April 19, 2012
My fingers bleed words.
Raw nerves are exposed to cold air. The scab knocked off a healing wound.
I am the wound.
A wound that will not heal.
I have forgiven all who I can.
My fingers bleed words.
I have forgiven my dad my childhood.
I never told him that.
Perhaps I should.
Over time I have become his daughter again, and he has become my father.
He’s cooked me breakfast of hash browns, scrambled eggs, bacon, whole wheat toast.
The year before you died, I went with him to a Seahawks game. Driving to the stadium, he pointed out the parking lot where I was conceived.
After my sister’s son died, one year before you, I came home from the funeral and your step-dad, Dean was drunk. We fought. He went outside and slammed the door behind him. It was 25 degrees and dark. I went in, put my pajamas on, laid on the couch, pulled a blanket over me and turned on the tv.
Dean did not come in the house.
I went outside, following the cloud of my breath searching for him.
He had passed out in the woodshed and peed all over himself.
I tried to rouse him. He flailed his arms and fought me. “Leave me alone. I’m o.k.”
I called my Dad.
“Dad, Dean is drunk again. He’s passed out in the wood pile “
“Do you want me to come down and help?” Dad asked.
“No. That would just embarrass him and piss him off.”
“What do you want to do?” He asked.
“Leave him out there, let him freeze his ass to death.”
“Now Sherry,” Dad began, “you know you can’t do that. I had the same dilemma when I came home and found your mother passed out with empty bottles of pills all around her, barely breathing, the five of you running around the house.”
“What did you do?” I asked him.
“I called her best friend and told her your mom needed help. She came and got her to the hospital.”
“Well Dad, you asked me what I wanted to do, not what I was going to do.” I told him.
“What are you going to do?” he asked.
“I am going out there. I am going to tell him he has five minutes to get in the house. If he cannot get himself to the house and in the door, there will be bright flashing red lights and sirens.”
“O.K” Dad said. “But if you need me. Call me back and I’ll come down.”
“Thanks Dad. I will.”
Every time I got a call from you from an emergency room, I called my dad. He talked to me from the driveway at my house in Rochester until I got to St. Joe’s, Good Sam, St. Pete’s, Evergreen, University of Washington, Swedish, Harborview. My stepsister, Linda Jean, died of cystic fibrosis. He knew what your sickness meant to me. When you died, when I could speak again, he was the first person I called to come be with me.
In the week Dad waited for his heart surgery, we talked about you, my step-sister Linda Jean. He cried. I cried. “Linda Jean was my stepdaughter, but she was a daughter to me, just like you guys.”
I put my hand in his. He squeezed it. We sat together with our feelings—mine about you and my stepsister, his about my stepsister and his granddaughter.
After the hostility this Wednesday before, I limited my exposure to toxicity and the possibility of confrontation. I was trying to ignore it, rise above it, avoid it. Focus on my dad, let him rest.
For two days, I stayed home to re-center myself. To let the brewed hostility towards me settle down.
“Here comes trouble,” my stepmother used to sing that song as soon as she knew I could hear her from the sidewalk as I approached the house. She was happiest when she could get as many of siblings and step-siblings to sing along.
My sisters and brother reverberate with the melody when I walk in the room.
I am not trouble. I am the questions that should have been asked. The answers sought. Truth pursued. Justice prevails. I sit in my nest trying to hatch eggs filled with good intentions, tranquility, peace, love and light—even if it does sound trite.
I try to project goodness.
And hope that it comes back to me.
Here comes trouble.
I do not understand unkindness. Though I feel it all around me.
Monday, April 15, I sent my boss an email I needed time off from work in the morning to be at the hospital with my dad.
“I went to the office and got tomorrow’s files. Rest of my files are still in cabinet. Dad had open heart surgery last Monday. Stroke on Wednesday. There have been days I have gone in and he looks so bad I wonder if I am going to get that call in the night. He hallucinates. Last night we were in a fox hole waiting for reinforcements. He was convinced we had to get out of there because the reinforcements weren’t coming. He was agitated, pulling at everything, trying to get out of bed. I waited with him in that imaginary foxhole, telling him that if we were really quiet, maybe we would remain undiscovered, but if he continued to carry on, we’d surely be found. This morning he knew who I was. I really need to spend as much time as I can with him.”
I stand on the right side of my dad’s bed. I massage his neck for him. Feel the vertebrae. Pull the skin, the muscles gently away from it, release, work my thumbs in circles in the curve where his head meets his neck, push my palms cupped over the round of his shoulder to where it meets the arm and down. He moves under the pulling, pushing, kneading of my hands on his neck, his shoulders. He puts his right arm around my back, pulls me into him. I kiss his left cheek. I put my mouth to his ear and whisper. “I love you dad.”
He turns his head and whispers, “I am scared.”
“You’ll be o.k.” I tell him. “I told you this was going to be really hard.”
“I’m scared.” He says again.
“It will be ok Dad.”
“I love you.” He says.
And I know he does.
I am afraid of losing him again.
I know there well be lies about me when he gets better.
Here comes Trouble.
Text message this morning from his wife.
