I was lying on the couch in our tiny one room apartment here in Ottawa, watching National Lapoon’s Vacation late at night…a completely mindless comedy that’s as dated as a movie can be, but Chevy Chase is always good for a few laughs, and the heaviness and stress of every day necessitated a laugh…or at least a smile…
I realized I hadn’t heard from my father in a few hours, and as we usually talked late at night, I decided to send him a text message,
“U awake Paw?”
“We go hospital?”
I immediately jumped up off the couch. My father had never once suggested we go to the hospital–in fact, he had always done the *opposite*, talking about how much he hated hospitals, how much he hated ERs, how much he hated doctors.
I threw a look of urgency and fear to Peter,
“Ok. Coming now. I’ll have Peter pull the car up front for you.”
I told Peter we needed to leave immediately. I also told him if my father was going to the hospital, he wasn’t probably going to come back.
This was it.
As we walked through the underground garage towards my father’s apartment, I asked Peter to go into the car and wait for a signal from me. I wasn’t entirely convinced my father was actually going to go the hospital, given his hatred of them. And it was freezing and cold outside, so I figured it would be better to just be ready on guard in the car.
I needed a few minutes alone with my father. It could be our last moment alone in his apartment, and I wanted to have one more moment alone together.
Peter went to the car, and I walked up the back stairwell towards my father’s apartment, the usual smell of impending death greeting me as I approached. I didn’t mind the smell as much as it used to bother me…it had started to comfort me, he was still alive.
His door was unlocked, and I slowly opened the door, to find him sitting up in his favorite chair, struggling to breathe.
“My throat Teddy, my throat…I need a trach…”
He motioned towards his throat, imagining where the trach would be on his neck.
I nodded, acknowledging his pain,
“We’ll get you a trach Paw. If you want a trach, I’ll make sure they give you a trach.”
He smiled, satisfied with my response, comforted by the fact he knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if he wanted a trach, I would make darn sure he would get one.
I approached my father slowly, then realized he didn’t have any pants on.
“Paw, you need some pants–”
He looked up, kind of dazed by my comment.
I went into his bedroom, and found the closest thing I could find, a pair of navy blue sweat pants.
“Are these okay?”
It was probably over 90 degrees in his apartment (in addition to the heat, the space heater was on full blast), and my father was still buried underneath a bunch of blankets.
I brought the pants closer to him, and then slipped them over his bare feet. He had to hold on to me as he stood briefly to pull them up, and then collapsed back down on the chair.
“Socks…you need socks too Paw…”
Then I went back into his bedroom, and I put on some socks.
My father labored for a few moments, struggling to breathe. There was no rush…I sat quietly on the couch next to him.
I slipped a text message to Peter “bring the car up. We’re going.”
I sat with my father for a few more moments, saying nothing, just listening to him breathe.
Then he handed me a little white bag, that had been placed next to him. I hadn’t noticed it until he picked it up.
“This is for the business Teddy.”
I took the bag slowly, without looking inside. I knew what was inside. I took it slowly, carefully.
I placed the bag carefully in purse.
“And now this is now yours Teddy.”
Then he handed me his cell phone.
His cell phone.
His lifeline to the world. My father didn’t ever let anyone touch his phone…ever.
I carefully took the outdated 2007 cell phone, feeling the weight of the moment between us, and as I turned it over in my hands, I said,
“Is it okay if I upgrade this Paw?”
We were always giving him shit about his outdated phone. No one has to touch a dial three times to get a letter anymore. Old school.
He was dazing off, then a moment later realized what I had said,
And smiled at me. Maybe even a slight laugh.
‘God, my daughter’s smart’ flashed across his face.
Even though he had placed his phone into my hands, I couldn’t bring myself to put it into my purse. Instead I left it on the TV table, still within his eyesight. It was my father’s phone.
We sat for awhile, listening to the spa like relaxation music coming from a music on his TV screen. Elevator stuff. Soft stuff. Nothing like my father usually listens too.
I went to the closet, and grabbing some flip flops, and slipped them over his feet. They weren’t going to be warm, but I figured he wouldn’t be walking very far outside anyway.
I then started to help my father stand up, and he started to stand, awkwardly, then pushed me away.
Back on the coach I went. That’s okay Paw. It’s okay.
I listened to him breathe.
He looked at me, looked at the phone now sitting between us, then shook his head.
With a vengeance I hadn’t seen in awhile, he snapped up with a purpose, and walked over to the small hall closet near the front door, grabbing something.
Taken back by this sudden burst of energy, I looked at him, a little confused…
Do I need to walk over to help him?
He grabbed a small bottle, then sat back down next to me again.
He then picked up his tea glass next to him, staring at me the entire time.
Now I could see the little bottle in his hands, it was a little bottle half full of white powder.
It was a small prescription bottle, but the prescription had been ripped off.
He took the bottle of white powder, and dumped the entire contents into his tea.
“Paw–what is this?”
At first I thought it was just crushed pain killers. I knew he couldn’t swallow anything solid, so he had to crush his pills.
Then he lifted the tea to his lips.
“Paw–PAW–what is this??! What is this white powder???”
He picked up a pen that was next to him, and scribbled on a notecard in front of me,
Then he got up, stumbling a little, so immediately grabbed on to him, helping him walk towards the kitchen.
He threw his special tea into the microwave for 35 seconds.
“I think that’s too long–it might burn you–”
Then he shot me that, ‘you think I give a fuck about that Teddy’ look,
beep, beep, beep,
and grabbed the tea,
half stumbling back to his favorite chair.
“Paw–what is this? What are you doing?”
He stared at me a long, hard stare, picking up his pen one last time,
“NO LIFE SUPPORT”.
I stood there for a moment, it finally sinking in everything that was going on. Even though it’s obvious in hindsight, to this point I had convinced myself it was just some pain killers, and that maybe he needed a bigger dose because of the degree of pain he was in.
No, this was no normal pain killer. And I’ll never know what was in that bottle. I didn’t need to know. I don’t want to know.
He guzzled it. Half of it spilling all over him.
Then he carefully placed the now empty tea mug next to him.
I sat back down on the couch, as my father adjusted himself. At first he put his arms up over his head, but that didn’t work, that wasn’t comfortable,
so he placed his arms back down around his chest.
I could hear the car outside the window, humming in the 3am quietness.
‘Please don’t come in right now Peter. Please stay in the car.’ I screamed in my thoughts.
My father and I need this moment alone.
I sat with my father in silence, listening to the elevator music, now thankful for his soothing qualities.
Maybe I should do more?
I pulled the ottoman next to him, so I could be closer to my father, and gently took his hand in his lap.
I held his hand, tightly, letting him know I was there.
That I understood.
Then suddenly he flashed awake, and shooed my hand away, like, ‘fuck off’,
then slipped asleep.
At least I thought he was sleeping. I think I wanted him to be sleeping. I think I wanted everything that my brain was telling me that was going on,
to be wrong.
My father’s sleeping, right? He must be sleeping…
15, 20, maybe 30 minutes went by,
and he didn’t move.
The hum of the car. The soothing elevator music,
the absence of the sound of my father struggling to breathe.
I texted Peter,
“I think you need to come in here…”
I wasn’t sure what to think. My father looked so peaceful. He had to just be asleep. Isn’t death supposed to be ugly, and gross, and scary?
My father looked too beautiful to be ‘dead’. Dead is ugly. Dead is scary.
Peter took one step into the apartment, and immediately gasped, putting his hand over his mouth in shock.
Yes Teddy, I have passed. I have passed Teddy.