Yesterday I went to visit my father at the VA Hospital with my husband and two of my children. My middle son, JA, did not want to come. I am not sure why. it is either because a) he does not really like seeing Grandpa sick, or b) he did not want to shave. Whichever it was, I am sad he did not go with us.
We walked into Dad's room to find him sleeping in the chair by his bed. It did not look like he was sleeping at first. Panic rippled through my body as I walked over to him. He was pale, cold and still. At last I saw his chest lift. Thank goodness.
I tried to awaken him to no avail. Rubbing his hands, his cheeks, his chest, trying to get a response proved fruitless for quite a long time. One at a time an eye would open, then close. His mouth contorted into snarls as though to say, "Leave me alone, Karin."
His doctor came by to let us know what they were planning for him. He also told us that he had altered his pain medication, which may have explained him sleeping like a rock. Literally.
Dad has an infection in his spine. It has settled in between the eighth and ninth vertebrae, where he has a fracture. Somehow they missed the fracture last year when he was in the hospital, along with the two broken ribs he has. But they did find the infection last week in a CT scan, and admitted him immediately.
The doctor told us he is planning on taking a biopsy next Wednesday or Thursday, along with a bone chip, to see what they are actually up against. Waiting is an awful thing, but they cannot proceed until some of his medications are out of his system.
Dad was oblivious to this entire exchange, as he was still sleeping, head tucked down, looking like a child in his chair.
I did get him awake enough to talk and to see that we were all there to see him.
A nurse came in to check his blood sugar level so they would know how much insulin to give him at dinnertime. Dad's blood sugar was 30. No wonder he was so sound asleep. No wonder he wasn't responding. He was slipping away right in front of us. In came his food tray.
I cut up his dinner and he started to eat. And eat, and eat. The more he ate, the more awake he bacame. He loves the food at the VA, thank goodness. He ate all of his dinner. Another nurse came in and gave him an enormous syringe full of dextrose and a cup of applesauce. My husband went and got him a soda, and Dad drank it all.
Slowly he began to be his old self again. The color came back to his cheeks, his hands warmed and his nails were no longer blue.
I sat there feeling very helpless. I had not recognized what was happening, assuming that it was his new medication and not his body causing his sleepiness. I will not make that mistake again.
Dealing with aging parents is a whole new world for me. I think of them as being relatively young still, even though they are in their seventies. This past year has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride with each of them. I do not want to lose them and, even though I know it is inevitable, I try not to think about it.
Unfortunately, things keep happening to bring that fact right to the front of my brain, where it hangs like a dark shadow over me causing me to shrink away. Not only will I lose them, I will lose myself, the child I am. The child I was.
Small. On the outside of me that word no longer applies, but inside, it will always have a place. I will always be humbled back to it by circumstance. Small. Unable. Helpless. Child.