Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Dad's 95th Birthday

For reasons I could never quite pinpoint, the anticipation of my Dad's 95th Birthday celebration created in me more anxiety than excitement. I felt vaguely troubled and strangely longing for the party to be over. Weird, I thought. Why would a sense of dread color what should have been all about family and friends gathered together to acknowledge our love for a truly remarkable man who has lived long and well?

Last night I told Denny I felt a foreboding; like something was going to spoil the day. I knew in my heart this would likely involve my Dad's health, an illness, a turn for the worse in his frail, ofttimes teetering-on-the-edge condition. Then, I'd rationalize that such an event could happen any day; why would it hit on his Birthday?  But still, I stewed and thought about the rare but possible chance that one could be born and die on the same date. My thoughts can take me in all directions, especially into the macabre.

So, when the call from the lead caregiver at the adult family home came just after 8 AM  today advising me that  Dad was not doing well, suffering from another upper respiratory syndrome with fever, I wasn't at all surprised. All those free floating concerns of the last few weeks crystallized instantly. "I knew it; I just knew it.", I kept saying over and over to myself.  Deeply sad inside, all I could do for the next hour was let the tears run. The timing sucked and there was nothing to be done about it except deal with it.

The caregiver and I made the decision together that Dad needed to head off to the ER for evaluation and treatment. He wasn't happy about this but he's good about following advice. He was whisked off to the hospital and spent the rest of his birthday as a patient. He's going to be OK with medical attention, antibiotics, and a bit of time. He may even get to come home tomorrow.

Dad wasn't too happy that his party had to be cancelled. At one point he told his grandson who so lovingly sat with him in the ER this morning that we should all "just go ahead with the plans" for the party without him. "You should dance!", he said. Chris explained that we didn't want to party without him, the guest of honor. This offer is so typical of my Dad. Only he would want the party to go on while he hung around a hospital ward, working on getting over his bout of pneumonia. Sigh. We'll celebrate later this week we told Dad and he seemed OK with the change of plans.

By the time I arrived at the hospital to check in on him, he was looking pretty good; tired and weary from all the hoopla, a bit hungry, and eager for a good nap but surprisingly on-the-ball. I fetched him a carton of chocolate milk from the cafeteria  and sat with him as the huge mylar birthday balloon floated near the ceiling of his room. It wasn't long before the lead caregiver from the adult family home arrived with Dad's glasses, hearing aids, and teeth!  Add to those necessities, the NY Times and the updated Exxon stock quote and he was all set.  Dad started singing and I knew he had rallied despite the rocky start to the day. Once again.

Tonight, I think of Dad in his hospital bed. I hope he has a decent night's sleep and gets to come home tomorrow. This is the first birthday he's ever spent in a hospital. He was born in upstate New York, at home, as was the custom for the early 20th century.  Even as a newborn, he never saw the inside of a hospital on that Thursday, February 8, 1917.

Happy Birthday to You, Dad!   We'll party with you this weekend; better late than never!

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