My heart is racing. My mind is frantic. Here I am at a stupid football game, and something’s happened to daddy. Angela isn’t even here with me! She’s at a dance clinic. I can’t concentrate. I tell myself not to get too upset in front of David as I grab him from the after-game huddle and tell him we have to leave… NOW!
I race to the high school to pick up Angela. Oh, hurry up! Just go get her! Time seems to tick by slowly as we wait for her to come out of the gym. She wants to know what’s up. If I only knew!
On to the hospital. I’m sure everything is going to be okay. At least, I think so. How many messages did mom leave before she finally reached me? Was it four? And how many from Lisa (my sister)? And didn’t Mom say she sent the neighbor to the field to find me? I thought I saw her here. I wondered why she was at a little league football game since her kids are grown, but I guess she didn’t see me. Who would’ve thought she was there to get me? I wonder if Lisa is on her way to the hospital, too.
I’m struggling not to cry as I speed to the hospital. The more upset I am, the more scared the kids will be. Mom didn’t say what was actually wrong with daddy, after all. (And yes, I still call him daddy most of the time, not dad, and I probably always will, no matter how old I am.)
I finally arrive and park, and I notice how hot and sunny it is as we walk to the emergency entrance. My heart is still pounding. I have no idea what to expect. The hospital is a stark contrast to afternoon outside: cold and sterile.
My first question is, “Did Daddy wake up?” The answer is no. “Why not?” We really don’t know yet, they tell me. He collapsed after he came home from a CPR class he was taking with some friends. How ironic. He had actually had them show them how to do the Heimlich maneuver on him. Maybe it interfered with his breathing or his heart. His stomach is also bleeding. I sit trembling, waiting for the doctors to come out and tell me he is going to be okay. Daddy’s friends try to comfort me, but I’m inconsolable.
“We can’t do anything for him here,” the Asian doctor states in a heavy accent dripping with insincerity. I hate him! Of course, if he knew what he was doing, he could help my dad. Life-Flight is going to take him down to the Medical Center, and they will make him well. They’ll figure it out. If the doctors in Houston’s Medical Center downtown (world-renowned for heart, cancer, and other life-saving treatments) can’t fix him, then no one can.
We watch the bright red helicopter take off into the lonely, blue sky. They’ll be at the other hospital before we are.
The kids go stay with their dad while Lisa, Mom, and I hurry downtown. The entrance of this hospital looks like that of a classy, chic hotel rather than a place where people are ill. Fancy marble floors, elegant sitting areas, even entertainment in the lobby, not to mention actual restaurants, rather than just a typical cafeteria. Not that I care about food right now.
Up fourteen flights on the elevator we go. Daddy is in a room by himself, connected to bleeping machines, one that breathes for him, one to measure his heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, oxygen levels, and who knows what else. There is a bag draining his stomach of fluids I am sure shouldn’t be there. If it were anyone but him, I wouldn’t be able to tolerate the sight. The vision of him lying there helpless is so unlike what I know to be true of my father. I kiss his cheek, hold his hand, and wait. They have already performed numerous tests, but it’s going to be a long night.
Day two of this nightmare. “Why won’t Daddy wake up?” The question remains the same. The doctor takes us (family) to a small conference room. A white laminated table dominates the room. There are six metal chairs. We sit. The doctor puts some x-rays on the wall and flicks on a light. This is daddy’s brain. A subdural hematoma has occurred, probably happening so fast he felt nothing. That’s no comfort. The blood has compressed the brain tissue. He’s not breathing on his own and his heart is not beating on his own. There is no brain activity. Blah, blah, quality of life, blah, blah, nothing we can do, blah, blah, decision to make.
I hold daddy’s cold hand that has held mine so often in times of need. I love him so much. It’s time. Slower, the beeping gets slower until there is more time in between each one. “No, daddy! “Don’t go!” For a moment, there is the slightest increase in the beeping. Then, it stops. “NO!”
It wasn’t time, Daddy. At least, not according to me. We weren’t ready for this. I don’t know how to live without you as part of my life. The twins are only 8. How will they ever understand this? How will they grow up without their Papaw? Who will I turn to for solace, advice, an ear to listen? Something is wrong in the world. Has it completely stopped turning?
The hospital chapel is warm. It should be soothing. It should be a place for quiet reflection. It’s not. It’s empty, like me. I say a prayer for you, daddy, but mostly, I pray for us.