… and it seemed funny at the time. I have to admit that having to go shopping for underwear for my 73 year-old dad with my dad could only be faced with humor. But then I didn’t get around to writing about it. And then he went into the hospital and things were really scary. And then the underwear story didn’t seem so funny.
Dad was having serious trouble with his back again. He saw the doctor a week ago Tuesday and was told there was nothing more wrong beyond his existing conditions – arthritis and a degenerative disc. By Thursday, he was in such pain, he could barely move and couldn’t eat. He started running a fever and after calling the doctor, was told to go to the emergency room.
There were blood tests and chest x-rays and I don’t know what else. Dad was admitted to the hospital and continued to go downhill over the next few days. The fever came and went and his blood sugar was running too high. His medical team looked for Congestive Heart Failure and signs of kidney rejection, but found nothing to indicate either was happening. Dad couldn’t seem to fully form thoughts in his mind, much less convey them to us. His speech was very thick and painfully slow. He kept losing his train of thought and many things he talked about were completely off-the-wall. I thought maybe he was on a pain medication that was causing him to hallucinate, but the hospital informed us he wasn’t on any meds other than his usual diabetes, kidney and heart medications. He had a lidocaine patch for the back pain, but nothing that should cause hallucinations.
By Sunday, my mom was really worried. Dad was in bad shape. There was talk of transferring him to a transitional care facility if the fever subsided and possibly testing him for dementia. Dementia! I tried to see Dad on Sunday night but he couldn’t stay awake. He looked at me as if he couldn’t place me and would fall asleep mid-sentence. I talked to his nurse and asked questions and I couldn’t help feeling that she kept giving me this pitying, sympathetic look. My mom and I talked later on and she was worried that this might be the beginning of the end. I slept restlessly on Sunday night, dreaming that the dad I knew was gone for good and there was nothing I could do to get him back.
All this was going on while I was supposed to be getting ready for Mark’s and my first ever winter vacation. I kept thinking that I couldn’t even think about going to Florida with my dad in such bad shape and my mom needing so much support.
Then Monday morning came and suddenly Dad was back to normal. The fever was gone and he knew that the past few days had been strange. He told my mom he needed her help with sorting out what was real in his mind and what wasn’t. The hospital had never found anything conclusive in all of Dad’s tests, but we were relieved that he was back to normal.
Because of the extent of his back issues, Dad was still transferred to transitional care so he could receive physical therapy and return to a point where he could function again at home. I didn’t expect him to be happy about being there, but he handled it pretty well and seemed really motivated to do whatever it took to get back to normal and get back home. I left him last night feeling relieved that he was in a good place, with good caregivers and on his way to recovery.
This morning, Mom called me and said Dad was on his way back to the hospital. His fever was back and so was the confusion and thick speech. There were a few scary hours while we waited for the hospital to run tests. Dad was miserable, shivering with fever and dehydrated. As I sat at work, waiting for my brother or mom to call with any news, I wondered again how I could go on vacation with my parents in such a fragile state. My own head was spinning and I was ready to cry with the frustration of it all. It’s clear to me now that most of us will be lucky to leave this life quietly and with any amount of dignity.
And then unexpectedly, I got good news from Mom. Dad was diagnosed with a bladder infection. I think the reaction in my head, which I had the sense enough not to verbalize to my mom was, “Are you EFFING kidding me?” A bladder infection? That’s what caused all of this craziness? Apparently, it’s true. And at least now Dad can be treated properly and can really get back to recovering.
The underwear story occurred to me again today. Two Sundays ago, my mom needed a break and so I took my dad shopping for new underwear. He had clearly given his underwear a lot of thought. He wanted a specific brand and specific cut which just so happens to have been discontinued. But that didn’t stop Dad from wanting to scour the enormous selection of underwear. I have never studied men’s underwear so thoroughly in my life. And when we didn’t find what Dad was looking for, we had to ask a salesman about the specific style. He went in back to research our request and confirmed it had been discontinued, but may be available online. Before we could leave, we had to contemplate alternate brands. And open up a package of Fruit of the Looms and study a pair of tighty-whities right there in the middle of the store. I had to listen to Dad tell me how and where he likes the waistband to sit when he wears them. And I remember thinking how wrong it was that he put that picture in my head. We finally left the store without any underwear, but some packages of socks and white t-shirts with a chest pocket, because the pocket can be useful at times. Back at home, I showed Dad the wonders of Amazon and online shopping and his new underwear arrived by mail within a few days.
I’m not laughing at Dad. I’m laughing with him. I first thought the whole underwear business was kind of humiliating and ridiculous. But I’ve since decided that sometimes you just have to laugh at life and at yourself. Sometimes I just take things way too seriously. And now I’m really glad that Dad and I had that underwear shopping excursion. It was funny. And I would gladly do it all over again.