The morning light nearly blinded me as I woke up from a restless nights sleep. Over the past 4 weeks my life had been in a constant state of upheaval so why should I expect to wake up peacefully or even get a restful night sleep. I could smell the roasting coffee in the kitchen and it encouraged me to sit up and crawl out of the hide-a-bed in the living room.
"Good morning mom," I called as I stretched and reached for my slippers. Chan was already eating cereal at the kitchen table and mom was surrounded by folders. Some were open, some were stacked on the island of the kitchen but they all dictated a problem we had to deal with.
"Good morning Jenny, did you sleep alright?" Mom asked as she quickly glanced up from the list she was making.
"It was ok, but I can't wait to get home. So are we leaving tomorrow for sure then?" I asked anxious to get home, living out of a suitcase was not a way of life. Nor was leaving in the state of things but this life of limbo was enough to drive a person crazy.
"Well hurry up and get ready to go we have a big day ahead of us," Mom absently instructed as she turned her attention back to the affairs of the estate that had to be dealt with.
Hurrying into the washroom I turned on the shower. I needed some time to relax and think as the scalding water crashed down on my skin. I didn't want things to be over, but I needed something to happen, I wanted him to get better, I wanted him to make a recovery, I did not want to see him lying in that hospital bed anymore, with cooling blankets and tubes in every orifice of his body. It was not a pleasant sight and I knew he would not want to be laid up like that. I knew he would not want the last memories his family had of him was of someone who was not even strong enough to breath on his own.
I was lost in thoughts and did not realize that my face was not only wet from the shower but from the tears that overfilled my eyes. In this time in my life, I could not believe I was having to deal with this situation. It was a horrible situation and the instigating factors were so absurd it played out like a sweeps story line from a soap opera.
Chandler was dressed and watching cartoons by the time I got out of the shower. Grabbing a cup of coffee and pouring in some caramel creamer I sat at the kitchen table. Mom was talking on the phone with another company, getting contact information to cancel another account or to put another account on hold. The canned laughter from Nickelodeon reminded me of another time I had been here, a time when all those things that made my life absurd now did not even exist. Chandler would have been sitting beside the recliner, on his beanbag chair, not in the recliner. The sofa would have been a sofa, not a bed and my father, not my mother would have been sitting at the kitchen table with me. My father and I would have been discussing the plans for the day, the fun we would have with Chandler, not the jobs we had to do for my father's estate.
Mom got off the phone and got ready. I finished my coffee and joined Chandler in the living room. Picking up "Marley and Me" I began to read another chapter. After the show ended I had Chandler gather up some of his school work and put it into his book bag to take with us during the day. It was going to be a long day of driving. I brought my book with me, hoping that the day would go by without incident but not counting on anything.
I fired off a text to my girlfriend Alex, to give her an update on the situation. I had not seen her much this time since I was doing more running around with my mom, but we had been calling and texting regularly which was the only semblance of normalcy in my life at the moment.
Taking the road out of Discovery Bay, Mom headed out to the Freeway on her way to Fremont and Newark. Because we were leaving at 9 in the morning we hit the tail end of rush hour traffic. It was foggy, like the steam clouds that escape from steam rooms at the gym. Once we got above the Altamont the fog cleared and the sun shone down on us all. Switching radio stations to something we would all enjoy, I sat back and closed my eyes.
To be honest, I found it a miracle I could close my eyes at all. My eyes were so puffy, so very puffy. With the lack of sleep and the crying that had happened since Thanksgiving, I did not think my eyes would ever return to their normal shape or size. I caught a glimpse of myself after one painful crying session at the hospital and it looked like I had just lost a fist fight with someone. Seriously, each eye lid was so swollen you could see the eyelash rim in front, they appeared to be 20 times their normal size and they were lined with bluish green bags and red rimmed on the inside. It was not a pretty site, in fact it was down right scary.
After an hour we had made it to Mission Boulevard in Fremont. Mom turned in by Wells Fargo to go in and talk to a Bank Manager. We did not have an appointment, because we did not know whom we needed to speak to, but we were hoping that something would finally go our way.
Poor Chandler was so bored, all I heard was variations of "mom I'm bored" or "are we done yet" or "I'm hungry mom when are we going to eat." He was good though, considering all factors the kid did well under pressure. He wasn't too annoying and I promised I would buy him a treat when we finally finished with everything that we needed to do.
I think the God's had conspired against me until this point, but something had shifted during this day. For days we had been told "no, you can't do that" or "sorry we can't tell you that" or " no you don't have the right documentation" and it was like a No wall had been placed in front of us making our advancement in dealing with the estate impossible. But today, things had turned around.
