Well, it's been a hell of day.
My father is in the hospital right now, having suffered what the doctors fear is a stroke.
When my sister and I left him, he was being difficult and annoying, which is pretty much par for the course with my father. But he needs to be watched and tested over the next few days.
It started yesterday when I got a call from the nurse at the senior center where my father goes twice a week. He had fallen down and while the nurse couldn't find any sign of injury, she was concerned and wanted to speak with my dad's doctor.
It got worse when my dad's aid, Mary, called me at work to say my father was home and insisting she call his old company in Albany, NY. Even though he's long since retired and the company went out of business about 30 years ago.
I had noticed some unusual behavior the other night, when my father got up at around midnight to tell me something about "two guys breaking out of jail." I told him to go back to bed.
At Mary's urging I got my father an appointment at the V.A. hospital today. I had a date tonight with a woman I had met online and I was selfishly thinking that I didn't want any grief this evening to screw up this date.
That all went out the window. At around 4:30pm, my dad's doctor called me and said he didn't like the way my father looked: he was unsteady on his feet, the left side of his face seemed to be drooping, and he had some difficulty speaking--all classic signs of a stroke.
He sent my father and Mary over to the emergency room at the hospital and it looked like he was going to be admitted. If you can believe this, part of me was still thinking I could make this date. Then I spoke to Mary and I knew I had to get over to the hospital as soon as possible.
I called my sister, asked my boss if I could split, (he was very good about it, by the way) and then banged out an email to my almost-date telling her the situation. I apologized profusely and got my tail down to the train station.
Everything moves so slowly at times like these. The R train crawled all the way back to Brooklyn. When I got out at 95th Street, the last stop, I decided to walk over to the V.A., crossing over the Belt Parkway, where the traffic was already backing up as drivers headed toward the bridge.
Don't I Know You From Someplace?
I found my sister, Mary, and my dad in the emergency room. The doctor, a very bulky fellow who looked more like a wrestler, said a CAT scan couldn't find any sign of damage to my father's brain, but he added that he thought my father had "some kind of stroke."
"I recognize you," the doctor said. "It's funny, I don't recognize your father, but I recognize you."
I think I met this doctor a year or so ago, during another run to the emergency room when my father's blood sugar dropped to a seriously low level.
While we waited to the staff to get my father's room ready, the old man did his best to piss me off. He was constantly waving his hands at us, muttering about another man in the waiting room, and, of course, trying to feel up the nurse.
I knew I was overreacting, that my father was not about to clean up his act after all this town. Maybe I was tired, pissed about missing the date. But I had a hard time keeping my temper. My sister told me to calm down and then my father asked her what was the matter with her teeth.
"What's wrong with my teeth?" she demanded, forcing me to gently remind her about not losing her temper.
The other man, who was in his late 50's or so, had come in feeling poorly and found out he had diabetes. He was looking at a whole new lifestyle and he mentioned that he didn't eat any of the foods listed on the hospital's "Do Not Eat" list.
"What do you give up?" he asked with a weak smile.
The man left and the nurse took my father up to the 12th floor. My sister and I went up the public elevator and we made the long walk down the hospital floor, going by room after room, each one with two or three old men, coughing, hacking, sleeping.
It was such a sad, familiar picture. Between my mother and now my dad, my sister and I logged in a lot of hours at varous hospitals. We got my father settled in and fed him his supper, most of which he refused to eat.
"Salisbury steak," he sniffed. "Alias hamburger."
We finally left the hospital at about 8 p.m. and my sister was talking about what we'll have to do now that my father's condition has apparently gotten worse. I was so hungry at that moment, all I wanted do was eat.
We had dinner at a new Asian restaurant in the neighborhood, where I flirted with the very young waitress--runs in the family, I guess.
The woman never called me, never returned my email. Perhaps she's angry at being stood up, but I would think that the news someone's father is in the hospital spark some kind of interest or concern.
It doesn't matter much now. I get the feeling things have changed a lot around here and not in a good way.