You always think there is more time. Weíll do it another time. Tomorrow is another day.
Until it isnít.
Your dad is going to be 80 on March 2nd. You think about going to visit, but itís just so crazy right now. You are busy at work. Your husband is working long hours, still getting used to the new job. You learn from your stepmom that he fell right before his birthday (darned Parkinsonís) and doesnít want to celebrate or see anyone right now. You think itís a good thing you didnít go and youíll see him some time soon.
A few more weeks go by and itís your birthday. Your stepmom texts you at work and asks if they can all now because Dad just had a nap and itís a good time. Of course you say yes, and they call, but after just a few minutes Dad canít hold the phone anymore and your stepmom comes on the line. She sounds exhausted. She says your dad is a bit weaker and you say youíll see them soon.
A few more weeks go by and itís Easter. You send cards and flowers and think youíll make a trip as soon as things calm down.
A few more weeks go by. Your stepmom calls on a Wednesday and says your dad has been declining since he took another fall on April 28th. He is not eating much and sleeping more. (How many falls is that in the past two monthsÖat least 4Ö). She has been having chest pains but put off going to the doctor because Dad canít be left alone. She is calling to say that she has arranged for hospice to come in during the day for Dad so she can go to the doctor and if she needs to be admitted, they will bring him to their facility while she is there. She is giving them your number as an emergency contact and she wants to let you know, just in case. You say something about coming down and she says she isnít asking you to rush down there. You agree to talk again on Thursday and in the meantime you check out flights. But it is Motherís Day weekend and open seats to Florida are few and expensive. Itís not great timing for you or your husband as far as work goes. You decide to go next weekend instead and let your stepmother know on Thursday morning. You also email your sister and brothers, filling them in on what is going on.
On Thursday evening you get a text from your stepmother, saying she is being admitted and hospice is coming to pick up Dad. You think maybe you should go down now and visit with Dad for a few days while your stepmother is in the hospital. You spend a few hours online and since you will need to go without your husband, itís a bit easier to make arrangements, but you still arenít leaving until Friday at 5. You figure youíll spend the weekend with your dad, and get a return flight for Monday. You decide to take off on Friday and run the errands youíd ordinarily do on the weekend. While you are out, hospice calls. You have a new phone, so you donít find the message until Saturday night but you can see that someone called so you play phone tag for several hours. You finally get the nurse practitioner in charge, who tells you that your dad is very ill and itís just a matter of days before he is gone. What?? No one said anything like this before. You tell her your flight is already booked and you decide together not to tell your stepmom yet, since her cardiac status is still unknown. Somewhere inside you think this nurse person must be mistaken.
Of course, your flight is delayed and you donít get down to Florida until 9:30 PM and itís after 10 when you check-in. But you came to spend time with your dad and so you head over to hospice. Dad is resting quietlyÖtoo quietly. He doesnít open his eyes. He doesnít visibly respond to your voice. The nurses say he can still hear you so you hold his hand and you talk to him. But it is all so surreal.
You spend the night and a new shift comes on. Your (wonderful) son leaves his pregnant wife and 20-month-old son and drives 3 hours across the state to be with you. After he arrives, the new nurse tells you that your dad is ďactively dyingĒ and itís now probably a matter of hours, not days. Discussions ensue. You now know your step mother has to have open heart surgery. You donít want to tell her over the phone but you promised her you would not leave your dad alone. Phone calls go back and forth between hospice and hospital. When you are sure she has a nurse with her, you call to give her the news. After a bit of anger at the situation and then tears, she asks that you put the phone up to your dadís ear and you hear her say goodbye. When the call is finally over, you look for your son and the nurse tells you that when he heard your stepmom so upset, he decided to drive over to the hospital and be with her for a while. He comes back after a few hours and spends a bit more time with you, and then drives 3 hours back home.
You donít leave the room except to use the bathroom. The nurses are nice and bring you tea and fruit and salad. They say his heartbeat is still strong but you can tell that his breathing has changed. You pull a chair next to his bed and doze while holding Dadís hand. At 3 AM they come in to do a few things and you canít fall back to sleep. You just sit and watch his breathing, which is becoming slower and more shallow. You finally fall asleep around 4:30 and when you wake up at 6, he is gone.
There are no more days, no more time, no tomorrowÖ