Suddenly, the bank said we had the right documentation and that we could get into Dad's Safety Deposit box. It was just a matter of going to his branch and going in to see if the documents were in there. I could have kissed the Bank Teller. We left the bank and the cell phone rang.
I answered the phone and our lawyer was on the other line. She had called to let me know that the Hospital had told her they would not honour my father's advanced directives because he did not fill out their form. Effin Kaiser!!! Fighting the hospital was a battle in futility and I was done battling with them, and as much as I wanted to be there for my father until his time was through I had bills to pay and job to work. It was not feasible for me to spend anymore time in the States especially if the Hospital was being so friggen pig headed.
"Who was that?" inquired my mother as she unlocked the truck.
"Oh it was just Daphne telling me she had run into another obstacle with the hospital. You know if it favoured them not to use a law that had not been put in place yet they wouldn't but because it does favour them they are going to use it." I complained, "I just don't get it, he didn't even put her down as his next of kin, she isn't even in this country or continent and she has more authority then his living child, his only living child."
"I know it's frustrating Jenn, but maybe things will turn around for us, maybe things are finally going to work out for us."
It wouldn't have been a big issue to get into Dad's Safety Deposit Box if we could have found his Advance Health Directives sheet that stated who could make health decisions for him in case he was ever in a situation where he could not speak for himself. Obviously, with a breathing tube down his throat living on life support he could no longer make decisions, but the hospital was not listening to us, no they were listening to his new "wife" from the Philippines. Did this situation make me angry, oh you bet it did!
This was my second journey to the states in a 4 week time period, usually I only make it down once in a 104 week period. I don't know that I would have decided to come this second time if the hospital hadn't called me Monday before the American Thanksgiving and had a discussion about his situation. Dad had been moved out of the ICU into the Cardiac ward, but then he had taken a turn for the worse, and now the hospital needed to know what the family wanted to do.
Under any circumstance I want to hope for the best, but unfortunately, the Doctors had no hope. The fact was Dad's body was shutting down. His hearts ejection factor was at 7 %, he couldn't breath on his own, his oxygen intake was never more than 92%, he had an infection that was systematically attacking his other organs. It was not a pretty site. Dad had directives in his Trust that he did not want to be kept alive on life support if there was no hope that he would get better. I, more than anyone, know my father is a fighter, and if there was a way he could overcome this situation then I know he would have, but the outlook was bleak, so bleak that the hospital gave him a 5% chance if he could beat the fever. He never beat the fever. In the family meeting his "wife" was on the phone, she agreed that when the family could all be together to say good bye we would move him to Compassionate Care. So I got my things in order to fly back to the states, take more time off work, and to ready my heart and soul to say good bye to the man I knew as Dad.
The most frustrating part is the hospital knew I was planning to come back down to California by Thanksgiving, they knew I was making arrangements, yet the day after our phone meeting, Dad's "wife" phoned and exercised her "wifely" rights and told the hospital they could not take him off life support. But when I called to talk to the hospital they did not inform me of this change and I proceeded to make it down to the states. Then when we get there two days later the hospital decides to tell us that they will not be moving him to Compassionate Care because his "wife" didn't want that, even though his advanced directives stated that is exactly what he wanted.
So we held out hope that we would be able to find his form that listed his durable power of attorney for health decisions.
Waiting in the Newark Safeway while mom went into the back with the safety deposit boxes, Chandler and I waited out front. I looked around the Safeway of my summers recalling shopping trips for barbecues and snacks. I remembered standing at the Teller Windows while Dad wrote cheques and I remember getting suckers and candies from the ladies that worked there. They were always happy to see Dad and he always had a smile for them. In private my dad may have said some racist things, but in public he could turn on the charisma and he made friends with everyone. It was always a wonder to me how he could charm so many people into genuine smiles and laughter, yet he could be so quick tempered other times. Sometimes it was like watching Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde simultaneously.
"Well thank you," I heard mom say as she came out from the back room. "I took everything out of the safety deposit box so you can close that box."
"What was in there?" I asked Mom as we headed outside.
Mom just shook her head and we continued to follow behind her to the truck. When she got in she turned her eyes towards me and stared at me, her eyes were wide and she her mouth was open, her head was shaking slowly back and forth. "Do you really want to know what's in there? Because I am going to hit your father with it. I can't believe what he kept in that Safety Deposit Box."
"So it wasn't the durable power of attorney form?" I asked raising my eyebrows.
"No," she said simply taking a small break, "nothing as useful as that, no your father had an ivory tusk, an old geometry set and some old coins. That's it, that's all he had in there, and he had the biggest box you could get. Why would he spend money on that?"
