What I Found Out

The hospice report arrives three months after the funeral, Fed-Exed to my house. My sister warned that it’d make me cry, so I take a beer and lock myself in the bathroom, not wanting any witness to my pain. The aides who’d brought my father home had wheeled him into his house on a Friday afternoon, and by Sunday evening, he’d let go his last short breath. My two sisters and I hadn’t been with him that weekend because his wife wouldn’t allow it; she threatened to call the cops if we tried to come. My father had spent many happy years in his beloved country home with its back porch and wide open land, where he and I’d watch birds fly in the Texas sky, where we’d talk till late hours on cool fall nights. It’d been a lovely fall, too, but on that Halloween it’d rained, so before the trick-or-treaters came, he went outside to wipe up mud from along the walk. He’d made it nearly to the end of the path when he slipped forward, face-down, snapping his neck against the concrete edge of the front stoop, torquing the spinal cord and leaving him, from that point forward, a quadriplegic. After six weeks in the hospital, wavering between small hopes and hard defeats, the doctors finally released him to hospice care. And so it is that I sit here now, reading the report:  as soon as the aides had wheeled my father into his home, be began screaming frantically and crying. My father –at 84, a strong man, my life’s hero, a man I loved more than any other–my father had reentered his house, no doubt aware of the significance of that homecoming, and he was afraid. The nurse’s report indicated they quickly dosed him up with morphine, and he calmed down and slept peacefully from then on, until Sunday at 7:30 p.m., when he took three distinct breaths and then not another.

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