Sunday, April 8, 2012


When I called the hospital on Friday, the ICU nurse told me they had no patient by my father's name. She redirected me back to the switchboard to see if he'd been moved.

"Sorry, ma'am," the operator said. "There's no one here by that name."

Huh? "Are you sure?" I asked. I didn't see how this was possible. I had intended to contact the social worker anyway so this seemed like as good a time as any. It took three phone calls but I got a quick call back and learned that he had been moved to a floor below. It took five more calls throughout the day to find out that he was able to follow a finger for a few seconds before trailing off. Sounded encouraging.

By Saturday, he began coming out of it. For the first part of the day, he couldn't talk much and once he could, all he would say is no. No to food. No to medicine. No to anything they tried to get him to do. By late afternoon, "he'd done a 180 and was cooperating." He's still very confused but otherwise, doing much better than anticipated. They'd gotten him a priest for his own Easter service.

I'm glad. I hope he will be able to resume the level of life that he knows in the not so distant future. Thanks for all the thoughts, prayers and well wishes during this time. I really appreciate them.

I'm unaccustomed to the drama of it all or I should say, out of practice. As I was growing up and through my young adulthood, it was a way of life; they just weren't always in hospital settings. During the past few decades, I'd forgotten how crazy his infrequent appearances in my life could be. The past several days were a big and not so subtle reminder.

It seems apt that this happened during the Lenten season. It gave me a chance to reexamine a few things. It gave me a chance to check my "forgiveness" level. I may not be all the way there but definitely pretty far along. I'm only human. I'm also not stupid. It's important to note that forgiveness doesn't equate with forgetting. Forgetting would be insanity. (Using the definition that insanity is doing the same thing – and expecting a different result.) Forgiveness then is guided by the heart; forgetting by the brain.

I know that his "friends" (they who set up the password) who, during a call last week, were quick to criticize my lacking forgiveness with Scripture, are probably good people and well-intentioned. So, I can't really fault them. I don't expect them to understand my experiences any more than I might understand theirs. But, I can share a bit of applicable Scripture they obviously overlooked: "Judge not lest ye be judged."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Burst of Insanity

After days of being crazed (up to and including this afternoon), I am almost eerily calm.

It's amazing how acutely you can feel insanity and chaos when you're thrown headlong into it – after you've been distanced from it for an extended period of time. But, of course, as my father is involved, I should expect nothing less.

On Tuesday night, I found out from one cousin, via another cousin, that my father – who has lived about 200 miles away for the last several years – is in serious condition, probably dying. A friend of his had used an old contact number to reach my cousin; the friend thought family should be involved because he was on a ventilator.

Determined to at least try to do the right thing, I responded. I found out that sometime on Wednesday, he'd been taken off the vent – and was breathing on his own. By Wednesday evening, his vital signs had stabilized. He had not regained consciousness.

When I called back the next day, I was confronted with an interesting twist: "Do you have the password?" the male nurse asked me after I explained who I was and who I wanted an update on. Password? What password?

The nurse rattled off names to me. One of them was obviously the friend. The other was the name of his most recent ex-wife. "Can you call one of them to get it?" the nurse asked.

I don't know these people. I don't have their phone numbers – and the nurse can't give them to me. (That's not entirely accurate. I HAD the friend's phone number. His wife was supposed to call back on Wednesday but never did. I wrote them off as unreliable and called the hospital myself after that.) Exasperated, something just snapped.

"Look," I began. "I haven't had a face-to-face conversation with this man in 25 years. I haven't spoken to him at all in at least three or four years. He calls. My mother will talk to him sometimes, but I refuse to. I know this is not your fault, so forgive me, but I left my secret decoder ring at home today. I'm trying really hard to be decent here and to do the right thing – so how do I get a password? Someone needs to help me. Who can I talk to who can help me?"

An understanding charge nurse heard me out, asked me a few questions I could easily answer and I had my password. She put me right through to ICU and to the care nurse. I got my update: still unresponsive. And, while the friend had said he had voiced wishes to not be on life support, no DNR is in place. The nurse gave me his vitals and said he was due for a bunch of lab tests on Friday. I asked the nurse about his prognosis. She couldn't give me much. "His heart could stop tonight. His heard could stop six months from now," she said. "He's very sick."

Well, I'd kind of figured that much out on my own. I asked if he could rally and come out of it or if his current state was as good as it was likely to get. I was trying to get at how the lack of a DNR was playing into his care. "As it stands, if he codes, we will do everything in our power to save his life." But, that has a limit. If they had to do anything "invasive" – like a trach or a feeding tube – that would require the permission of next of kin. "I guess that's you."

Yep. That's me. And this was just the start of 36 hours of insanity …

Monday, April 2, 2012

A History Mystery

For me, the enduring history geek, what could be a better way to get my mind off things and to channel a bunch of energy in an infinitely more positive direction? Well, I did specify the history part ... but I digress.

In short, I stumbled upon a mystery without really trying. It revolves around this postcard. It's a picture of the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. The mystery part is that statue. I have a bunch of postcards featuring the Old Courthouse and an assortment of other photos, all capturing different moments in time. I've never seen this before and it really piqued my curiosity.

So, I went to the Courthouse today and spoke with a historian and an archivist. I thought for sure that the folks at the Courthouse would look, nod and say, "Oh, yes, this is ..." and instantly solve the mystery. Except they didn't. They had never seen it either!

The best they could do was confirm my theories about this card.
1) While it is postmarked January 1913, I think the photo was taken in 1907-1910 range. (Courthouse folks say may be a little earlier - 1905).
2) Statue is likely something from the World's Fair/1904 Olympics.
3) Likely was part of a very temporary display (year or less).

I've looked through a bunch of photos and some of my postcards from the era roughly but no dice. We'll have to see how this shakes out.