My 86-year-old father has been battling esophageal cancer for two years now. Last week, an ambulance was called to bring him to the hospital. He was slowly losing the use of his hands and feet, until one day, he couldn't walk. The doctor had prescribed the wrong medicine and it was causing a reaction.
Dad was moved to a nursing home to recover and become stronger. A "rehabilitation" facility was a nicer name for it. Day by day he was getting better, but he still had bouts of confusion. An MRI showed two spots of cancer that migrated to his brain.
Yesterday, I called the facility and asked to speak to my dad, Norman Griffard.
"Sure, let me transfer you to his nurse," said the receptionist. "Or better yet, I can transfer you directly to his room."
I was using a phone designed for deaf and hard of hearing people, with an interpreter on the screen using sign language to translate what was being said.
"A male voice answered," the interpreter signed.
"Hi Dad!" Karen here. How's everything going?"
"Hi there honey. I'm sorry, who is this?"
"This is Karen here."
"I'm a bit confused. Is this Jennifer?" (Jennifer is my niece)
"No Dad, this is your daughter, Karen."
"Karen? I don't have a daughter named Karen. I'm really confused here!
Oh crap. That medicine must have really screwed up his memory, I thought to myself. I moved on. "Hey Dad, I just talked to Mom and they're on their way to see you soon."
"They're coming here? Who is coming here? Oh boy, I am really confused."
"Mom and Linda are coming to see you soon. They said they're on their way. I will come up on Tuesday. I don't have a car this weekend because the kids are off in different directions. But I'll be up on Tuesday."
"Honey, I'm confused. Who is Mom?"
"Dad, Mom is your wife. Your wife, Marian," I gently reminded him. I wanted to cry. I felt like I was losing my Dad-- his memory was really going. This was all happening so suddenly. I saw him two weeks ago and he wasn't this bad.
"What are you talking about? My wife is dead!"
Dead? Ok, this was crazy...
Then it suddenly dawned on me.
"Um, wait a minute, is this Norman Griffard?"
A laugh ensued. "No! Oh no! That's the guy in the next bed!" More laughter, and this time, I joined in. A wave of relief flushed over me. My dad came on the phone and recognized my voice. We laughed hard at the mix up. There were definitely two relieved people-- I was relieved and reassured that my Dad's memory was still pretty intact, and the guy in the next bed was relieved to know that he wasn't going crazy... and losing his mind.