My Father’s Face

No, I’m not trying to wring Sunday’s post out for as many comments as possible; things have been very busy personally. I’ve been squeezing work in between caring for my father and attending to any number of requisite allied items. It is massively fatiguing and mentally taxing to say the least.

I had to place my father into a skilled nursing facility on Wednesday, November 5th (Goodbye, House). Since then he’s had to enter the hospital twice for more serious medical complications; first, to have the hematoma on his left leg examined further and for a blood transfusion, and then again on Sunday because the massive hematoma (roughly the size of a very thick paperback book) on his left leg literally burst. He was taken back to Mercy Hospital.

Everything is declining geometrically, it seems. He has an atrial fibrillation, cellulitis, his blood count is all over the map, he is perenially tired. His left leg hurts terribly, his back hurts terribly, everything hurts terribly. Luckily he is now on morphine which, I must admit, creates some very unusual conversations with him.

Worse, however, is the fact that today he was placed onto oxygen. They also wanted two X-rays; one for his chest and one for his left leg. I suspect the doctors want the chest X-ray to determine if he has pneumonia and the leg X-ray to see if his hematoma is in fact a bone tumor. The wound nurse entered his room earlier Monday to decree that the open site is larger and much deeper than she expected.

In his condition, he could succumb from blood clots, a heart attack, pneumonia. He can barely move, is hooked to three IVs, a BP cuff, air bed. I am certain that this is not even remotely how he envisioned himself going. Enfeebled, powerless, limbs uncontrolled, fingers grasping and pulling on his gown, at the bed covers with grim determination but for no reason.

I looked at my father’s face tonight. Skin the thickness and color of onion paper once soaked with water, now dried, eyes clouded, cracked lips, discolored bruises all up and down his stick-like arms and the backs of his hands, white hair tousled, his face unshaven. He couldn’t get comfortable. He raised his arms out to me, I took his hands, then he snatched his arms back as though his brain hadn’t commanded that effort in the first place. He would begin a long-winded exposition then words would fail after a minute. His eyes would limp to half-mast then close.

All the things he’s done in his life, all the things I’ve done with him, how he married my mother in 1942, how they raised three boys in the 50s and 60s, how he retired as a full USAF Colonel in 1984, how he took his wife on numerous cruises, how he watched his wife pass away at a different Mercy Hospital in the same town in May of 2002, a nasal canula strapped around her ears and face. It was the only time I ever saw him weep openly, at her bedside, her face and cheeks cooling. He wept unabashedly. It was frightening to me.

I am jolted back: just as a nasal canula surrounds my father’s face now, back behind his ears.

This is not my father, but it is my father. This will be me one day, perhaps very soon.

I’ll consider it a miracle if we have my father alive on Thanksgiving, much less in the hospital or a nursing home.


17 thoughts on “My Father’s Face

  1. BZ, I say this as someone that watched BOTH of my parents die, my father from lung cancer that spread to every part of his body, my mother from congestive heart failure and just being worn out I think…

    Sometimes my friend, it is better to see them gone, and I say that with ALL the love and compassion I have in me…

  2. I’ll continue to pray for you and maybe for a miracle. I do understand. My father seems to be getting along fine but I still worry and it occupies time. First things first.

  3. I’m with ya, BZ.

    Prayers, first and foremost, that your father is comforted by His arms.

    Secondly, that His will be done.

    Third, that you and your family receive comfort from Him that this is His will.

    My mind slips back to a few weeks ago, when my sister passed away…

  4. Add my prayers to the mix, BZ. You described your Dad in such precious terms, I almost feel like I know him too. Amazing man, that’s for sure. The Lord I know will care for you. God Bless you.

  5. I couldn’t read this post without tearing up, BZ. It’s so sad. I hate the thought of anyone suffering that way. My prayers are added to those for your dad, and for you as well.

  6. bz,

    It’s a tough post but one that is well-written, reminding us in blunt terms, the reality of our own mortality. I’m younger than you, but I’ve seen my grandparents disappear slowly (and painfully) from this life; and see my own parents now succumbing to the ravages of age, and all the problems that come with it. I have clients who are elderly who spend much of their time going in and out of hospitals, endless checkups and follow up visits to the doctors.

    My prayers are with you and your dad.

  7. Thoughts are with you.
    Savor every minute you get to spend with him, trust me he savors every minute with you and the family ESPECIALLY right now.

  8. It’s wonderful to have someone to love. You have your Dad. And he has you. I hope you know that he understands each tear you shed is for him, for his love and care. I read,”Goodbye, House,” and was very moved. Your love for your father is wonderful and is one thing he definitely needs; and something you need. Do the best you can.

  9. Heart wrenching post my friend, all the more so by the skilled writing. Your Dad must be very proud of you, and for a father to look upon his children with pride is one of life’s greatest gifts. You are both in my prayers.

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