Dales not doing well today. O2 saturations are down and has not been off the breathing machine since Tuesday. Doctors are not sure what is going on. Put him on antiatocs.
I call her to find out what is going on. Let her know I am planning to be at the hospital early afternoon for a few hours. My sister, Linda Marie, texted me earlier and wanted to go to the hospital with me.
I did not tell Linda dad was having problems.
After we left the hospital, Linda and I stop at Johnson’s candy where the men are making chocolates upstairs. The woman behind the counter offers us each a piece of chocolate covered toffee sweetness. I order six more.
“Oh My God.” Linda exclaims. “I just found something perfect for you.”
“What?” I ask.
She shows me. It is a mirror. At the bottom the phrase…Here Comes Trouble.
“I remember we used to sing that as soon as Willa saw you coming up the sidewalk. Then after all the craziness lately, this is perfect. You wouldn’t be offended if I bought this for you, would you.”
“No.” I answer. Because I am not.
I am not trouble.
But because I am not trouble, I am.
When Linda and I got up to my dad’s room he recognized us both immediately.
“Hi Sherry.” He said. “Where’s your boyfriend?”
“Working.” I told him.
“Hi Linda.” Dad greeted my sister.
“Hi Dad.” She answered.
“Where’s your boyfriend?” Dad asked.
“At work.” She answered.
It was time for Dad’s lunch. A man stood in the corner observing as Mari fed Dad. Because of his breathing, there has to be an adjustment to the consistency of his food. Too many chews take too many breaths.
I ask if I can bring in food for my Dad. The man tells me yes. It just cannot be too chewy.
When he left Mari told me the man was not the nutritionist. The nutritionist had the final say on what my dad had to eat. At that point she was barely civil to me, went to the back of my dad’s room and began talking on the cell phone.
I asked my dad “Would you like me to bring you something home cooked?”
“Yes.” He answered.
A nurse came in. I asked if it were possible to talk to the nutritionist.
From the back of the room, I heard a hostile voice say “Don’t you think you should check with me before you ask to talk to the nutritionist?”
“You’ve been on the phone.” I answered.
I was sitting next to my Dad, holding his hand, he was whispering in my ear, “I’m not doing so good.”
Mari stormed out of the room yelling “Don’t be laying your head on your Dad’s chest.”
Linda, standing in front of me, said, “What was that about?”
My Dad looked stunned. “It’s o.k. Dad.” I told him squeezing his hand.
But it is not o.k.
None of this o.k.
The fact none of his children are allowed to talk to his doctors is not o.k.
The fact we get different information from different sources that all conflicts because of the way information is passed from one person to the other, or not passed, is not o.k.
No matter how much stress Mari is under, the way she is treating me is not o.k.
My dad would want me to know. He would want me to help.
I am helpless.
I am Trouble.
Mary feeds my Dad the second tray of unattractive food the dietician brings in.
“I am the dietician.” She says as Mari lifts the lid off a plate of instant mashed potatoes covered with yellow gravy and a small dish of chicken covered in white gravy. There is a clear plastic cup with minced cantaloupe and some other fruit.
I ask the dietician “Are you the same as the nutritionist?”
“I am.” She answers.
“I am thinking of bringing some home cooked food for my dad. Would there be a problem with that?”
“No.” She answers. “We are just trying to get him to eat right now. To get up his strength.”
“If I did bring him something are there restrictions as to sodium, other things?”
I can see Mari is fuming as she is sitting next to my dad. I stop the conversation with the dietician. I ask Mari if there is a problem with me talking to the dietician. She gets up from next to my dad, storms up to me, slaps the top of my arm and says, “Nope. You just do whatever the fuck you want to do.”
As she storms out she takes all the air in the room with her. The nurses, the dietician, Linda, me—we all just look at one another.
My dad sits in his chair, trying to get enough oxygen.
I go sit next to him. I kiss him on the cheek.
“Do you want me to bring you something to eat tomorrow?” I ask him.
He shakes his head up and down. “Yes.” He says.
“What do you want me to bring you?” I ask.
“Posole.” He answers.
“That might be a little tough to eat right now. How about some Thai soup like I made just before you had surgery?”
“O.k.” he answers.
“Would breakfast, lunch or dinner be better?”
“Lunch.” He tells me.
He did not need all this drama in his room this afternoon. He needs to get well.
I am trouble.
Trouble is me.
“Oh my God.” Linda exclaims “Mari has just posted something on Facebook.” We were just leaving the hospital.
“She’s unfriended me a few days ago. So I won’t be able to read it.”
“It is to you.” She says. “Should I read it?”
“Sure.” I tell her.
Why can’t you do as you are asked? You are not in charge…You have not been here all the time, so you know what is best for him…You don’t. Maybe you should spend more time with him.
My fingers bleed words.
I am an unscabbed wound, fresh, wet, glistening.
I am the child that cries in the night for a childhood.
I am a mother without her child.
I am a daughter trying to find a way to help her father.
Who has found a way to her father.
And does not want to lose it.
This is all about my Dad.
This is all about what he wants, what he would have wanted.
What he needs.
Thanks for being there to listen.
Love you Andie--Mom