“Can you come over? Your dad’s on the floor and won’t get up. I can’t lift him. He’s beside the bed.”
I looked at the clock. 8:30 it blinked. I’d been up since four thirty in the morning. I looked down. I was still dressed in shabby sweats and a quilted shirt. I’d have to change.
Half-tanked on one full cup of coffee I took my time getting over there. Arriving I found he’d fallen on his oxygen line.
He’s a big man, about six foot one, like I am, just built a bit bigger around. Too heavy for me to lift off that line – I told my mom to quit tugging on it least she break the thing, and asked him if he had another around.
All through this my mom is going into intricate detail, multiple times, about how he fell. It seems he was getting out of bed – he’s an old man of 80 who gave up being young – quite volentarily so, refusing to exercise if it caused him any pain. His refusal to face discomfort was costing him again.
But so I am the dutiful son.
He’s fallen before, beside me, shuffling behind me – taking his little old wee man steps – just shuffling because the hair in his cochlea are gone (his hearing’s shot as well – too much time in the Army and around loaded guns). He’s given up walking a long time ago. It’s as if he decided “I’m going to be an old man,” and simply gave up walking. Shuffling he can do, a little at a time. But he made that decision years ago – when he broke his leg and decided to stop walking. The PT “hurt too much” to do all the time. And his knees are shot.
But he’s a selfish old man.
He’s the one my mom calls “the bastard” and says he’s selfish all the time. He’s also a closet sadist, torturing small animals when we were young, and torturing us sometimes. His method of teaching kids how not to play with fire was burn them with a match. Or simply beat the hell out of them (stripped down to their “drawers”, no less) until they screamed and ran around.
“If a kid can still get up screaming and running – he’s fine,” was my mom (and dad’s) living motto.
So was the one: “Out of sight if you don’t mind.”
“Make do, do without, or learn to build it yourself.
Dad was always into taking all the money and giving it to the missionaries when he went overseas. He also does that here – giving money away left and right though he’s got nothing to spend anymore.
He lost “the family fortune” once gambling on the stock market. Hell, even I could see that bubble was going to fall. (We’re talking about the dot-com one there.) I got my stocks out in a hurry – about three months before – whereas he ran up credit cards trying to buy more funds.
Same old pattern as he’s had before.
“Come on dad, get up.” I’d found another oxygen line. Hooking it up I turned to my mom.
“Give him fifteen minutes or so – see if that perks him up. And get him something sweet to drink. He’ll probably feel better once we get his sugar level up some.”
I didn’t state that from theory. I stated it from experience. My body is a virtual clone of his – a chip off the old block, you might say, though mine is a good bit more torn up than his. Especially on my right side (the dominant side) because that was the one I used to attack doors and ‘things’ when I was a Marine. Nerve damage, the doc says. Irreparable and only gonna get worse.
Damn docs. Sometimes they’re right about things.
I went to the kitchen, got me a cup of coffee, sat down and read the newspaper. My mom came in now and again, I just dismissed her with some casual conversation.
“If he’s not better in thirty minutes or so,” I warned her as she took off to be with him, “We’re gonna have to call EMS.”
I drank my coffee and got me another cup. The newspaper – print is so going out of style nowadays! – and newspapers are so hard up to earn money – that it was about four pages thick in all – contained a few of those spelling errors and grammatical turn-arounds that they never used to have. And this was the Augusta Chronicle – in operation since the 1800’s – and even their paper had fallen by the wayside of non-edited material.
My dad had fallen before, in the yard, like I say. I’d always turned around to him – and feeling like a ski instructor (or safety patrol) on a ski lift, turned and said:
“You’re gonna have to get your own ass up.” Quite flatly and bluntly – because that’s how I am. Oh, I can be funny sometimes – I teased him with his own phrase as he struggled into a sitting position: “At least you’re not screaming – ,” and, if need be, might help him up – some. I’ve learned not to take his hand. Not too much. And you can read whatever you want right in there. It probably fits me some.
He’s always gotten up before – me leaving him to his own devices, making sure he can get up on his own – and telling him he needs to do those dreaded exercises (which he won’t get) some more – stay with them, quit laying around . . .
But this time he’s not getting up. I get my mom to get the EMS – they come over and we have to convince them to take the old man on – he’s too weak to sit up, much less get up, and they want to put him to bed . . .
“No,” my mom and I insisted. “This ain’t normal. Usually he can get up by now. Take him on to the hospital; he’s gonna need checked out.”
Now this was over two weeks ago. He’s been in there ever since – though now he’s in PT and doing much better now they got the drugs that were giving him hallucinations out of him (wrong antibiotic) – turns out he had pneumonia; that’s the reason he was so weak . . .
He called, telling me to come pick him up. He’s in the PT end of therapy now, and he hates it. They MAKE him do things there. And nobody will have any sympathy on him . . . waaaa….
You’d have to know – really KNOW – my father to understand.(PS: you can save your prayers; he’s got plenty of his own – Doctorates of Theology, hypocritical to the bone. And he’s got the church going crowd down here snowed: they all believe he’s a Saint of a man . . . but he’s not, which is something my mom and I sometimes hint at when they get going on what a great dad I’ve got.)