Waiting to Die, Part II

Catch up by reading Part I here.

“Oh, my. Oh my,” Coach Dunnigan repeats, “You need to go home,” pinching his eyebrows with concern and pain for me. He stands up from his desk and gives me a hug. My arms wrap around the top of his belly – barely – and he smashes my head into his chest. Black mascara leaks onto his yellow sweater. He pats my head with his massive rough hands, the kind that most guys aren’t blessed with unless they were raised on a farm or have worked hard or are just genetically blessed for women like myself who may or may not have a hand fetish to enjoy.

Nothing I can do will stop my dad from dying, nothing I can plead to God will keep him here . . . nothing. I feel small and unsure of what to do, and I don’t want to leave Dunny’s office. We take a few steps out of his office and he gives me another hug, and another once we are out in the hallway, and another before he sends me on my way back to my room.

Once back in the suite, I try so hard to pack a suitcase with a weeks’ worth of clothes, but I end up getting a small workout in: walking to the closet, turning around to open all three drawers in the dresser, walking out of my room to my desk and pulling out all of its drawers, just to return to my closet, never finding whatever it is I’m looking for. My brain? It’s like I don’t have one. My ability to plan ahead and handle multiple tasks is the one I put the most value on, and it’s failed me.

Some time later, back in the class that I got that first phone call from mom, my professor spilled his coffee and semi-frantically said, “Keep calm and carry on!” and skip-ran to the paper towel dispenser. That was my dad’s favorite quote, which was neatly printed on his favorite coffee cup. He would say that the British or English or whoever would say it during a war. Or something like that, during a time when it was definitely difficult to stay calm. But somehow, dad was always calm, no matter what was happening. Obviously not like me and my reactions in the course of the day. Finally, Grandpa calls me back and says that, no, Mom was not exaggerating and yes, dad has pneumonia. His request was that he not receive any kind of treatment.

“ Dunny told me to go home,” I say.

“Just hang tight for a bit,” he says gently, “Let me see what Grandma thinks and what your mom wants. I’ll talk to you in a bit, sweetheart.”

While I wait, I shuffle around the suite relocating clothes and shoes and shampoo but not actually getting anything packed.

Why? Why is this happening? Why now? Why me? The “poor me” syndrome is taking effect, and it’s burning every part of me. My life is a mess, my family is crumbling and old and ill. Why can’t I have a normal life, with normal parents who aren’t almost 30 years apart age-wise, who aren’t emotionally unstable, who aren’t dying so fast.

Grandma calls and says that dad is not well. She was a home health and hospice nurse for twenty or thirty years and watched people die daily. She was calloused to this stuff. But at the end of the phone call, she started crying. Shit was real. I was going home to wait until my dad died.


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