Can we just get to carving pumpkins?

September 16:

Hard day.  He’s so strong but so fragile.  Never witnessed this kind of pain.  He can’t find a way to sit where it isn’t excruciating.  He struggles to suppress his cough because it tears at his insides.  He squirms and fights.  He writhes and stomps and cusses.  I finally end up demanding the nurse administer a morphine injection.  His eyes  wide and his mouth open without a sound. It spooks me.

He says he wishes he could pass out from the pain.

It’s just so surreal and crazy.  I don’t remember being this afraid for him.  I don’t remember being this afraid.  I’ve come to loathe hospitals.  It’s  horrible.  A beautiful hospital, expansive slate walled lobby, fountains and modern sculpture, abundant natural light and beautifully scaped desert grounds, yet I hate it.  I want to run away.

If only there were a bar or cocktail lounge.  A silent television, a bowl of snacks and some cleavage.

I don’t want to come back here tomorrow but I will.  On the way, I will pray for him to be better despite my agnosticism.

Mother is breaking down.  It’s too much.  I understand.  They have been married for fifty five years.  She was eighteen.  They are attached at the hip, the brain and the heart.  I do the best I can.  Hug her and hold her.  He will be ok, I tell her.  We both know he will come down another notch or two in terms of what he can and cannot do.  He has beaten his body hard against the rock of concrete as a profession for some four decades and now this.

He was never out of work and he never really missed work.  He piled into his beat up Datsun pick up every morning and was gone long before six a.m.  In four feet of snow or hundred degree heat.  Hangover being the lamest excuse not to show up so that never stopped him.  He came home and drank a cup of coffee, read the paper with one eye, hard hat still on while I pounded on my drums.  He stopped me only when mom pulled up.

His lifelong friend Pat Sanderson walks in and even through his pain, they trade insults the entire time.  Pat wouldn’t have known had my mother not run into his wife this afternoon in the parking lot.  Both named Jeanne, both of similar composure.

We had decided not to tell too many people yet.  Until he could, I don’t know, be more normal.

Mom was raised on a ranch/farm with ten siblings.  They ate what they raised or grew.  They were poor and are still remarkably close.  The love in my mother’s family is as rare as it is exceptional.  Her parents did something very, very right.  She began by typing marriage licenses in the county clerk’s office and ended up an administrative assistant to the Governor of Nevada and at one point, the Nevada State Legislature created a position for her in the economic development commission and appointed her to it.  Very powerful politicians are family friends.  Mayors, Governors, numerous state representatives and Senate majority leaders.

She’s a very smart and accomplished woman.

My sister and her husband carry on that tradition but far more focused on local.  Their hands in and on everything municipal.

He hasn’t pooped since it happened, so me and Patty joke about a suppository applied with a hammer.  A gay hairdresser named Larry to feed my dad and maybe help him with his reluctant bowels.

I love Pat, he once bit off a man’s index finger in a fight because the sonafabitch kept poking him with it.  This guy is the shit and he’s gonna show no matter what when he learns my Old Man is any kind of trouble.  Same as last time.  Understand my Dad was a hard working, hard fighting man and men like Pat were by his side the entire time.  Hard hats flying in bar fights, they’d drink beer from them afterward.

I’m often impressed by the men who hold my Father in the highest regard.  My cousin Derek came by too.  Rough hands and bandaged fingers.  I guess my sister told him.  Found out in the morning and stopped by after work, then headed to my parent’s house to empty the shit tanks and grey water from the RV my Old Man was working on when he fell.  He adores my Father and my Father adores him.  My cousin Derek is the shit.  Race car driver who wins just about every race.  Fiercely loyal.  We have little in common but we like each other a lot.  He shook my hand and hugged me hard.  He loves me because he loves my father and I have no problem with that.

I adore him and his wife, My cousin Marlo.  Her parents, uncle Tyke and aunt Bobby, rock.

I can’t stand it, I’m so frightened and weak.  I advocate for him.  I bully the nurses and doctors.  I rinse his piss jug and try to entertain him. We’re not at all that alike you know.  I’ve spent so much time with him in the last few years in hospitals when his condition is dire.

September 17:

Pat “Patty” Sanderson calls this morning offering to take a shift from one of us.  He understands that we do not leave the Old Man alone; one of us is there 24/7.  I certainly don’t need it, but my mother could use it.  I tell him I’ll have mom call.  When I ask her about it, she says no, too soon, family only.  You need to call him, I tell her.  My uncle Larry calls to say if we need him he’s there.  This phenomena of love and selflessness would be multiplied by a hundred but we’ve decided not to tell anybody yet.

I call before I leave for the hospital to see if I need to bring anything.  The answer is no and mom says it’s been a pretty rough morning.  Instantly I’m fearful.  In the shower I try to imagine what it would be like to not be able to clean myself and realize he’s probably used to it.  In the past few days I’ve fed him, held cups for him to drink out of and scratched him where he can’t reach, fought with nurses and doctors to get him what he needs or what I think he needs.

