So its been a month since my dad had triple bypass surgery and never recovered. He's still in the transitional hospital Intensive Care Unit and not really getting any better. Like any of us he has good days & bad days, currently he's fighting a tough infection, he's had a couple before, including one of those that is only in hospitals.
My dad is not cognizant of the world around him, he just lays there, wincing at times, squirming and not comfortable, I know my dad's facial expressions, he's in pain and it pains me to see him like this.
He's was born before Pearl Harbor, was one of the first black naval engineers on a destroyer, worked at Wisconsin Steel Mill before a long career at Chicago Transit Union. He has the strongest hands you've ever seen. He literally made machines run, now a machine keeps him breathing.
I can't help but think of all the memories we had, most good, a few not so much, doesn't matter, he will be 75 years old this coming Tuesday. This is the man that showed me the way to life, answered those life questions growing up no one else could or should.
My father has been a great friend to so many, I learned about relationships from him, how he treated my mother, his many co-workers, family, people in the 'hood. He was always well respected for his mechanical aptitude as well as congenality. Our garage at home was part service center, part, bar, part community center and a warehouse for auto parts and half running cars. Yeah all that in a two and a half car garage in West Pullman. If you ever drove down West 123rd Street on a Saturday in the late 70's to early 90's and saw a bunch of cars, a lot of people around a garage and men smoking and cussing, that was my childhood home.
Other neighborhood children thought I had "the cool dad" and I did, sure sharing your dad with the whole 'hood wasn't always great but as I aged my father had such life lessons to teach me, once I got over him being dumb of course. I also got to see so many different types of people and situations because of him and he handled them all really well. There were plenty of "characters" around, sometimes it felt like I was living in a Richard Pryor movie but dad prepared me for life.
Dad and I share the same loves, BBQ, cars and fishing, lots of memories of those three. When I was about seven he started taking me to car shows and "swap meets", he was working on 1967 red Chevrolet Camaro and he also had a late 1960's Volkswagen Beetle, so we'd go to these shows looking at custom cars, parts and the latest in accesories. Though I don't share my father's mechanical ablities, I have the passion and I still go to car shows to this day.
Dad and I loved the upcoming Chicago Auto Show, back when it what is now called Lakeside Center with the trucks downstairs and cars upstairs. He'd explain different parts of the car and we'd see what was new on the auto market.
I've always asked a lot of questions and though I know I frustrated my dad, he'd answer them all, esepcially techincal questions. In fact he used to bring me his books from his classes at CTA once he was done with them, I liked the "schematics", the pictures breaking down engines and parts and he'd tell me what each part did.
So my dad has had quality in his life but now it makes me wonder, he's a strong man who has survived a month of serious health challenges that would have claimed a lesser man's life but so much I'm seeing in the health business is about keeping people alive but maybe not a good status.
I've visited a couple of nursing homes, one that is more for an active person and another more geared towards my dad for someone who is not active. Its tough to walk through those places.
I've also learned to read the machines at dad's beside, the technological advances in medicine are incredible but I've been to my share of facilities in the last month and you wonder about the word "recovery". I mean so much medicine, rehab, specialists and people still seem "sick".
If you go to the largest drug store chain and buy something, on the way out they tell you to "Be Well", this is after they took your money and sold you medication. I'm thinking as much money as I spent I better be well physically because I'm not financially after leaving here.
It makes you wonder as a society about how we treat our elders, they give so much of their lives for the rest of us and they as they have health issues all we can offer is treatment after treatment with them never back to a full life.
It's sad, I struggle with my father being like this, the nurses at the facility say he can hear me, but I barely see a reaction, I used to call my dad weekly (now I drive over an hour to see him), I really miss that, to get his advice, input, bad jokes and approval. I've definetly has to become more of a man, make hard decisions and work harder than I ever had.
I just wish he was cognizant to see it.
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