Friday, September 04, 2009


At six am, I can hear my baby rumbling and finally he calls out, "Mommy! I'm afraid! Come hold me." The mommy, it propels me and I'm there, holding him, stroking his hair and he's folded into me completely. Fifteen minutes later I ask him, "Are you okay now" I'm otay, he says. "Can you go back to sleep for a couple hours?" Yeah, he sits up, put me in my bed.

I won't go back to sleep. Instead I'll return to bed and think about the day laid out before us. Later this afternoon we'll be attending the state fair, slated to be the last one. We'll look at sculptures made out of butter, marvel at animal husbandry, maybe Cricket will milk a cow. We will watch pigs race, and amble along the midway. My father has requested specifically to spend this time with my child. I hope it's not the last year for the state fair. I hope we do this year after year after year.

My windows are open, and soon I can hear the wisps of piano from across the street. My neighbor is up too, but his windows are dark. He's playing passionately, full, and complete with melancholy; minor chords and spinning riffs. I know his wife died this past winter and I imagine him up with all his sorrow, his stocking feet on the pedals, filling his house with emotion. I lie very still in bed to try to catch the chords.

Later this week my dad will be having surgery; I'm almost positive that everything will be fine. Odds are with us, but this is something new in my life. I'm used to seeing my father in a certain manner. I called him last week and asked if he'd be intubated for the surgery. I watch my own patients get intubated. It always seems so violent to me in a practiced way. I picture my dad, lying on an OR table, knocked out and someone manipulating his jaw, applying crich pressure. "I imagine I will be," he says to me. I know it's standard. I was intubated for my surgery, my future sister-in-law just intubated for her surgery, but it still springs instant tears to my eyes. I'm too visual. I think about him lying in a PACU alone. I pray the nurses are good. I think about my dad all night with my own patients and I'm extra gentle, arranging sheets around my people, rubbing their heads before I leave the room. I whisper to my vented patients, tell them they are doing so good. I put their hands in my own and squeeze, remind them through their sedation haze there are people watching them. Me. I'm watching.

I'm just losing a version of my dad, but it's okay. I think about him in the summer at our swim club, on the diving board. Everyone loved when my dad would dive, me especially, my heart I'm sure beaming out of my chest, swelled with pride. He'd step, one, two, three, bounce up, his hands high above his head, so high he'd bounce and then back down, and up again before he was over the water: in pike positions, in somersaults, once, twice, two and half times. Sometimes he'd throw his body backwards and flip around, his hands breaking the water, his feet pointed following in a narrow splash. On the high dive, it was even more impressive. Sometimes he walk to the end of the board, balance on toes, stretching his arms out to his side. The sun always bright. Me either waiting my turn behind him, my arms on the ladder waiting to climb up after him, or sitting on the side of the diving well. My dad, that's my dad that can do that. There's something you need to abandon to dive like that, something I never could do. Not like him.

There is loss sometimes before there is even loss. Maybe this won't be the last year for the state fair after all, maybe some miracle will happen and we'll all be back next year. For now, I'll let the continuum take me; it's the oldest continuously running state fair in the US and I'll be there with my dad and my child. I'll be watching them, whispering again my own hopes about the day: I hope he takes him on rides, holds his hand, points out the blue ribbons. We'll drown out the hint of any melancholy with music from calliope and we'll all be, in the words of my Cricket, otay.


Blogger MFA Mama said...

Oh, Katie. I said it on Twitter and I'll say it here: I wish I could come and give you a big hug and cook you dinner.

On intubation: you already know this but it bears repeating. The patient? Knows NOTHING about it. Trust me, I've been under GA about twenty times, two of those just a couple of weeks ago. You fall off to sleep, usually on the way to the OR from the pre-sedation, and you wake up with an oxygen mask, usually in the recovery room (I am resistant to anesthesia and woke up in the OR last time around, but blessedly AFTER they had extubated me; my surgeon was still in the room and looked at me wide-eyed and was like " do you feel?" and was very relieved that I had just woken up knowing nothing of what went on before that), feeling like less than your most amazing self, but PACU nurses are angels and rush to make you comfortable with more pain meds, warm blankets, Zofran, anything you need. Your dad has the medical background to tell them what he needs them to do for him and I am confident that the surgery itself will be just fine. If you go under more than once in the same week (as I have on a couple of occasions) you stand a greater chance of having a really sore throat; I've never even had that after just one intubation.

You truly do know too much; intubation is not pretty (I've seen it, I know) but I thought I'd remind you that your dad isn't going into this as a spectator or active participant. He's the patient, and it's really not so bad from his end.

I hope that didn't come out sounding like I was minimizing anything because I'd be worried too, but I didn't want to you get hung up on something that probably won't be a big deal to him at all. I'm so sorry you and he are going through this; I really do think it'll be otay.

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful post. I hope your Dad reads it and it reminds him of how much he is loved. Its so hard to see someone in this vulnerable position, especially someone who we have always admired and looked up to. But very soon he will be back to himself, back to how you have known him. Back to the diver on the diving board. Your Dad will do great, and so you will you. My family will be praying for you and your family.

2:21 PM  

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