My dad is a funny guy in an odd sort of way. He has a huge stockpile of jokes – all of them old, most of them told time and again – but that’s not what makes him funny. Funny are the comments like “I was born on a Friday. I know because we had fish for dinner.” He could always suck you in with a story about a guy he worked with, a relative, or a friend, but the story always ended in some sort of way that made you leave knowing it couldn’t be true, but wondering if it was.
Yesterday, when Ann was struggling to get him to eat dinner, which was a bigger fight than getting him to eat lunch, he looked at her and said to her in absolute frustration, “Your as bad as Ann!” In the moment, how sad was it that he didn’t know his wife of 12 years? But 24 hours later, it was something my dad might have said anyway. This morning, like every morning, Ann said to my father, “I love you.” Every morning, he has responded, “I love you too.” This morning, he didn’t respond. She said, “Don’t you love me back?” My dad finally responded, “No, I love you front.” That was a little bit of him still coming through.
My dad stopped talking shortly after that. He has uttered no other words this entire day, and he has stopped eating. By the time I left tonight, the word “coma” was being bandied about, but only by those of us at his bedside. When dinner came and Ann tried to rouse him, she got no response at all. He didn’t grunt, he didn’t get “bitchy”, he just didn’t do anything. Ann, who has been so persistent at making him eat, resigned herself to the fact that he has officially stopped eating. The nurse came in, she moved his position, put on the nebulizer mask for a breathing treatment, cleaned him up a bit, and he didn’t wake for any of that. No reaction or response whatsoever. And he has had no medication today at all. I think Ann was going to ask the nurse later tonight how we would know if he was in a coma, but as of the time I left, she simply said, “I don’t think he’s going to wake up for us again.”
His breathing was difficult to listen to. The doctor today said his lungs are surprisingly clear, but there is such an accumulation of fluid in his throat that when he breathes in, it sounds as if he is under water. And he would breathe in two or three times, then not at all for 30 or 45 seconds. I started to hold my breath with him, and sometimes, it was hard for me to hold as long as he was holding. I waited for there not to be any new breath in. Then there would be one. Or two. Or three in a row. I left before there wasn’t a next breath. I don’t know if I want to be there when the last breath is taken. I want there to still be something to laugh about. That’s how my dad would want things.