Monday, September 05, 2005

The Exorcism of Stacy's Dad

The worst sound in the world is hearing one's Mom cry.

My Mom called during a rather painful dialysis session on Monday evening to update me on the latest information on my Dad.

Last Monday, my father decided he was fed up with dealing with all the pain going on in his knee and gave in to the necessity of surgery. The first couple days post-surgery he was coherent, but in a massive amount of pain.

This is when the trouble started.

As my Mom began to recite the story over the phone, each word was drenched in tears. She was upset, overwhelmed and rightfully so.

My father apprently wouldn't cooperate. The pain medications has released my father's inner demons, and my mother was having to deal with the repurcussions.

Sometimes he would throw fists at anyone who would approach him. Other times he thought he was at home. My Mom wondered if he would stay this way, if this was the beginning of something akin to Alzheimer's.

I tried to reassure my Mom that this was just the medications talking and that Dad would return to his normal, grizzled self once the treatment was over.

Once the conversation ended, I called up my baby sister Amy and asked her to call my Mom. I wasn't in any shape to provide any reassurance, considering I wasn't fully myself at the time due to dialysis, so I called and asked her to speak to my Mom.

When Saturday arrived, I decided the best thing I could do was be by my Mom's side. We'd been through rough patches before as a family and survived, why wouldn't this time be any different?

As we walked down the hospital hallway, my mother and me, I felt a nausea grow in my stomach. Usually, whenever I'm in the vicinity of a hospital, I'm usually the one who needs treatment. With the roles reversed, I'm not quite sure how to endure.

I entered my father's hospital room and looked directly into his eyes.

There was no sight of my 74-year old father.

He leaned in the hospital bed in my direction and asked, "Are you hear to get me out of jail?"

He tugged at the restraints keeping him from hurting himself, or for making a premature escape. His leg was in a cast and hooked up to a machine that was supposed to bend the knee slightly every few minutes in an effort to speed his recovery.

As my Mom entered, my father grew angry. He looked me in the eyes and said, "When I'm fucking dead and gone, I want you to get a lawyer and bring your mother up on charges of murder."

My entire body shut down. Anger I've had for my father in the past returned. I turned away and muttered, "I can't deal with this."

And then I was gone.

I paced the hallway nearby, hand over my mouth wondering what to do. At first, my Mom hadn't wanted me to visit, and for good reason. Now I wish I'd never made the effort.

I tired of the monotony of wandering back and forth, so I planted myself near a TV in the waiting room and watched the Android Larry King attempt to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

It seemed that tragedy was everywhere, and that it would never end.

I tried to remember my Dad as I've always known him: strong and sarcastic, hard-working and stubborn. When I was young, I was always impressed by my Dad's abilities. When he wanted to add a room to our house, he drew up the plans and ordered the lumber. When my bike needed a new tire, he would grab some tools and fix it good as new. And when his son needed a new kidney, he gave up ironworking and started his own business.

It was at this moment, I discovered that this entire affair was my fault. My father labored as an ironworker for over twenty years so I could wear new clothes, keep my belly full and enjoy the sanctity of a house that was always warm in the wintertime.

Every couple of years, due to the dangerous lifestyle that being an ironworker entails, he would sacrifice a little more of his body to support his family. He's had numerous surgeries on both ankles and both knees. Years ago a hot rivet landed in his ear, stealing whatever hearing ability he had.

Most of the time my father is in constant pain and nothing seems to aleviate it.

If it weren't for me, and especially for my condition, my father wouldn't be suffering as much as he is today. And it wouldn't be spreading like wildfire through my entire family.

Before I left, I made an attempt to at least say goodbye to my father. I gave him a gentle hug and kissed him on his forehead. As I was rising, he pulled me back and said he wanted to say goodbye much like he had said to his brother, who passed away just a couple of months ago.

As my Mom and I walked away, I placed my arm around her in an effort to console her, but I don't think it did much good. She started crying again, wondering if the man she married thirty-seven years ago would ever return.

Since I've always been the kind of person who doesn't find the glass half empty or half full, just broken at the bottom of the stairs, I have this surprising hope that my Dad will return to his rascally ways and be working out in the backyard of his ranch in no time.

My Mom and I both realize that it's not truly him saying these nasty, vulgar things and acting in the manner that he is.

I just hope that we exorcise these demons soon. Fear and helplessness have combined in my belly to create this queasy, nauseous feeling of uncertainty that just won't let go.

And if you've ever wondered if you'd ever witness the true meaning of love, reread the preceding blog entry. My Mom is wading through vulgarity and violence to care for the man she has loved these past four decades.

We should all be so lucky to find a love of that caliber.