March 17, 1999

Sitting With Dad

sitting in Dad's room
waiting for home health nurse
ESPN, no sound since Dad has headphone connected
the world of sport, NCAA basketball
Dad is outside smoking, playing his solitaire computer game
wearing Sharks jacket, Shark's cap, long underwear, pj's, slippers

i hear a delicate chirping melody
the birds are celebrating
several different
a glorious chorus
i go to see the singers
on the tip of the roof next door
and perched in the birch
Dad is there, unaware
engrossed in his game of red 6 on black 7
he can not hear it
has not been able for a long while
reminds me of Beethoven's anguish
his genius produced highest art evenso
not all are genius, very rare
Dad is an ordinary man
with dilemmas and frailties
i do not tell him of the delightful song
i leave him be

he is focusing on his game
a mindless repetitive game but very good for him
i give thanks
the nurse will come soon i hope
i have other obligations
but this takes obvious priority importance
i want to be here when she comes
if only to be a buffer against Dad's
total frustrated grouchy irritability
nastiness? more the anger/defense side of fear
he is fading, withdrawing, secluding

his triumph today was to change his clothes
all by himself
i saw his nakedness
like he saw mine little helpless me 49 years ago
he is emaciated, dangerously thin
yet no appetite - what can one do?
although pneumonia has been present for
over 3 weeks still he smokes
he has recently made SURE that his
store stock hoard of cigarettes is arranged
properly in the drawer

emphysema, pneumonia,
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), gasping
coughing, phlegm (what a great spelling!
flem would not have the same rich colored viscosity)
phlegm galore - the body's desperate attempt
to protect itself
phlegm caught on napkins he took from
restaurants, bars, saloons
then dropped into wastebasket
this is what his life has come to
that's my Dad
his addictions dominate, control, destroy
so many young people still smoke
how do they start?
to feel better? is it as simple as that?
so many things we do to simply
make us feel better about ourselves
hidden costs, though

Dad has returned to his bed
the news is on TV
newscasters carefully coiffed
good news bad news it never ends
ads ads ads ads ads ads
patience Jon
Dad is quiet
now hypnotized by television instead
is there resignation? acceptance? peace?
perhaps. but he cannot communicate it
nor can one query or ask
without an irritated outburst at the audacity
of the disturbance
one needs to be quiet, listen, sit, wait.
it is very tricky to be with him
a guitar is being gently strummed somewhere near
the housekeeper Lea?
ah... music. balm for the soul
Dad cannot hear it
he has not been able for a long while
each finds their own balm

we speak of virtual reality as being
some new fangled wonderful thing.
but what is TV?
so easy to get lost in it - another reality
far from the present moment within us which seems
so mundane by comparison to the glitz and smile on the tube

i called, the nurse has been paged, they will call

Dad mouths "she will not come today"
again louder "SHE WILL NOT COME TODAY"
amidst coughs hacks phlegmful irritated
i speak to him as clearly as i can
that the nurse IS being paged and WILL call us
the message gets thru. he settles again.
sometimes often i write to him instead of speaking
easier for both of us. keeps my emotions and
aim clearer

Dad has 3 small glasses of liquids on his table
milk, fruit juice, water
he has not had much if any alcohol/vodka
to drink in the last 2-3 weeks
one time he courageously ventured out
primarily to seek a slaking of that thirst
he ended up falling, bruising
somehow made his way back safe

he asks about my new job
and about the express bus i will take over the hill
i begin to explain what i know
but he quickly reaches a limit
and can hear no more
nice that he did ask

the call comes.
the home health scheduler
it will be tomorrow. tomorrow morning.
i explain this to Dad. he says, "I'll be home".

was my time (hour and a half) wasted?
by no means.
i heard the birds
learned of the world of sports and news
sat quietly peacefully with my dying father
time very well spent
can one waste time?

before I go i tidy up Dad's table
unopened Reader's Digest
I open and discard ads (which Dad asks me to recover)
see that as always there are some excellent things to read
and pass it to Dad
he reads well. morning paper.

housekeeper comes to swap the 3 glasses
for some food that Dad may be able to eat

cough, phlegm. consult TV guide. time to pee.
is he ready to die?
are any of us?
he is a survivor.
one day last week as he got up from smoking outside
i heard him mumble to himself, "is this a slow way to die?"

so, time to go.
shake hands. wish well.
i will see you tomorrow after my work.
be well.
i hope the Sharks win!