Woman to Women
My Father’s Homecoming
A grown-up daughter’s reflections on bringing her father home for his final days
-Mary Beth Sammons
Tonight I think of the moments when I didn’t make that split second decision to move in the direction of being present for someone in need.
And I thank God that I have learned, instead, to move when the moment says “go, now” and to try to be present when someone I love needs me.
So, tonight, when my house looks like a cyclone swooped through it, when I keep dishing out apologies to my kids and promises that life will soon be normal again soon (I will cook again, I will shop again, and I will clean the house again … soon), there is one triumphant moment in our universe.
My dad is home again. After five weeks fighting for his life in the ICU, my dad is lying on a rented hospital bed in the living room of the home he shares with my mother. He is smiling … and in hospice.
I’ve learned that early is better than late. I’ve learned that getting to the hospital fast and early, and showing up, is significant.
Today, I arrived to find my dad sleeping in the early morning.
He woke up. I held his hand and he asked what day it was. Day 31 of his latest stint at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, in Chicago’s western suburbs. “But, Dad,” I enthused, “you are going home today.” He squeezed my hand and said he had a list of things he needed me to do:
He wants me and my sister and brother to buy a birthday gift for my mom (her birthday is Halloween).
He reminded me to get him an Obama absentee ballot, his first Democratic vote in 81 years.
We reviewed a list of 10 top picks of books he still wants to read, and I promised to get them in the days ahead.
And he asked me a style question: “Mary,” he said. “I was watching Urlacher (Brian, the Chicago Bears player) last night. Do you think I should shave off the sides so I am totally bald for this?” he asked and he smiled.
And then he whipped off his covers and kind of moved his legs. I asked what he was doing. He said, “I am getting my clothes and going home.”
He hasn’t walked in 30 days. But despite it all, he has hope that he can. I told him the ambulance guys would make it easier for him now, and then he asked if he could walk when he got home.
All the people we have come to love at Hinsdale Hospital came to his room to say good-bye. We hugged and cried.
And said good-bye. Some, like the guy with the tattoos who would wheel him down for his tests, came in his room to say “Hey, buddy, we are praying for you. We love you.”
My dad just smiled his way out of there, so happy he is going home. I have learned a new talent today – how to laugh and smile and be extraordinarily happy for someone, and at the same time to have your heart ripped in two.