Sep 24, 2007

Sept. 11, 2001, my memories

Guy R. Holton, December 24, 1908--September 11, 2001

my father, doing the things he loved, dressed for daily chores

While the world watched with unbelief and absolute horror as planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, my oldest sister, my sister-in-law, and myself were in a waiting room in Thomas Hospital in South Charleston, WV. My father was having a bronchoscopy, seeing if his lungs were clear enough to have surgery to repair his broken hip. He had climbed out of his hospital bed, the night before, even though he had not walked in six months, to get a glass of water.

He caught us between shifts. I was going home, my oldest sister, Geraldine, was coming on. My neice, Cheryl was going to stay with him that night, so I would be able to get some rest. They had put my father on thickened liquids, as he was aspirating (breathing in) his liquids. He wanted plain old water. He was wearing heal protectors, soft coverings for his feet to protect his heels from contact sores. As soon as his foot hit the floor, he slid and fell, breaking his hip in two places. He was in the last room from the nurses station, Room 14. It wasn't until I began working at Thomas myself that I learned that is where they put patients who are not expected to survive. It is a large room, private, and can accomadate many family members. We were used to giving Daddy his baths, and changing his linens, and assisting him with his meals. It had become our second home.

We sat in the waiting room, each in our own thoughts. My brother was at home, waiting for the medical supply people to deliver a hospital bed, because we were determined to bring our father home. He hadn't seen his dog, Jojo, in a month, and the little beagle was beginning to greive. He was lost without his master.

I knew now why my father had been having such horrible headaches. When I had told his doctor, he had just given him more darvacet. The headaches had not improved. Then my father could not keep anything down. When he fell, they did a full body cat scan, and found the large tumor sitting on his brain. At 91, the oncologist said there was no way he would treat him. In his condition, at his age, he would not survive the first treatment. So, we would at least bring our father home, so he could die in his own house, surrounded by the things he treasured.

We watched the TV in the waiting room, seeing the images of planes crashing into the World Trade Center, and we couldn't absorb it. It was not as real to us as the old man who had guided our lives for so long. Finally, the procedure was over. I was berating myself for not doing what my gut had been telling me to do since Daddy had come to the hospital. Just whisper in his ear, "Daddy, you can go home right now. You don't have to stay here. What will happen will happen at home." He would have understood. But I was afraid. Afraid of not being up to the task. Afraid of not being strong enough to deal with watching him die. For this, I can never forgive myself, no matter what anyone says.

He had already began telling me of people who came to visit him, his brother's and sister's long dead. "I swear, Debbi, they were just as real as you are now, but they're dead. But Garnett was here. Last night, they were all here." Were they there? I like to believe they were, come to welcome their brother home.

Daddy was moved back to his room, and I left to go to a doctor's appointment. I was going home, and would come back to the hospital that evening. The night before my father had been praying to die, the pain was so bad. I stroked his hair, and he said, "Debbi, that ain't doing a damn bit of good" so I stopped. Those were to be his last words to me. About 3:00 that afternoon, my brother and neice came out, and told me that he had just died. No matter how old, no matter how much you expect it to happen, death is always a shock. Always, your first thought is one of disbelief. "But, he's coming home." They took me to the hospital, not trusting me to drive myself.

When I walked in the room, he was left as he had died, meaning no one from the medical staff had changed his gown, washed the body, or positioned the body. His eyes were open, his head turned to one side, all of the medical equipment had been removed, and he was white as stone. I felt rage, and guilt, and such a horrible sense of loss. A great, great man had died that day, yet people outside his room laughed and worked and went about their lives as if the world had not changed. I kissed his forehead and cried. I would not cry for the many others who were lost that day for sometime. My tears this day were for my father.

Jojo lived for another month. His master didn't come home this time. He had no reason left to live. He crawled under my father's bed and wouldn't come out. For months afterward, I would hear my father walk through the house at night, and Jojo's claws clicking on the lineolium as he walked with him, but I was not afraid. He was my father. How could I fear the man who gave me life?


Stephen Rader said...

Thank you so much for this beautiful post. Your father was indeed a great man and he gave life to a great woman.

Your blog is truly one of my favorites.

Mary said...

That was so beautiful and touching. Your writing is so from the heart. What a gift you have. Thanks for sharing w/us.

alphonsedamoose said...

Deb: A terrific tribute to your father. He must have been a great man to earn such love.

me and the other me said...

i have no doubt your dad saw his long-dead siblings. my grandpa saw several dead loved ones in the days before he died. how wonderful that you had a great dad and he had you. please forgive yourself, especially if you are beating yourself up for not being there when he died. many many people wait until their loved ones are out of the room before they choose to leave.
peace to you,

Anne said...

I agree with Lisa, he might not have wanted you to see him go. There's nothing you can do about it, so hopefully you'll be able to forgive yourself some day.

Babzy said...

My sister and I had been sitting with our Dad for an hour or so at the hospital. Even though he seemed to be sleeping the nurse said he wasn't and he could still hear us.

So we whispered in his ear that we were going to the mall to get some maternity outfits for my sister, and we would come back later. He died while we were at the mall. I'm sure he timed it so we wouldn't have to see him die.

You have some good memories of your dad. The picture of him with his best friend is a good one. I love how your Father and Jojo came to visit you. It's not scary at all. It's comforting.

Lin said...

Thanks, Deb, that was so beautifully stirring, so deep with pain and memories, both yours, mine and many others.

just me said...

This post was hard to write. Not a day goes by that I don't miss my father. I think sometimes that as he grew older, and watched his loved ones and friends pass on, he grieved for the old days. He developed macular degeneration, and he could barely hear, with his hearing aids, and when he could no longer walk, I think he gave up. Somehow, I understood.

Spadoman said...

Good stuff. I think about my Dad a lot. He's been gone since 1983. I want to tell the story about me and my Dad, but haven't yet. Maybe it's time. You've inspired me a bit with this for sure.

I went to your poetry blog earlier today. I haven't been there in a while. I read the poem about waiting. I perceived its meaning as waiting until I'm gone so I can see my Dad and Daughter and others who have passed that I miss so terribly. Waiting to see them is a long haul for some. Remembering their lives helps pass the time.

Thanks for sharing. Peace to all.

Catmoves said...

Marvelous post Deb. We all have had these experiences but it took you to put it into words for us. Thank you.

Thorne said...

Beautiful, Deb. I've missed you.

Scott from Oregon said...

That's rough and sweet too. You were there. You really wwwwwwwwwwww.

Tanya said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Thank you for sharing such a personal story I know it could not have been easy.