07 May 2009

Emotionally Overwhelming

This post is over a two months old. I began writing it the weekend of February 20.

At work Friday morning I wasn't alarmed but thought it unusual to get a call from Christopher. My younger brother told me that my father had been admitted to the hospital and was having triple-bypass surgery the following Monday.

We discussed whether or not I would make the trip. We both knew that when I called my father that such efforts would be discouraged. I called my sister, Lisa, who planned to leave Biloxi with her friend Gina on Sunday and arrive in Louisville that evening. As we all suspected, Daddy told me not to drive up when I called him. But I had already made up my mind. The only decision I had to make was whether to fly or drive. Cameron and I talked about it when he got home Saturday morning. Because he would be home Monday, he could care for Billie, Georgia and Edith, meaning the puppies could stay home.

By plane I could get to Louisville in about an hour. But after booking non-rev travel I would still have to sit standby at the gate and perhaps not get a seat. Then, I'd have to book a rental car because if I didn't I'd be at the mercy of my busy family to get me around town once I arrived at Standiford Field. Coordinating all of this was more than I cared to deal with at the time. Driving, on the other hand, would mean a 6-hour drive and would ensure my freedom of movement, and to some degree my autonomy once in "the river city."

Deciding to drive gave me Sunday to finish laundry and pack. I left for Louisville early Monday morning so I'd be at the hospital when Daddy came out of surgery. I stopped at Costco for some less expensive premium gasoline and once back on I-40 was astonished at the number of state troopers on the road between Germantown and Brownsville. I remember counting eleven, complete with victims, pulled over on the shoulder. There were a more poised for pursuit in the median. Thankfully, I made it through the traps with the trusty assistance of my radar detector.

I talked to my youngest sister, Tina, a few times during the drive. She kept me updated on the senior David's status and what was going on with everyone else in the interim. Considering the implications of losing my father for 400 miles was something for which I wasn't prepared. He's five years older than his father, Otto, was when he died of a heart attack. Apparently, Daddy had gone to his doctor for an inhaler that he uses to assuage the manifestations of smoking four packs of cigarettes a day for as long as I can remember. Thankfully, his doctor decided to test my dad because he hadn't been in for a while. From what Tina tells me, they put him on a treadmill for a short time before they sat him down and told him not to move. He was admitted to the hospital with 98% blockage in three arteries. I suspected the breathing issues were a little less COPD and a lot more artery blockage.

By the time I entered the metro Louisville area I had mentally debated my route to Floyd Memorial. I could stay on I-65 North, exit Highway 62, then drive through old downtown New Albany -- which seemingly was the most direct route -- but could be time consuming with congestion and lots of traffic lights at the beginning of rush hour. Or, I could exit I-65 just before the Kennedy Bridge at Spaghetti Junction and take I-64 west over the Sherman Minton Bridge to the first New Albany exit and be within blocks of the hospital.

Either way, I had a more pressing matter to handle before I could go much further. "PLEASE REFUEL" appeared on the Passat's instrument panel and the yellow gas pump icon warned of impending momentum lost. I exited I-65 at the first exit after crossing the Kennedy and filled up at Thornton's. I re-entered I-65 only to immediately exit for Highway 62. So, through New Albany I started and stopped. Started and stopped. Started and stopped. I was relieved to finally arrive at the hospital. I called Tina, who was in the parking lot putting on makeup in her new Mini. I joined her in her car. It was there I was warned of the ensuing drama that could unfold if we were planning on meeting with the rest of the family for anything other than sitting in the waiting room. After sitting for six hours I could no longer. I excused myself to a walk around the parking lot, a cigarette and a quick call to Cameron.

With Tina finished and my call completed, we walked into the hospital and upstairs to the Cardiac ICU. While she used the white wall phone to ask for admittance, the doors opened to reveal Christopher on his way out. We talked for a few minutes before we went in to see Daddy buried under a tangle of IV tubes and monitors and a plastic blanket. He was sleeping as much as he could with the nurses buzzing around and monitoring his every vital sign. I think it startled him to hear me say, "hello, Daddy" because he choked and began coughing. We decided to leave and let the nurses get busy with calming him down.

I met Christopher at his apartment after he was done for work that evening. We discussed what to do for dinner and whether or not to try and orchestrate getting together with everyone else. He was sympathetic, knowing I was tired after the drive, anxious over the entire situation and that I hadn't eaten all day. I didn't want to make any decisions, so he decided that we'd stay in. He gave me some hummus he'd made earlier with some crackers while he started prepping vegetables for stir-fry.

The phone rang. Amidst everything else she does to take care of her family, Tina had managed to get confirmation from Lisa, Gina, Matthew, and Ally, that we'd all meet a couple blocks away from Christopher's place for pizza at Wick's. He and I walked over and got a table. Three people were gracious enough to move to a smaller one for us. After thirty or forty minutes we began to wonder if we'd prematurely asked those folks to move, but our party began to arrive and fill up the huge booth we shared. We shared four large pizzas and had a really nice time together and I'm glad that we changed our loosely cobbled together plans. After all, at least three of us traveled for hours to be there for Daddy and it would have been a shame not to spend some time relaxing together. The leftover pizzas were boxed and we exchanged hugs. Our seperate journeys took Christopher and me back to his place where we settlied in with his boxeer, Scout, to watch "W". We didn't see much of the movie before we decided it was time to call it a night.

Early the following morning I headed back to Floyd Memorial. This time I actually was able to speak with Daddy, whose first words included, "I told you not to come." My response? "Since when have I listened to you?" We had a chuckle over that. The nurses explained to us what we should expect. When it was time for Daddy to rest I left to meet everyone for lunch at Rocky's Italian Grill. This would include most everyone from the night before and my mother and bonus dad. I prefer to say bonus dad because, in my experience, "stepfather" very often implies something negative.

I headed back to Memphis from Jeffersonville at 2:00. For the first time, I skipped my usual trip to White Castle on the way out. The drive home, not without its freaks and distracted drivers, was pretty uneventful. I stopped for gas in Brownsville, then spoke with Tina for the last twenty minutes of the trip. To my astonishment I pulled into the driveway five hours and five minutes from my 2:00 departure time, breaking my previous record of 5 hours and forty minutes.

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