Stories and thoughts about family and life


on July 13, 2014

I fired up my trusty GMC and headed west before dawn on Friday morning. I had slept Thursday night, but not too well. I was worried about Daddy, and felt a sense of urgency to get to him quickly. I stopped at the gas station and grabbed a coke, a protein bar, and some BC powder: the breakfast of champions on a day like today.
I received the call from my sister Thursday afternoon saying Daddy was sick and looked terrible. She felt like he needed to get in with someone immediately. I had seen him just a few days earlier on July 4th, just after a fall in the garden, and he had been sore and tired, but seemed okay. He complained about a knot on his shoulder/back which was tender, but assured me that it would “run its course” and he had been through this before. No big deal. Had he really deteriorated so much in a week? I called Mom and Daddy to try to gauge how he was doing. He complained that the knot was hurting even worse, but when I insisted again that they go to the doctor, he assured me again it would eventually run its course.
I know exactly where I get my stubbornness from. I’m totally Daddy’s girl. I guess that’s why I get nominated to talk to him about difficult things, too. We see eye to eye on most things, and we share our passion for what we believe is right. As I continued to talk to Daddy about going to the doctor, I hear my mom start yelling, and then my dad yelling at my mom. It sounded to me like they were yelling at the cat. I waited for the dust to settle before I spoke again and asked what was going on. Mom explained that Daddy had tried to get up to get some ice, and fell into the counter. Then she told me he had fallen again two nights earlier, forcing her to call 9-1-1 to get help getting him up again. I pleaded with Daddy to please let me come and get him and drive him to the doctor. In his frustration from this latest fall, he agreed. I asked about the knot on his shoulder, and he tells me it’s hurting more and more each passing day. I’m concerned that this has become infected, and that this infection is weakening him. Perhaps that’s causing the falling. He tells me he’s not dizzy and his ears aren’t ringing.
We quickly made a plan. I would drive to their home southwest of Booneville (two and a half hours from me), and drive them to their doctor in Ft. Smith (and hour from their house). I would leave around 6:30 or 7 a.m. so we would arrive only an hour or so after the clinic opened. Since I couldn’t sleep, I ended up leaving at 5:45 a.m.
As I was driving, I coordinated with my two sisters what was going on. We made a couple of contingency plans in case Daddy couldn’t (or didn’t want to) be seen by his regular doctor. I connected to itunes on my phone and as the music filled the cabin of my Yukon XL, I thought about what the day would likely lead to. Having recently put my husband’s parents in a nursing home, the reality of aging parents is all too real. In my eyes, though, my Daddy is one of the strongest people I know. It’s hard to imagine him falling and not being able to get up. About an hour out, I call the house and talk to my parents. They had to call 9-1-1 again during the night and get help when Daddy fell in the dining room. I feel an increased sense of urgency, as that makes four falls in seven days.
When I arrived at their house a few minutes after 9 a.m., Mom announced that their PCP’s office can’t get them in that day and suggests that they go to an alternate clinic to see a Physician Assistant (PA). I’m sure the PA is more than qualified, but Daddy’s shoulder is now hurting so much that I’m not interested in having him see anyone but an MD. I tell them about our two backup plans: either we go to Fayetteville through a hospital where we have a connection or we go to Little Rock to the VA. Daddy gives it some consideration for several minutes, and settles on Little Rock. We throw some things in a bag and Mom and I help him get dressed and we hit the road. By 10:10 we’re heading back to Little Rock.
The afternoon was consumed with activity at the ER as they evaluated Daddy, determined they needed to lance the knot on his back and run some tests to ensure the falling isn’t related to any cardiac or potential stroke activity. All the tests were negative, and his brain scan was normal. They loaded Daddy up on morphine and proceeded to numb the area and lance the cyst on his back. I won’t bore you with all the details, but he has now had that cyst removed and cleaned and endured a follow-up visit at the VA ER. It’s hard to believe that something that simple would really have gotten him so sick, but it certainly appears that’s what it was. After a follow-up visit Saturday morning where they cleaned and repacked his wound, they cleared him to go home with daily maintenance. It will likely be a couple of weeks before he feels really well again, but at least he’s on the mend.
Not exactly how I planned on spending my Friday, but I’m glad I’m in a position where I could make the decision to go without having to wait on permission from someone else.
It was sobering sitting with my dad at Cracker Barrel Friday night (he was starving when they finished with him). I was so grateful to see him hungry that I told him we’d go wherever he wanted to go. We tuckered him out on this little adventure, though, and we ended up sitting in rockers outside the restaurant. As he tried to gather his strength so I could take him to my sister’s house to relax for the night, I sat and watched him. This strong man I had shadowed my whole life now sitting weak and frustrated in a rocker. He apologized that I had taken a day off work and done all that driving for him as he should be able to take care of himself. It’s horrible to see these people you’ve idolized your whole life now struggling.
At least, for today, he’s on the mend and we can hopefully conquer this situation. I know that time is coming sooner rather than later where we’ll have more problems, but for today I’m going to try not to think too much about that.


2 responses to “Daddy

  1. It’s good to hear that your father is doing well now. I enjoy you stories of dealing with the older generation. They a window into reality for me.

    My own parents passed at the ripe ages of 41 and 51 so I have not had some of your experiences until my mother-in-law became too much for my wife siblings to handle. She is in a home now. We would happily take her into our home but we live 1400 miles away and the siblings whom Mom designated to be in charge of her life won’t have it. It’s a shame because I am retired and willing. She wintered with us in Florida in the year before last and thoroughly enjoyed herself. She looked forward to making that a habit but it is not to be.

    Mom is just stubborn but just needs someone a little bit more stubborn, yet empathetic, to ensure that she takes her meds and stays on a proper diet for her diabetes. Not to be so, though.

    I used to worry about premature death as with my parents. Now I worry about premature institutionalization because I’m an inconvenience. My dreams of a Waltons-like life, in my last years, are gone. My greatest hope now is to outlive my wife so that I can care for her to the end. After that, nothing will matter much.

    Keep the stories coming and thank for writing them.

    • keenchick says:

      Thank you. It’s teaching me that there are distinct differences between elderly people. My mother-in-law, for example, would drive you crazy because she wants you to do everything for her. She’s done that for so long with everyone placating her that she couldn’t care for herself if she HAD to ever again. My father-in-law sounds more like your mother-in-law–we could probably handle him ourselves if one of us were here to ensure he’s eating right and getting some exercise. My parents are still more active–working a garden and cooking still, but we’ve had to face that they can’t keep up like they used to, and trying to bring in help to clean, etc., has proven challenging on its own levels. It’s a labyrinth of emotions and details to process, and I certainly am no expert.
      It’s funny that you reference the Walton’s–that’s one of my favorite shows and I always envisioned a life like that when I was little. My parents had always thought I would come home and run the farm for them when it was still active. Some days I’d give anything to live that life again and other days I can’t imagine going back to that. I loved those family dinners and everyone coming together to help one another. I guess I’m still an old country girl at heart.
      Thank you for compliment on my writing. I just start writing and wait to see what it ends up being in the end. I wish I had more time to do it. I process a lot of things by writing about them. šŸ™‚

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