Friday morning, while it was still dark, my husband rolled over in bed and picked up the phone, “Hello?” he groaned. “Oh, yeah. Okay. Okay, it’s very early here. Okay. Hold on. Let me fill her in.” He turned to me. “Your dad’s in the hospital. He fell last night and he called 911. The cop called me. He said it wasn’t serious and not to wake you.” He handed me the phone.
“Is this his daughter?”
It’s 5:30 in the f-ing morning. If I haven’t hung up on you, rest assured that I’m his daughter. “I’m sorry to call so early.” You’d better be. “Your father fell and hurt his leg last night, and from the atrophy of the muscles, it looks like he was lying on the ground for a long time. He called 911. When he came in, he thought he was at JFK airport. He said you and your husband had paid him a surprise visit. Did you?”
“Noo, we didn’t.”
“Well, he was severely dehydrated. Hallucinations happen with dehydration.”
“We also found an irregular heartbeat. Do you know who his primary care physician is?”
“Umm, no, I don’t.” He’s spent the last two years going to doctors for his lawsuit. How would I know who his primary care doctor was?
“Do you know if he’s had this condition before?”
“He’s never mentioned it. Umm, I know the group his doctor’s in. I can find out who he is and call you back.”
“Okay, well, do you know any medications he’s on?”
I told her what I knew, which wasn’t much.
“Okay, thank you. He’s here in the cardiac unit. When you want to get in touch with him, just call the main number and ask for the cardiac unit.”
“Okay.” I went back to bed. I had to. I would not be able to function without sleep. Dad fell? He was lying on the ground for hours? What the hell? An irregular heartbeat? What did that even mean? Was it bad? Was it really bad? Last time he was in the hospital, after his car accident, they found an aneurysm and he walked out without treatment. I was sure that once he woke up, he’d do the same thing with this. But the JFK thing, what the hell? Was this it? Had he completely lost it? Thinking about all the implications, it took me at least an hour to doze off again.
When I got up, I called Dad’s medical group. After a lot of runaround designed to protect his privacy, I found out he had seen a doctor there, but not since 2009. I vaguely remembered that Dad had a “fight” with this doctor and the doctor had “fired” him. So I still had no idea who his primary care doctor was. I called the hospital and left a message with Dad’s nurse.
I tried his room, but didn’t get through to him until the next day. I did get in touch with his nurse again, who told me that every time she went into his room, he was sleeping. Well, at least that was normal. When he finally answered the phone, he told me a story about his “dream.” He was at JFK airport and we’d paid him a visit, then he wound up in Astoria, Queens, where he wanted to do some shopping for Greek olives and cheese, but he’d just returned his rental car, so he didn’t know how to get home. He couldn’t take a cab because it wouldn’t take him all the way home.
“I don’t know how I got home,” he said. “I’m confused.”
Holy shit, he had finally lost it. Or maybe he hadn’t. It was hard to tell over the phone.
He also told me his version of what happened that night. “I came home from the library and pulled the car up to the garage and I was getting out to open it, because the door’s broken (he’d told me about the garage door for weeks), and I slipped on the ice. I held onto the car door and tried to get up, but I couldn’t. I finally did and I went inside to open the garage door. I had it tied with a rope so nobody could get in, and I fell, but I fell from my knees, not from standing. Then I woke up in the playroom on the high-rise couch and the police and firemen had gotten into the house and they took me to the hospital. I’m gonna get the car insurance to pay for the hospital.”
“Dad, just because you fell near the car doesn’t make it a car accident.”
“What? Talk a little louder. I can’t hear you.”
“JUST BECAUSE YOU FELL NEAR THE CAR DOESN’T MAKE IT A CAR ACCIDENT.”
“Yeah, it does. I was holding onto the car.”
Ok, he came home from the library? The cop had called my husband at 1:30 a.m. Pacific time — 4:30 a.m. Eastern time. The library had to close around 5 p.m. and Dad had told me that he was having some trouble driving at night, so that put him home about 5 p.m. — almost twelve hours before he called 911. What happened during that time?
Dad’s neighbor, the guy who has his house keys, visited my dad in the hospital and reported back to me.
“Well, he’s physically okay, but his mind…”
“Yeah, I couldn’t tell if he could distinguish his “dream” from reality over the phone.”
“No, he definitely can’t tell. I took his car keys. He can’t drive like that.”
“Oh, good, thanks.”
Oh, Lord, so if Dad had really lost it, he couldn’t live at the house by himself. He couldn’t live there without driving. He lived too far from anywhere to walk. So what were the options? Nursing home? Assisted living? Senior living? He’d mentioned some senior living apartments that were going up near a supermarket by him. Maybe he’d be ok with that. Shit, there was so much I had to do. Sell his house, take over his finances. Take over his finances. Oh, how the hell was I going to do that? He’d never give that up. Either I’d have to have him declared incompetent or he’d have to sign over power of attorney during a lucid moment. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Whew! I needed that laugh.
Seriously, what was I gonna do? All weekend, my whole body trembled with anxiety, inside and out, and nothing would stop it. My head felt like it would explode. I tried making myself a drink but I was so anxious I forgot how to make a Cosmo. My BFF Beth — my woman on the ground in New York — went to visit my dad the next day. She reported that Dad was not, in fact, a stark raving lunatic. He knew he was never in Queens and it was all a “dream.” What the hell? How was his neighbor so sure he’d lost it and Beth so sure he hadn’t?
I didn’t know what to think. At least now, I could believe Dad was okay in the head and ease my anxiety half the time. The other half of the time I worried he’d lost it. I was doing better, though. I’d looked up the Cosmo recipe in my bartender’s guide and made myself a double. All right, a few doubles.
I wished the doctors would call me back. I’d gotten two calls from social workers about discharge planning, starting two days after he’d checked in. The plan was he’d go to rehab for his leg for a few weeks, and they’d send him home with a home health aide. Yeah, we’d see if he’d agree to that.
I called Dad again, and it seemed Beth was right. He seemed to have his faculties – as much as usual, anyway. That was better. He was fine during subsequent phone calls, and he seemed to like being taken care of. I felt much better. He could go home when he recovered, I wouldn’t have to sell the house. Things were definitely looking up.
Stay tuned. The accident saga will continue next week.