Thanksgiving Memories: Wanting a Sleepover
It was my dad’s first night at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx. I’m grateful to the facility for accepting him on short notice and for giving him dignity during his last days. I wrote this nearly three years ago and kept it private until now.
Eyes widening, he asked me in a quiet voice to stay over one night. I look at him, my own eyes questioning silently. “Are you sure?” I asked. “Yes,” he half-mouthed, half-said.
Dad’s vulnerability frightened us both. “Why don’t Mom and I both stay over?” I asked, looking up as she wordlessly in a chair. “Otherwise, I’d have to visit without her, and she’d be home alone.”
When I heard he’d been accepted here, I cried tears of relief and joy. The past two months were emotionally draining, physically exhausting, and — as Mom and I’d learned the day before — spiritually frustrating.
Several years ago I penned “Open Faced Sandwich” about helplessly watching Dad struggle, determined to advocate for him. I have, and continue to do it.
His request for me to stay overnight in his hospital room is the end of a long road that started on Thanksgiving Day. For weeks, I was haunted with the belief I’d personally escorted Dad deeper into a hole from which he’d never return.
For the second time in less than two weeks, my conscious was wracked with guilt because, three hours after Mom and I left the place I chose for him, Dad fell on the floor. The call came at 9:57 p.m.; my heart stopped, thinking it was that call.
“Your dad fell, and we’re putting down floor mats,” the assistant told me. Putting down floor mats NOW? Mom and I saw them in his room earlier, and were assured they’d be placed under his bed.
Dad plunged deeper; Mom and I were livid. The doctor sent him back to the hospital, where he languished for the next six weeks — speechless, mouthing words, repeating a word or two when he could. He sometimes ate, mostly not, and always surprised us.
“We found the Holy Grail yesterday, daddy!” my December 30 journal entry said. “You had half of a huge pastrami sandwich with mustard on a hard roll, and see, the nurses didn’t think you were hungry. It took five calls to the hospital to get the doctor to take you off soft (mushy yuck) diet; she was afraid you’d aspirate and choke.”
“You’re smarter than that, daddy, and couldn’t wait to eat. Tomorrow I’m bringing you a pad and pens so you can talk on paper. I don’t know if we’ll have a conversation again, daddy, yet I pray and hope that things will turn around for you. I love you.”
Several days later, Dad was talking, reading “Happy New Year” from the paper on which I’d written it. It was wonderful to see recognition in his eyes, and then he looked at me as if to say, ‘Why are you asking me to read this?’ I wanted to know if there was a connection, if his brain was working, my scientific trial.
Until back into that dark place he fell.
Doctors told us dementia is cruel, plays tricks, teases, gives false information. I didn’t believe it, not in Dad.
What happened next can only be described as a miracle.
His brown eyes opened wide when I walked into his hospital room later that day. I greeted him, and then I heard the sweetest sound: his voice. I asked him a question, and he answered; I asked him something else. He again responded.
From somewhere far away, Dad had climbed out, back to us. Mom and I believe it’s because we demanded that he be taken off both sedative medications. I blamed them for his fall in the rehabilitation facility; since he’d lost weight and was eating little, his body wasn’t able to absorb it.
I question if his earlier inability to communicate was due to overmedication.
Dad’s doctor, and the medical team attending him here, listen and understand, and I’m grateful for their compassion and communication with Mom and me.
“Are you sure?” I asked again. “Yes,” he replied a second time. I’m looking forward to our sleepover, Dad.
I’d like to know what you think.
Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016