14 May 2007

O Coração: Você É Uma Coisa Muita Frágil

On Mother's Day my parents called me. It started out well, but then my Mom said, "You Dad has some news for you." Her tone of voice was not good. It was the same tone, and almost the same words, she used when she told me she had cancer (my Mom is in remission).

My Dad is 80 years old. He has had 2 (or 3?) heart attacks, open heart surgery for a triple bypass, a couple of stents, and a pacemaker. He also has prostrate cancer, but lots of older men do. They usually die of old age first. In the past few years, Dad has gotten more fragile (cracked ribs). He falls a lot because the medications he takes make him dizzy. Despite all that he was still climbing up on the roof to replace shingles last fall.

So I waited for the news I knew that I was going to dread. The only question being, what is going to bring an end to my Dad's life?

"My heart is fibulated." Huh? His words, which may or may not be a complete understanding of what the doctor told him. The top chambers of his heart no longer work; the muscle is all stretched out like a rubber band. The bottom (larger) chambers are the only part ensuring that blood still pumps through his circulatory system. The doctor disconnected the pacemaker wires to the top half to save on the battery (Save on the battery? WTF?). There is a lot about artial fibulation online, but it is difficult to sort through. I'm still reacting right now.

My Dad tried half-heartedly (bad pun, but my Dad always appreciates a pun) to crack some jokes. I told him to take it easy because I want him to see me walk at graduation. He said he would be there regardless. It made me think of my friend Li-Kuang who just graduated with her doctorate from UGA. Her father died while she was in the process of writing her dissertation. During her defense, she placed a photographed of her parents (both are deceased) on the stand so that they would be with her in spirit. I'm being selfish, but I really don't want to put a photograph of my Dad on the lectern when I defend. I want him there to give me a hug.

I think that my Mom started to sense I was dissolving into banshee wailing mode. I do that sometimes - like when my parents tell me they have a potentially terminal illness, and I can't fucking do a thing because I'm not a deity and I live on the other side of the planet. They got off the phone in a hurry, despite having spent an hour trying to reach me.

My Dad kept telling me not to come home and that he is very proud of me. That I can't do anything. I don't know what to do. I would rather see him now while he is still alive and we can enjoy one another's company. Once he's gone, it is too late and I don't want to regret that for the rest of my life. We don't always see eye to eye, but he is still my Dad. Still the Dad that built me a tree house, put up with all my questions about how stuff worked and why, taught me to fix things around the house and on my car, shared music with me, pulled me out from underwater under an overturned tractor, told me stories and sang me to sleep when I was little...

I've known my Dad's time was getting close for a while. He's 80 years old and doesn't follow the doctors orders about his diet or health very well. It still sucks.

I haven't been sleeping well, but last night and tonight I can't sleep at all. When I am alone, all I want to do is cry. My chest feels all hollow and it gets hard to breathe.

My Dad will find out how long he has on 25 May. Meanwhile, my younger brother is considering quitting his job to go home and help my parents out (depending on the news). He lives in Pennsylvania and is a little closer to them. This is the downside of my work - being far from my family when they need me most. I don't know what to do.

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