It's been a long time since I made the Philly trip twice in one week (this time once for doctors' appointments for Babygirl and once for a family party), and I'd forgotten how tiring eight hundred miles of driving in one week can be.
As I was recovering from the return trip on Sunday, I got a call from my stepmother. "Your Dad is back in the hospital with pneumonia and he is not doing well at all....."
It took a couple of minutes to determine how bad she really meant he was, and to understand that what she really needed was help in deciding for sure what to do next.
I called my brother.
Bless him - despite the fact that we are both desperately busy right now, he with moving into a new home and we with preparing for the rapidly approaching wedding, he agreed to come along and do the driving.
It was after 7 PM when we left, and I fell asleep for over half an hour somewhere near the end of the drive (he actually didn't notice. He continued to talk and he says I continued to respond. I'm am quite glad I was not driving), and we arrived after 11.
In the morning we discussed the situation with our stepmother: Despite the fact that he was 'doing well' a week ago, 'doing well' was now limited to periods of being alert but disoriented, and being unable to eat solid food due to choking, being unable to hear or see, and of imagining that he was hanging out in Niagara Falls with my brother or that I was working in his nursing home. On our last visit, less than three months ago, he had begged to get out and asked to die. Currently he was desperately ill, not responding to antibiotics with another trial of antibiotics being contemplated. We discussed her spiritual concerns, and her sense of guilt and helplessness in the face of his overwhelming decline.
We went to visit.
When we arrived, he was unconscious and struggling to breathe. His temperature was over 104 degrees F and he was under a cooling blanket because he wasn't responding to Tylenol. He'd been given morphine to ease his breathing.
We stayed for three hours. His temperature came down and his breathing improved a little, but he never awoke or responded. We talked with hospital staff (my brother remembers everybody from 30 years ago when we lived there, and everybody remembers him. I am far less memorable!). We shared memories. We talked quality of life. We discussed choices.
We gave him permission to stop fighting and let go. We gave her the same permission and advice. At this point even more antibiotics probably represent 'extraordinary measures' to keep him alive and he probably wouldn't approve; and in the end, they won't matter anyway.
And we came home.
I won't be able to be there when he dies, and I feel......horrible.
I did what I know he'd want: I came home to my family and started doing what needed to be done here. But...I want my Daddy. I'm almost 60 years old, and I want my Dad.
PS At 5:30 this morning, he went home.