Monday, September 3, 2012

going going . . .

Your dad had his first heart attack Labor Day, two years ago.  No one thought he would make the next one, much less the second.

Today is his second Labor Day since that heart attack.  Instead of weighing 160, he weighs 100 pounds.  He's not left his bed in a week; he doesn't eat; drinks little.  He exists at this point; he doesn't live.

Your mother's worrying herself sick, trying to do something, anything, where nothing can be done.

You were at Rebecca's yesterday sorting through hundreds of photos of him, your mother, your brother, you.  We put 118 of them in a slide show for the funeral.

You wrote this two years ago:

Lunchtime: Got a call from Sandie, who -- with Jenny, Rebecca and Philip – was visiting my parents at their house in Highlands  for Labor Day. She said that my dad had gone to the emergency room the day before for some coughing/complications with pneumonia (with which he had been diagnosed a week earlier by Dr. (?) Bergeron), had been examined and prescribed some medicine to help with some swelling in his ankles, and because he said he felt better and wanted to go home --they let him. She said he didn’t look too good.
I decided to go to Highlands. No one would be there after Labor Day; my mother was exhausted from the ordeal; what if something happened and no one could help her?; this was serious. I’d never driven from WB to Highlands: should I drive straight there? Should I stop in Atlanta first? Could I fly? What’s the nearest airport? How long is it driving vs. flying. How much does it cost to fly? Etc.

Decided the best was was to drive WB > Highlands. It would take 7+ hours.
I threw stuff together and was on the road by two, in Highlands by 9 p.m.
Dad, sucking it up, and, always trying to do the "right thing,” came out to greet me (in his bathrobe) when he saw me pull into the driveway. My mother ran behind him, yelling, “Stewart, don’t be STUPID going out in the wet weather. Get back inside – it’s STUPID to be out here . . . what are you doing?! And I’m thinking, Jesus, Mom, if he’s about to die, could you just not call him "stupid" . . .?

Monday –
After lunch dad comes out of his room after an aborted nap, looking stricken. He says he doesn’t feel good – at all. We go immediately to the emergency room, where they finally do a bunch of heart tests on him. (For some reason, he told the doctors the time before he didn’t have a history of heart problems . . . ) He’s immediately put on a heart drug and continues with the diuretic. He’s feeble, weak and not looking good. His heart has half the capacity to pump blood as a normal heart, and that’s only going to decrease with age. The doctor speaks to me and mom outside my dad’s hearing and tells us this is REALLY SERIOUS, THAT HE MIGHT NOT MAKE IT.

REALLY.  That he should have been on this medicine months, if not years, ago.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday –
When the doc is doing his rounds in the morning, he says both times how surprised he is (again)that  dad wasn’t on Lisinopril because it’s SOP to use it in people with weak hearts. The doc said that he uses it every day, and looked at me to indicate I might want to think about doing it. It is a minimal-side-effect way to allow your heart to work more efficiently.
Stew improves remarkably (even the doc says this) as the drugs begin to work.
Pamella, Rebecca and Philip come up Tuesday. Jenny Wednesday, Sandie late Wednesday night. Pamella the kids and I got out for dinner Wednesday at Paoleti's.  Food is average, but the drive in to Highlands, with Reba, Jenny and Philip acting apeshit to a Phish CD I brought along was hilarious.

Sandie, Pamella and I had dinner with Jane (my mother’s sister) at Wolfgang’s Thursday.  (Mom stayed at the hospital with dad.)  Jane telling stories about Barb growing up; how horrible her dad was; how he (mis)treated his wife (“a slave”) and daughter; how Barb told Emma Laura when Jane became a teenager “not to let daddy do to her what he did to me.” I knew he (my grandfather) was tough, but not that he was an actual, full-bore woman-hater. My mother was the first child (of four), and a girl, and received the brunt of his craziness.

Friday –
Dad is actually well enough to go home. The drugs are allowing/ maximizing his weakened heart’s ability to pump as much blood through the body and organs as possible. The drugs will not increase the lifespan of the heart muscle; they will improve the quality of the life he has left. The doc says Stew’s a remarkable guy. He is, and I don’t know if he knows how close he came to dying. 

Saturday, Sept. 11--
Sandie and mom went to Atlanta for the day. Barb is to come back this evening with Pamella; Sandie tomorrow evening by herself.

Out of nowhere, sitting at the counter eating a BLT I fixed him, as animated as I’ve seen him since I’ve been here – dad looked at me and said: “Can you believe Jane going out there and telling the Pike's about me being in the hospital? Why is it she had to inject herself into everything?! It’s none of her business, and she has no business telling anyone about what’s going on with me.” I asked how it would hurt that the Pike's (dad’s and mom’s “best friends” in Highlands) knew about his illness. He said that if the Pike's knew, that pretty soon “it would be all over the club” (i.e., that the members of the Cullasaja Club would know).  I asked dad specifically why he and mom didn’t want "the club to know."  I mean, so the-fuck what?  Who cares? He said he didn’t want them to think they were “big sticks [I think he meant “big shots”] or something. We’re just not comfortable with that.”

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