My father is in the hospital. For two days now, he's been sitting in an uncomfortable bed, waiting to take the tests the doctor on call has prescribed. He thinks it's silly, his being there. And every night, as my mother, brother and I convene around his bed, we all commiserate. It is ridiculous, his sitting in that bed, in the ill-fitting pajamas, the wires strapped to his chest. He had a dizzy spell, passed out for a second. And, yes, we were all concerned, and pressured the strong-willed man I call Daddy to go to the doctor - even though he insisted he was fine. This is the man who, during his twenty years in the Army, only called in sick twice. And both of those times, his absence from work was against his will and at my mom's insistence. And so, on Thursday, he begrudgingly went to the hospital as instructed. He spent all day in the emergency room, even though, according to him he "felt fine." And they admitted him for tests. They found nothing, but still suggested more tests. Heart, lung, artery and neurological tests. Electrodes and sonograms, MRI, CT Scans. All clear. But, I guess, at his age, you can't be too careful.
I don't feel, in my heart or in my gut, that anything is really wrong with him. I think I would feel it in my bones if something were dreadfully awry. But, still, it weighs on me; On my whole family. My brother and I are short-tempered, frustrated with knowing nothing about why they're keeping him - for two nights now - and angry that he has to be there at all. My mom teeters on breaking down. She knows nothing is wrong with the man she's been married to for 34 years, but she doesn't like going home at night and sleeping in their bed without him. And Daddy's frustrated, too. He hates being there, jokes that the hospital is only keeping him because they're in a budget crisis and they need a body to do tests on so that they can get paid.
The four of us huddled in his half of a hospital room last night, joking and laughing while we waited for Daddy to be taken for a test the doctor promised. I sat in the chair next to his bed in my work clothes. I had taken Interstate 84 directly from work to the hospital. We talked about my job, his job, my mom's job, Chase's winter vacation while we waited. We were told the test would take place at 3:45, and it was eight o'clock before he was carted away to be prodded. Then, we waited for him to get back. And when he did, we four resumed our laughter, stretching it out until visitor's hours ended. I lifted myself from the hard plastic seat and made my way out to the car. I stopped at Wendy's for my nine o'clock dinner. I struggled to keep my eyes open all the way home. I wanted to cry, to let out all of the confusion and frustration that's been building up in me. But, instead, I turned on Sirius's comedy station and focused on getting home.
But my frustration isn't only with my dad's current placement in Bon Secours Medical Center. It's with the people around me. It's with the way his condition is dismissed when I admit that I don't believe anything is seriously wrong with him. Like I have no reason to be upset that he's there because, obviously, he's fine. I hate that someone asked me about my dad, and when I started to tell the story, she said "Oh, when you get done I have to tell you about the day I had." In all fairness, I have to admit that I like to make it seem like it's no big deal to me. But I hate that the people around me accept that from me, that they wouldn't think to delve a little deeper, offer a little support or compassion. I mean, sure, he may be fine, but it's startling to see your father in an adjustable bed, with wires attached to his chest, the insides of his elbows covered with the red freckle-like dots that remind you his blood is being taken on a regular basis. This is my hero, my giant of a father, the guy who fixes everything, who can take care of all of us. And he's in the hospital. And it's tough to see, to process. Even if there is nothing wrong, confronting the idea that your parents are actually mortal is taxing. And I don't appreciate how people hear me say, "I think he's okay, though" and think that's their cue to move on to whatever's been bothering them.
Last night, Billy got home moments after I did. His mood was somber, the result of another bad day at work. We retired to bed only moments after he walked through the door. He asked me about my day, about my dad. He assured me that everything would be fine. Getting frustrated with his optimism, I rolled my eyes. "I know that. I do." And then he asked me: "How are you doing?" He was the first person to ask me that. "Fine, I guess," I began, careful to keep the quivering out of my voice. "I just hate seeing him in there...It's just scary is all." And, there, in the dark and wrapped in his arms, I finally shed the tears that had been waiting behind my eyes. He just let me talk while tears slid out of my eyes and down my cheeks. Held me a little tighter when he thought I needed it, kissed me when I could use the softness of his lips. He let me let it out.