It’s the little things

I’ve been putting off this post for a while now. For two months, actually. Like writing it or not writing it will make a difference. Or maybe I just didn’t have the courage.

Today Mom and I preformed our first home improvement repair on our own, as two single women. I’m proud of us, but it hurts a lot, too. Dad should be here to take care of Mom.

On Monday, March 14th, Mom and Papa took Dad to the emergency room in Bristol because he had been running a fever and his blood pressure was up. He was admitted to the hospital that evening with an infection, so they kept him while they gave him antibiotics and tested to see exactly what sort of infection he had. I came home that Tuesday to stay the nights with him in the hospital while Mom worked and Papa ran the business. Nana or Jeff, my uncle, were to relieve me during the day so I could go home, do the book-keeping and shower.

Mom came down to see us to spend our evenings with us. I tried any means of coaxing him to eat during the day. He would take a bite or two to appease me. And I would get all of his favorite foods, be it Taco Bell or fish or key lime pie. We’d all watch tv, the Biggest Loser or American Idol. Dad asked me why I’ve never tried out for American Idol. Then Mom would go home and I slept in Dad’s room. Somehow we’d lucked out and got the one suite on the floor, so I had a sofa bed in the room with him.

On Thursday his doctor came in and told us that it looked like Dad’s kidneys were failing. They wouldn’t know until the next morning if he was going into renal failure, but if he was, we were looking at a time frame of two or three weeks. Dad and I discussed not telling anyone else but Mom until we knew for sure, so no one would be worried needlessly. When I got ready to leave that day, I asked Dad if he needed anything. He said he needed me to stay with him. So I never left him. He never did really remember the doctor telling him that for the rest of the day.

Mom left work early and came to the hospital. She spent the night with us that night. And it was a bad night. Dad was restless. He wouldn’t sleep, kept wanting to get up and just wouldn’t sleep, so we asked the nurse to give him something to calm him. He didn’t wake up the next morning on his own.

The nurses called a crash cart, but they only put him on a b-pap machine (or whatever it’s called). He did come out of it, but never regained a full consciousness. When his doctor came in later that morning she said that he had a strep b infection that come from his intestines. She said it was common in cancer patients, particularly with esophageal cancer, and that it was fatal about 20% of the time. But because Dad was suffering from¬†malnutrition and already in the hole from treatment, he just wasn’t going to come out of it. She said we had 24 hours.

That day was really hard. Dad was in and out of it all day, never really said much more than a few words, but he recognized us. He was taken off all the medication and IV feeding and put on morphine. That night he was restless, trying to get out of bed. We gave him a good amount of morphine to calm him more. The next morning he never did regain consciousness.

That day was worse. We decided to cut back on the morphine because he wasn’t really responsive at all besides looking at us occasionally and taking some water from the hospital sponges. We tried to feed Dad a bit of baked potato, but he didn’t even attempt to eat it. He did kiss Mom that night, three times like they always did. Dad stopped breathing once, and we all nearly died that moment. But by the time the nurse made it in the room, he had begun breathing again.

On Saturday morning I sat down with the doctor on the floor and she showed me Dad’s records and his vitals. The renal failure was minimal, the liver enzymes were slighty high, but his blood was water. Dad had received a transfusion the week before because his count was low, and the report was reading that the count was now undetectable. In red there on the computer screen.

Mom and I spent every moment with Dad in that room. We slept in shifts, keeping vigil. We showered when we could, but we never left. People brought food in to us, but we never even left the hospital floor. I spent my time combing his hair, giving him water, keeping chap stick on his lips and playing music for him.

At some point the US attacked Libya and went to war. We had no idea.

On Monday 21st, at a quarter til 7 in the evening and some eighty hours after we were told this was it, I was laying in the recliner with my hand on Dad’s chest when I felt his breathing slow to something almost undetectable. I looked at Mom. This was it. We gathered around Dad and told him good-bye. And after he left us Mom and I dressed him and packed the room up with all of our stuff. And we left him there, with a pastor who is very dear to the family stayed with Dad until the funeral home came for him.

I am so worried that we didn’t do enough, that he held on for so long and that we didn’t give him a chance to fight. That we gave up, took away his nutrition, and doped him up while we waited on him to die. Mom says he held on for so long for us, to give us a chance to say goodbye. And sometimes I feel like I killed him because I didn’t fight this. It would have taken several units of blood, more antibiotics, who knows. But Mom looked to me to talk to the doctors and figure it out, and I said there was nothing. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that. Over the fear that I killed my father.

Some days are okay, some days it doesn’t seem real and that Dad will come home to us, and some days it’s the worst day of my life over and over again. When I go through my dresser looking for a shirt and find ones that Dad gave me and I can’t control myself. I sleep with a tiny little teddy bear he gave me a few years ago, the last toy he gave me. He was so proud that he had found that bear for me, in reference to a trip to the Bristol race that Dad took me too. I cling to everything of his, wear his necklace and his clothes.

I miss him so much. He was an amazing father. God gave me the perfect parents for me. They’re my best friends, my life. I talked to my Dad everyday, even when I was in China. When I started college Dad e-mailed me five times a day and called me every night. When I started working in shelters Dad made me call every morning so he knew I was safe. I periodically call his voice mail to listen to his voice, and I wish I would have saved a message from him on my phone. Now I have one from Mom I won’t delete.

It’s the little things I miss. Riding his motorcycle with him, the silly names he called us, him calling me stupid for my tattoos, talking to him about what new cd he bought, hugs. I already miss that he won’t walk me down the aisle, meet my children. I miss the future vacations, going to the High, just telling him that I love him.


About CCTgirl

Just a crazy girl taking MARTA.
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3 Responses to It’s the little things

  1. Melly says:

    I love you – I’m so proud of you – putting these things into words it harder than expirencing them sometimes.
    Trust in yourself – we can always look back and second guess, but you did what you did, when you did it based on where things were at that moment. We all have that “what if” syndrome in this situation – trust me…
    When your having one of those moments, just slow down and let them happen. Once its over, then you can keep putting one foot in front of the other until you ahve the next one…
    You know how to find me if you ever want to talk… i’m on the same road – just 2 years and 8 days in front of you…

  2. mary Coyne says:

    Ashley, you don’t know me from Adam – just through Facebook. I want to say this: Bless you and please – don’t play the hindsight game. I did that with my daddy and kept thinking: if I’d only fought the doctors more! If I’d only come home sooner! If I’d only…

    Take care of yourself and your mom and remember that your dad loved y’all – and you loved him like a mama tiger. that’s all that counts.

  3. DEP says:

    Ashley, that was beautifully written. I’m so sorry about your dad–I know from the stories how much you love him, and how much he still loves you. “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”

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