Shaking my head, shoulders rising and falling I laughed at the absurdness of everything. We would get one step forward but would then be set back three steps. It was never letting us get ahead.
Our next step was to Pleasanton to a building that Mike Meyers told us to go to in order to pick up a cheque for Dad's investment dividends. We were then going to need to cash that cheque but we did not want to go back to Newark, so we had the bank authorize a deposit and cash withdrawal for the same amount for the same day of the cheque we were going to deposit. After much finagling and driving we were finished our errands for the day. But it was already 3.
We proceed on the 580 heading back to Discovery Bay. Traffic was at a stand still. I literary could have gotten out and walked faster than we were driving. It took us 45 minutes to get from one exit to the next exit. Apparently there was an accident just before the Altamont and we needed to find an alternate route home.
Mom got off the freeway and we went shopping for a bit. Just to get out of the car and to stretch our legs. We stopped at a Target and bought a couple dresses and some Lego for Chandler. We wandered around the store and spent 45 minutes there hoping that traffic would be moving more than it was now.
Back on the highway we took the alternate route home. Darlene called while we were driving and said they would come over for supper to visit for a bit. Not wanting to argue or cause issues we agreed to meet her at Dad's house at 6.
Mom and I stopped at Safeway in Discovery Bay and bought supper. I can't remember what it was, I have tried but I don't remember. Darlene and the kids were at the house when we arrived and we all went in and hung out through supper. I left my Canadian cell phone in the truck, because I was using Dad's cell phone to talk to people in California so I didn't really need my Canadian cell. After Darlene and her kids left, I got Chandler to get ready for bed, and then cleaned up the kitchen. Afterwards, I realized that my phone was in the truck so I ran out to get it, in case someone had called. It was that intuition that tells you, it is important that you have the phone, something was nagging at me that I would need my phone tonight.
Running out in my pajamas I opened the truck and pulled my phone out of the door. I looked at the screen and saw that I had missed two calls and I had two voicemails. The calls were both American, California, Antioch numbers. That was my thought process as I processed the number on display on my cell phone.
A rock sunk into my stomach, I hit 1 then talk and went through accessing my voicemail. The first one was from Tom at Kaiser Antioch ICU department and he wanted me to call the hospital as soon as I could. The second one was from Susan with Kaiser Antioch's counselling department who wanted to talk to me. Taking in deep breathes I called Kaiser. I was transferred to the ICU department and asked to speak to Tom, I identified who I was and waited while they looked for Tom.
"Miss Lacourse," came the voice from the phone, "I am so sorry to have to tell you this, but your father passed away tonight at 7:30."
Gasping, I wildly searched for a clock, I needed to find out what time it was. My eyes landed on the DVD player and it's red lights displayed 8:30. An hour ago, my father had taken his last breathe. "Did he suffer?"
I am not sure why I asked this question, I knew Dad had been suffering, I mean his breathing tube had cracked in his throat on Saturday and had to be replaced.
"No the nurse said he simply opened his eyes and looked around then took a breath and closed his eyes and his heart stopped," the voice continued.
"Thank you.," I sobbed. I hung up the phone and was enveloped into a hug by my mother and son. My father had lost his long battle, he was in a better place now and would not hurt anymore, but I had decided to have supper with friends instead of heading to the hospital to visit him. The gut wrench, rib shaking sobs racked my body the devastation that befell me in that moment was so complete, so total that it felt as if I were being crushed by all that was negative in the world.
I made calls that night to cousins and close families friends, to deliver the inevitable yet undeniably devastating news. I heard more than one person choke up and I couldn't talk for long. Chandler sat beside me with his head on my lap, I ran my fingers through his hair and made my quick calls.
That night I had a fitful sleep. I was full of guilt, I had not been there for my dad's last moments. No one had been there. We had all been there the day before but on this day, we were all wrapped up in our lives outside of this horrible situation. I did not think I could ever forgive myself for not being there when he would have been at his most vulnerable.
As time has passed I have come to terms with that day. I have accepted that I could not have known, I could not have foreseen the future and been able to predict the time of his untimely demise. I know that I was there for all the times I could give, I know that I was thinking of him and hoping he would be fine. I know that had things gone as we had planned and his "wife" had not interfered and been selfish, we would have been able to surround him in love at that fateful moment, but for whatever reason fate stepped in and denied us that opportunity. Fate can play a cruel joke at times.
I know this is a super long blog, and I don't blame you if you don't read it but it has definitely been cathartic for me to write. If you want to post a comment I will welcome them!!! Thanks for sticking it through.