Yesterday, I worked from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.. The day seemed to drag on forever. I was looking forward to quitting time. Two of my best friends in the world, Lou and John, were coming down (over? up?) from Reading to spend some time with me.
Lou and John and I met all those years ago in college. John and I were roommates sophomore and junior years, and Lou and I moved off campus and shared an apartment with a woman named Florence during our senior year. I could not begin to describe all we shared back then. And we've been close ever since.
Of course, within ten minutes of the end of the day, I got an awful customer: a woman picking out shower doors for her new McMansion. And of course, it didn't go well. And of course, it became this whole ordeal. And of course, I didn't finish up with her until 3:30. (At Ho(t)me(n) Depot, this is absolutely verbotten. Overtime is not allowed. I would have to cut it the next day.
But finally, Lou and John and I were sitting down to pho at a swell vietnamese restaurant. (Testimony to the bond we three share: when I announced that pho was my Cherry Pez, Lou and John needed no explanation of what I meant.) We lingered at the restaurant until they were just about ready to force us out the door at knife point, hit a bookstore a few doors away (Lou bought a book but wouldn't tell John and I the title). Then we headed to Doylestown for coffee. Since John has this Huge Aversion to Starbucks, we headed to the Bucks County Coffee Company. Then a brief walk around Doylestown--Lou and John were suitably impressed, even though we didn't make it down to the Mercer Museum because it was pretty frickin' cold--and then I drove them back to Montgomeryville where we had left Lou's car, and they got on the road back to Reading.
I headed over to rehab to visit my father. My father was weak, diminished, anguished. His voice was sort of a whispered mumble. I could barely understand him. While he was there, he had to use the bedpan. I helped roll him over so the nurse could get it underneath him.
Oh right, I thought at one point, this is how death happens: pain, shit, fear, gasping for breath. I've seen this movie before. More than at any other point in this ordeal, my father seemed to me like a dying man.
After my visit, I was rattled.
That stayed with me all day today even though work went well, relatively speaking. The overtime I had to cut meant I had an hour-and-a-half for lunch so I could linger over the Sunday Times. I got off at 8 p.m. and headed over to the rehab.
Past the front desk, up the elevator, down the hall, into my father's room, and for the second time, I was confronted with an empty bed where my father should be.
According to the nurse, my father seemed to be having a hard time, the doctor on staff decided to send him back to Doylestown Hospital, and that's where he was now.
I felt so bad for my dad. He wanted to get to rehab almost with an urgency. He saw it as a steppingstone to going home, ending this and putting it all behind him. And there he was, back in the hospital.
I packed up all the clothes I had brought him into plastic bags and headed to the hospital.
And there he was, sucking on this tube to put mist into his lungs. The respiratory therapist who was there said it was to make his breathing easier. My father paused and commented that it was "just like smoking a cigar."
He was pretty low. Clearly, going back to the hospital was a blow to him.
Oh my poor, poor dad.
Months ago, I had a dream. In the dream, I was surveying a fallow field running along the line of trees that grow on our property. With a crack like a rifle shot, a huge, ancient tree swayed and fell, crashing down into the field, pulling up a huge root mass, falling with a crash.
Just that. The falling tree, still with green branches, enormous old giant.
I've learned at this point that nothing is predictive. Today is no indication of what tomorrow will hold. At first, it was like riding a rollercoaster as I tried to keep up. Now, I've concluded that nobody knows anything really, and to just roll with it.
While I was visiting my dad tonight, he was all of a sudden complaining of pain in his shoulder.
"Do you want me to rub your back? Make it feel better?"
"No! Well, okay."
I slipped my hand under my dad, lying there in his hospital bed and gently massaged his tensed muscles.
"Still hurting?" I asked.
"No, it feels a lot better," he answered.
"Where did you learn how to do that?" he asked.
I smiled. Thinking about giving and getting post-coital backrubs.
"Some man," I replied, playfully goading my father.
"Oh," he said, getting the joke.