I have already cried twice today. I think I will probably cry again before the day ends. I am such a bitch.
I just got back from Stanford Hospital...the cancer ward. My father is on his deathbed. Apparently, half of his body has seized, and I can only talk to him through his right ear. I had to lean in to get his attention. His eyes lit up once or twice when he saw me...but all he could do was moan. He moans with each painful breath he takes.
Swear to God, I walked in there this morning and for a split second, I thought I was in the wrong room. He was lying in his bed, slightly to the left and his mouth was gaping open. He was white, white, white...like a corpse. Like any number of zombies that I have seen in film. He actually reminded me of SLOTH in the movie SE7EN. The weight loss and the loss of his left side has changed him; contorted him into something I am not familiar with.
A phalanx of doctors came into the room a little after 8AM this morning. When you have this many, you are seeing the machinery. The machinery was there to handle their own foul-up, if the foul-up was broached. I was trying to figure it out. I think a big part of it is that my father fell in the hospital a few weeks ago, and the internal bleeding hasn't completely subsided. The bleeding is in his head, which makes for massive headaches. They were pumping him with morphine awhile ago, but that wasn't cutting it. Now he is on something else. The problem is that he just finished his second round of chemo and he is weak. He is so weak in fact that the painkiller they have him on could collapse his lungs.
My father is in a space.
The doctors told us what they want to do. They want to make his life as "comfortable as possible". They kept on throwing the word "comfort" around. It is all about getting the man comfortable before he dies. Comfort is an option. If he is going to fight this thing however, comfort will not be an option. My old man will have to take the pain. he will have to take the pain, and he still might not make it. So he can die comfortable and relatively sedated, or he can die in pain, fighting the basic infections that Ivan shakes off several times a day in his 2nd grade classroom.
Of course, we could put him on a ventilator. The ventilator would keep his lungs working. Dr. Oh said that he has never seen a patient in my father's condition get off of a ventilator. The bottom line is cash money. They put him on that ventilator, he is going to be on it until someone pulls the plug. It is gonna cost some buckage to keep the machine going and a nursing staff working it. The hard sell by all of the doctors was that we should get ready to pull a plug somewhere. They don't want to put him on the ventilator, because then the pulling of the plug becomes much more of a concrete idea and image. If we downshift it now, the visibility of the plug to pull is a little more...ambiguous. Of course, they don't come out with that stuff, but that was their bottom line.
My Mom has chosen to do the full-court press and push for a ventilator and whatever else can be done to extend his life. Me? I am shellshocked. This is my father. This is a man who has thrown fists at people twice his size. Shit, I have gone toe to toe with the man myself. This is the intellectual. This is the man who set in motion the sort of life I am trying to live. This is a man who has seen more than I will ever see. This is a man who has read more than I will ever read. This is a man with memories of the 50s, 60s and 70s that will make you wonder how he got in the space of so many famous people.
The doctors eventually left us in the hall...to process their subtext. Dave, Veronica's husband, pulled me into a hug. I hugged him, willingly, and then it started. I started to cry like a little bitch. In my fighting down of my sobs, I was reminded of the sounds that Harvey Keitel makes in Abel Ferrera's BAD LIUETENANT. This is a battle that I am losing. It is internal and it is external. My father isn't going to make it. I am pretty sure of this. I am going to lose him, his mind, and his gentle spirit, which had become more and more gentle over the years. I am losing him and there is nothing I can do about it. In some ways I have already lost him. Communication is sparse if at all. He isn't telling jokes or dropping profanity into everyday conversation. He isn't INTERACTING anymore. He is somewhere else. I considered his spirit, and where it must be within this bruised body of his. I also considered what his spirit must want. Does it want to fight? Will his attitude be a fighting one? A last stand? A showdown? Or has it lost, and is it looking for a way out? I am figuring that it is probably the latter.
I sat outside and chatted with Dave and Veronica and later, my mother. But all the while, I was trying to think of my old man. I think all of our shit is done. I think that I have worked through all of my father/son angst with him. I am not angry with him anymore, and I haven't been for years. My last few years of interaction with him have been an attempt to compile as much of his knowledge of his past as possible. The man doesn't really like to talk too much, so you have to hit him with some ridiculous posturing to get him going. But when he gets going, he is a fount of wisdom. He drops the big words. He has the dark sense of humor. He has all of these personality traits that I would love to have. I am sure that I have some...but this is it. He is on the home stretch now, and even if he makes it through this one, I don't see him being "normal" again. He has taken too much damage. Plus, this pressure on his brain has me wondering if his priceless intellect and memories are gone.
I went back in to see him. I had him all to myself. He was muttering something. He said words like, "no" and "will" and "stop". I took his hand in mine. He gripped me. I got right into his face and said,"Hey." His eyes focused. He took me into his sight. For a second, just a second, I felt that warmth, and I saw him as I have always seen him. It was a metaphysical moment. He morphed in front of my eyes into my Dad, pre-this shit. He muttered something unintelligible. I looked him in his right eye (the other is dark) and told him point blank that I love him. Then I started to cry again. These were the free-falling tears, not that angry stuff that I'd done with Dave earlier. His eyes locked with mine and his tears started too. The stuff was intense. Was I actually communicating with him? Or was this some sort of reaction that he was having to any number of medications swirling through his system? I do know that after that moment that I had, he closed his eyes and when he opened them again, they were dim. I wasn't being focused on anymore.
And what can I do? I can't do a fucking thing. I have to ride this out. We all have to. I find solace in the fact that this is a part of life. Every man must go through the death of their father (provided they don't beat their father to the finish line). I try to find peace in the fact that my father has led a complete life. I don't see a bunch of loose ends that he needs to tie up. I don't think any of my siblings have loose ends with him either. So what can I do? I can continue going to the hospital. I haven't had hospital visits as an absolute priority on my list for many reasons. One is that I hate driving over Highway 17. Another is that I am not really into sitting around the hospital dealing with a man who is in and out of consciousness. Another is that my family seems to be in emergency mode, and that every time something happens with Dad, we all need to be in the hospital, because this could be the big one. I have had a hard time getting behind that one. Lastly? I have been asking myself, "What can I do?" for weeks now. What can I do? Not a damn thing. I have thought about if I was in his space. I would actually want to be left alone. I wouldn't want people around 7-24 (as Neal would say). I would want my own space. I would want to take the walk to the cursed earth alone. Perhaps my father isn't like this. But in life, he wasn't that social of a creature. Now he has more company than I am sure he knows what to do with.
I am not cursing God either. I am not begging him for my Father's life, nor am I calling him a bastard for taking him away. I get it. I understand this thing. But there I was, crying on Dave's shoulder this morning whispering, "Goddammit, goddammit, goddammit..." God damn this situation anyways.
My old man is on his way out, and all I can do is watch it happen.