 2016
I woke up to the phone ringing at 6am. I knew something was wrong but I didn't know yet how this day was about to change all our lives.
It was my brother.
'What's wrong Jason?'
'Can you come over - something's wrong with Mum'
My heart dropped. I felt sick. Not Mum. I couldn't believe it. I was just beginning to relax - we had Dad alive and home, and Mum's epilepsy hadn't reacted to the stress of all that had happened up until this moment.
'I'm coming over. Stay with her'
'She was pouring coffee on herself'
'Take the cup OFF her and get her to sit in the chair'
She'd managed to climb the stairs in the time were speaking. Dad wasn't quite awake yet as she sat on the edge of the bed trying to pull her work pants over her pajamas.
She slurred as she spoke but we didn't panic the way we should have. Dad had been sick for a long time before surgery - keeping her awake in the night. Now he was out, he still stirred with pain a little.
'Mum - you aren't going to work today. Just lie down.'
'I havshe to go to work' she spluttered.
Dad was awake now forgetting his own pain and need to recover in an instant. Protection mode.
I text my boss and DO when I got to the car park that Saturday morning.
'As I explained to you both a couple a weeks ago it was important I was with my mum while Dad was sick because stress leads to her epilepsy flaring up. This morning she had a fit and I wanted to warn you in case I need to go'
They were very understanding. But I was the only manager on until 4pm and I didn't know what was coming. Jason called the restaurant. Then Dad then Jason again. I needed to go to Westmead.
The young Emergency Doctor stood over her frightened face.
'Mrs. Rutherford' he almost yelled in a patronizing tone. 'You're having a stroke'.