We’re very different my Father and I, but his vulnerability has allowed me to love him and appreciate him so much more than I otherwise would have.  That old testosterone impetus for conflict has disappeared.  The rivalry between Father and son, especially between two of such different minds, is gone.  I understand that I’m of a different mind because both he and my mother wanted almost desperately for my sister and I to be.  He’s always been so proud of me and my accomplishments.  His praise and pride, always  so unswerving and resolute.  Love runs very strong and deep in my family.  I am so very lucky.

Patty didn’t hear from my mom so he just showed up with his wife this afternoon.  Brings a card that sounds like a toilet flushing when opened.  If you don’t tell Patty no, he’ll do whatever the fuck he wants.

He and Dad share a hysterical story about locking some asshole supervisor in a porta-potty on a high rise job, hooking it to a crane and dropping it.  They tell me they dropped it five stories before slamming on the brakes, so the cable stretched and snapped back causing the shithouse to tumble in the air a few times.  The super emerged, speechless, shaken and covered in shit.  When he finally reappeared at the job site, looking to fire somebody, they were busy working on the cable brakes for the crane.  He never knew until some twenty years later that my Father and Patty had been behind it.  Patty invited the man and my Dad to breakfast one morning unbeknownst to either and spilled the beans.  Patty describes the breakfast taking place in a booth neither could escape from as he was on the end blocking the exit.

He tells me that whenever my Father had a problem with someone on his crew, he’d ask Patty if he’d heard the shit the guy was saying about him (Patty).  Patty would beat the hell out of him and the problem would be solved.

Often as a child, particularly before holidays, my Father had to “work late with Pat”, that’s what mom said.  She understood these two fuckers were likely out drinking, getting their asses beat or more probably beating some ass.

They talked about Freddie Crowley, Ozzy Ellis, Roy Deihl, Johnny Annas and Frank the crane operator.  All icons of my youth.  More than a handful of times, Dad would come home, his entire orange Datsun pickup, the ‘Pumpkin”, wrapped from stem to stern in knotted together rubber bands, courtesy of Frank.  I remember him as the rubber band man.  More than once he came home with a brand new hard hat crushed by the crane Frank operated.  No choice but to show up to the job the next morning with his beat to misshapen concrete encrusted hard hat from days gone by.  Frank seemed to be just fine with that one.  In retrospect, I’m confident Dad would show up with a shiny new one, like a ridiculous Hawaiian shirt, just to bait the bastard into destroying it.

I believe my Old Man was gratified and amused to bring home yet another brand new one flattened by Frank’s crane.

He ate a full pork chop today and his chocolate ice cream.  None of the squash or salad no matter how hard I tried.  He needs a good crap.  We watched Hardball with Chris Mathews and I read to him from the paper.  His humor is good and he flirts with the nurses.  He had a shower because he stank.  He is brave and big hearted.  We will get through this.  I love him.  He is still my fearless, pick a fight with the biggest guy in the bar, Father.

The Old Man is rising to this occasion.

Further reading:

Drinks for my friends.

6 Responses to “Can we just get to carving pumpkins?”

  • Misty:

    I’d give years of my life, just to have had more time with my dad. Dads rock, I was lucky. Michael, I’m glad your holding up for the family as best you can. This piece is amazing in it’s clarity and warmth, but try to guard your dad’s privacy a little would ya. For the sake of his dignity, I mean it doesn’t seem fair that you reveal every little detail, we all have the same body functions, and sometimes they don’t work like a swiss watch. Get my sniff. I wish somebody would help you get your hands on some pot, or Zen Turley. Least I offend the Gods, I think now is a good time to make good with Hunter, and apologize for being so offensive. A few months back; Did you actually say Hunty rhymes with ..”””. That didn’t even seem like you talking. Too much cheap Gin? Hacked account what the.., but Hunter is a father, and nobody should be that disrespectful to a friend.

  • admin:

    Hunter is one of my dearest and oldest friends, that has never changed. He took no offense and we both thought it was funny. Sometimes you read into things too hard.

  • Teresa:

    Wow Michael, thank you for the updates, I look forward to hearing how well your dad is doing…or lack thereof. You are an amazing son and it’s so nice to hear how you and your family have come together to sit with him, that is truly a comfort to him I’m sure.

    As for the new hospital…ah yes, I too recently visited in July when I thought my daughter had broken a bone while visiting family…very nice hospital indeed, until you have to actually stay a while! When we were there, I noticed that they had face mask depensers so I grabbed a few, thinking they might come in handy…turns out my son came down with the swine flu a few weeks later, pulled them babies out of my car until I was able to get “real” ones from our local CVS. Funny thing is…the hospital gave both my kids 3 tests, 2 came back negative, a week later, my son’s 3rd test came back positive…oh the life and times of a hospital. I love them, so much so that I’ve rented rooms in the past because I frequent them often with 3 accident prone kids! 😉

    Just kidding! But still, I know the life and times of hospital(s), doesn’t matter how pretty they are, they are never a good experience, unless you are there begging them to pull the watermelon out of your …er uh, well you know!

    Anyway my friend, hang in there. I hope Kristi is able to hold down the fort! Oh wait, whatever am I talking about, I’m sure she’s having no problems whatsoever! 😉

    Love, T.

  • admin:

    Love ya. Can we make out again soon?

  • admin:

    Did I say that out loud?

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