This post was originally entitled “I am nothing but feelings.” You’ll see.The phone rang at 10:46 AM on November 17. It was a Monday so I was at work when my parents’ home number flashed on my cell phone, making my heart jump to my throat.
“Hello?” I answered, feeling tense.
I willed myself to breathe again.
Dad said he felt bad for not calling more. He just called to chat.
For years, Dad didn’t know my phone number – seriously – and it drove my mother nuts. She gave him grief about it constantly, writing the number on notepads in the house and entering it into his seldom-used and seldom-seen cell phone. But I always told him the same thing: I know how much you love me.
Still, it’s a surprise when Dad calls. A great surprise. I drop everything for him.
We talked about The Voice, which he absolutely loves. The bromance between Adam and Blake cracks him up. But he has a new favorite now.
— One Chicklette (@1chicklette) November 18, 2014
Dad asked about my cold and told me that he’s feeling good. The last three years have taught me not to take that for granted. Tomorrow is not assured.
Holidays are different now. On Thanksgiving night, I cried in my childhood bedroom thinking ahead to the day when I will no longer have a dad.
I used to save projects for Dad. A necklace that needs fixing. A shelf to be mounted on my apartment wall. He was my own personal McGyver. No challenge was too great for Dad.
But now, Dad is often physically vulnerable. I don’t ask him to do things for me now because I know it would break his heart to say “I can’t. I’m so sorry, Jen.”
My father seems to be fading like an old Polaroid. Sometimes I think about asking if he’s scared. And by scared, I mean about dying. But that’s a door I can’t open. Even thinking and typing the word feels like a betrayal.
Dad spent six days in a hospital two hours’ drive from home last week. His condition, pulmonary hypertension, is very difficult to manage. He has an excellent specialist who does everything you’d want a doctor to do, from calling the house to check in between appointments to visiting my father in the hospital, even though he’s out on vacation.
But getting Dad back on course takes time and tries his patience. He hates the hospital food, and the hospital twin bed and worst of all, the hospital TV that doesn’t offer a guide or menu. Fortunately he loves the nurses (and they love him).
I call a few times each day, trying to encourage and distract him.
“At least The Voice is on tonight, Dad.”
“You’re right, Jen. I can’t wait. It’s good to have something to look forward to.”
“I love you, Dad. So much.”
And then I hang up and cry. I can’t let Dad know how scared I am.
December 18 update: Dad was just diagnosed with shingles.