You know how the country song goes.
“I lost my job, my truck broke down, my best friend kicked my dog and my wife is sleeping with a clown…”
Well, my life took a country song turn a few weeks ago. It started with a phone call Monday afternoon from my Step Mother in NJ. My dad was in ICU. He was bleeding internally and it wasn’t stopping. I was point at work, the go-to guy for anything that goes wrong. I quickly informed my manager of my family emergency and worked with him to cover my obligations for the week. I packed and was on the road at 7:00 p.m.
I love driving, which is why I feel the need to remind myself about the details of the drive. I drove up Interstate 85 to Petersburg VA. On the way, I had a few work phone calls and a text or two with my boss. I picked up Interstate 95 north in Petersburg. I had planned to run straight up 95, but my GPS and several dozen road signs said there was evening road work with delays of more than an hour. So I got off Interstate 95 for a pit-stop at Virgina State Road 207. I grabbed a quick bite to eat at Subway. I decided to follow 207 north which took me over to U.S. Highway 301 north which I followed until I hit Maryland State Road 3 north. Which lead me, with the help of my GPS, to Interstate 97 north, then to Interstate 895 and finally back to Interstate 95 north. Circumventing Washington DC and the night time construction completely. It was a good ride. I made it to New Jersey in good time and had almost no traffic to deal with. I love night driving. I arrived on my parents farm around 5:00 a.m. I pulled up behind the main barn, cracked my windows, reclined my seat, and fell immediately asleep.
I slept for four hours. I woke at 9:00 a.m., drove up to the farmhouse and visited with my family for a while. It drives my step mother completely nuts when I sleep in my car on the farm. “Why don’t you come in? You can sleep in the guest room upstairs,” she says. And every time I try to delicately explain that I can’t breathe in the house with the dogs, dust and chain smoking that goes on in there. But I really do it because I like getting on her nerves. I do really like the attention, and I’m OK admitting it.
I hung out till visiting hours started at the hospital. I added some Old Spice to my growing ripeness, threw on a clean T-shirt, and went to visit my Dad with my Step-Brother. I planned to visit till around hotel check-in time. I was really looking forward to a shower — 14 hours in a car made me pretty funky. After cleaning up I planned to visit my dad again in the evening.
I might have been with my Dad maybe an hour when I got a work call. I knew something was up right away when my co-worker asked me to take a walk and leave my Dad’s room. So, I walked out into the hallway where he proceeded to ask me if I was sitting down. In my patented form of indignation I replied, “No, I’m not sitting down, you just told me to take a walk! What’s up?” I was a little annoyed to be bothered while I was in the ICU. He then asked me, “Do you want the long version or the short version?” To which I replied, “Spit it out! What are you talking about?”
He then proceeded to tell me that our manager, who had just helped me coordinate work and enabled me to get up to see my father, was dead. Fatal. Mort. Fin.
For respect for his memory, and his family, I’m not going to discuss it further here, aside from how difficult it was to deal with on top of my already stressful week.
I visited with my father some more, then went to McDonald’s with my brother, grabbed a sandwich and used the AT&T wireless network there to procure a hotel room for the week. I booked a room on priceline.com for $58 per night through that coming Friday. I dropped my brother off at the farm and checked into my hotel. After I got settled in, I grabbed a very needed shower, rested a while, and went back to see my Dad.
Visiting hours for ICU were an hour earlier than the rest of the Hospital and I got a little irate at the staff, having driven several hundred miles, I felt they should cut me some slack, which they did, after waiting a half hour to get back onto the floor.
And here I have to stop and make a confession. I’ve been running back and forth visiting my Father for weeks. I started this story two months ago, and in the chaos of family crisis, work crisis, economic crisis, pandemic crisis, etc., ad nauseum… I neglected my on-line story and sadly don’t remember all of the quaint happenings to continue telling the story in such rich detail. The detail was mostly for me. After reading what I wrote, I can now separate my trips and tell what happened when I was first up there and what happened on subsequent visits. But let me finish this story in a less descriptive and more succinct manner.
“My Father was 700 miles away in Intensive Care, my boss took his life while I drove all night, and while I was away, my ‘little friend & canine companion’ had to be put to sleep by my wife.”
It was sad that I wasn’t there to say my final good-bye to Salvadore Doggie. We knew Sal was old and in failing health. And he and I had gotten to spend a lot of quality time together since I started working from home more frequently. I really wish I could have been by his side at the end. But, faced with the choice of seeing my father, I could have done nothing differently. I have many fond memories of my little buddy and many fantastic photos of Salvadore Doggie. He’ll be missed, but he will never be forgotten.
My father was diagnosed with MDS. He’s had a really rough two months. He’s lucky to still be alive. I shocked that I knew about this disease, and there was such a miraculous treatment, from watching NOVA on PBS. Dad stayed in the hospital about five weeks, in two separate visits, and is finally getting treated.
Not finishing this story was weighing on me. I’m glad I finally got it posted.