When the call came in from my father’s home health aide, I was on the elliptical machine watching an episode of Housewives. Automatically, I groaned. It was first thing Monday morning; never a good way to start the week.
“Um hey Jolie,” I greeted hesitantly. Would she have found him asleep on the bathroom floor? Would the place have been turned upside down by an evening of semi-conscious wandering? Did he throw her out again?
I tightened for the impending trouble, “What’s up?”
“I can’t find your father.”
I wasn’t expecting that, but still, for all the crazy that went on in my father’s small world, at the moment this was still pretty low on the drama scale. I considered getting off the exercise machine but then decided to power on. I needed a positive place for my stress. And it was my time to exercise.
“Okay,” I said slowly, thinking as fast as I could, “You’ve checked the tub, right? And the floor?” I gave a little laugh. Only in my world, could my father’s frequent trips into unconsciousness be cause for sad humor.
“His walker is still here,” She said, “And the door was slightly open, his meds on the table and his bed was made.”
“His bed was made?” I repeated. It was the most curious and disturbing thing she had said. “So his weekend girl was there at some point but he never slept in the bed.” I stopped pedaling. “Shit.”
I hung up on Jolie to make some calls, while she did a more thorough investigation of his living quarters and surroundings.
My first call was to the home health agency to double check whether the girl had in fact seen him on Sunday. She was a fill-in, so I asked them to double check with her and get back to me.
Still pedaling, I contemplated my continued pedaling. Was I not taking this seriously enough? Should I be pacing? After 20 plus years coping with a mentally and physically challenged parent, I had learned to go flow, which meant keep peddling until I no longer could.
So while my feet moved on, my brain back tracked. He didn’t answer the phone yesterday. I didn’t think much of it at the time, since he often slept through the weekends. The last time we spoke was Saturday, although since he was half asleep, muttered unintelligibly was much more accurate than spoke.
With no one else to call and no other realistic options, I considered the two possible hospitals where he could be and dialed the closer one.
“Hi there, I’m looking for my father. He may have come in there yesterday or this morning?”
I waited while she checked his name.
“Yes, he was brought in yesterday. I’ll transfer you.”
Okay I breathed, missing father found. But why was he there? With his health problems and history, it could be a million things, many of them terrible.
My pace slowed but my heart rate sped up significantly. I was used to hopscotching through the landmines of his life, but while my sensitivity chip was broken it still emitted some charge, and I waited anxiously. For a fleeting second I thought he could even be dead; a realistic possibility that has loomed over my head for decades, so many in fact, that it almost didn’t seem possible.
Could this be it? Could this be the moment I had become so complacent and emotionally detached from that I didn’t even think to dread. Could the man who a lifetime ago told me stories by the edge of my bed, gave me dollars to tickle his back, charmed me with word and a smile no longer be?
I stopped pedaling. The air became more still. I heard my breath.
A nurse picked up, “Your father is fine.”
I almost laughed with relief and amusement. She clearly didn’t know my father.
“He came in for anxiety and we’re still awaiting psych to release him.”
I began pedaling again. It was just business as usual.