My father is in the hospital with pneumonia. Again. He’s been unwell for years. Late stage diabetes is a horror. In and out of comas, falling to the ground, hitting his head, losing a little bit more memory every time he recovers. His multiple back surgeries keep him fairly immobile. His congestive-heart failure makes it hard to breath.
And the pneumonia is persistent. This is the fourth time he’s been hospitalized with pneumonia in the past few years. This guy has been through it.
I ask him how he’s doing.
“Compared to what?” he shoots back.
He’s not doing so well, he says, after getting in his classic answer. He keeps getting worse, he says. He keeps ending up back in this place.The disdain drips from his mouth.
This hospital where they poke him and make him sit up and tell him what he can or can’t eat and where they don’t allow him to get up without help. This place that is there to help him but where people wake him up all night and it’s loud and the lights are terrible.
He hates it there.
And he knows that he doesn’t have much time left, hospital or not. I said it was clear that he is a fighter, having beaten pneumonia three times before.
“That’s not what my chart says,” he said quietly.
Then he told me about the Do Not Resuscitate order in his medical records. He hadn’t told me this before. I am happy to know it; it’s been a very tough few years for him.
Lately, though, he’s seemed to have a little bit more to do. He’s got an excellent care-taker and she has given him more will to live than anything else I can remember. He’s been going out to movies, something he hasn’t done in years. He hasn’t gone anywhere in years except to the various doctors’ offices.
But my dad is seeing his time dwindling. We talked about him moving to be near me. We talked about my childhood and walking in the woods or by Lake Michigan together.
When it was time to go, I asked him to please take care of his lungs, of himself.
And then my father, my cantankerous, impossible, beautiful, and wise father said something that we both knew wasn’t about his lungs or whether he’d make it back out of the hospital this time or whether we’d ever walk together again anywhere or whether, even, we’d see each other one more time.
“Everything is temporary,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a long temporary, but everything is temporary.”
I said goodbye to my father. The phone call didn’t last so long; just a few minutes out of my busy morning. It was here, and then gone: temporary. But I sure am glad for it.