Not your average suburban mom. I’m more your typical, normal, commonplace, everyday, garden-variety suburban mom. With a thesaurus.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"You Say Goodbye"

I never outgrew my 4 year old bangs
So my dad died on Friday.

My best memories of my dad are, surprisingly, after he and my mom divorced. There was a sweet period of about a year where I enjoyed seeing him on the weekends and we would have Important Talks about Grown Up Topics, like books and music, on a level my 12 year old brain was not accustomed to. It was in those talks that I began to see a glimpse of the man my dad could be; a glimpse of the man that my mom fell for and was capable of briefly helping to raise three kids.

But in those weekends I also learned that my dad was a very broken man. He was bound by addiction, mental health issues, and an extrememly low sense of will and personal drive. No one lives inside a vaccuum, and the effects of that brokenness were not his alone to bear, and unfortunately had tragic effects on his relationships, especially those with his children. On the bright side, I have memories like this:

The Time I Got The Sex Talk From My Drunk Dad: An EPIC Tale I Will Appreciate Forever

Once upon a time I was 12 and my dad was drunk and he played me Meatloaf's Paradise By The Dashboard Light and said,

"Sex is wonderful, sex is great,

but if you do it now,
it will be a big mistake."

It was like a poem he didn't even mean to write. If it was a rap battle he would've won. (Um, Kel, I'm not sure you know how rap battles work.)

Chosen specifically for the barbell
He loved reading and passed down to me the love for a great novel, as well as recommendations of authors and a bizarre affinity for the writing of Stephen King. (Don't ask.)(But since you're asking, The Mist and The Long Walk are my favorites.) He fervently loved THE Ohio State (a love not passed down)(Go, Bama, Roll Tide) and the Beatles. He loved sarcasm and could be really funny and wildly, hilariously inappropriate.

In the dark moments I have most of the memories you would assosciate with being the kid of such a troubled man. The last decade has been the hardest, but I'm thankful for those years because they really cemented in my heart that

1. You can't save someone who doesn't want saving.
2. An unrecovered addict will never love anything more than himself. That has nothing to do with who I am or what I do.
3. You can't reason with mental illness. (And, for free, depression is a big fat liar.)

The latest hospitalization began much like the others that had been occuring with more frequency over the last four months.

Because: Pilgrims
I got a call from LifeAlert in the middle of the night on November 18. Dad had fallen again, but this time broke his femur. He was taken to St. Joe's and scheduled for surgery on November 20. I visited him that night. He was not feeling great (Kel, it's cool you're being careful not to say how hella crabby he was) and I left with promises to call and check on him.

The next week did not go well for him. He developed pnuemonia and was placed on both an oxygen mask and a feeding tube. Thankfully he was still in the ICU so he had excellent care. On Thanksgiving Day he was particularly pissed about the feeding tube, but had enough spirit to fight with me about his discharge rehab plans. I received a phone call from the hospital social worker on Saturday to discuss those discharge plans.

The next day he was off the oxygen mask and knew jello was on the agenda for that evening; his first solid food in a week. It was November 29th. Then, something happened.

There are many theories. I know what I believe happened, but it will never be proven so we can only speculate. Somehow his main IV (the one in his jugular)(the one sutured and taped in place) came out. An air embolism entered his bloodstream, causing cardiac arrest, and, ultimately, a lot of brain damage.

The next nine days were spent watching and waiting, in meeting with doctors and social workers, and being included in both hospital rounds and neuro examinations. The highest level of function my dad was thought to ever be able to acheive was something called a semi-conscious state. He had no purposeful response to sound, light, or pain. With united and heavy hearts, we made the decision to remove life support.

It was while dropping by the ICU to retrieve my dad's cell phone that I realized I arrived exactly as they were taking him off life support. A resident and a nurse quickly shuttled me down to the family room with promises to retrieve me once he was cleaned up and settled. I stood in a room with two other families eating their cafeteria snacks and akwardly answered a call from Lauren (spoiler: she's been AMAZING through this), sharing that I was at The Exact Moment and getting all high-pitched and tight-throated in my dialogue while the other families pretended not to listen. (In truth I'm a *much* better pretender than all of them and felt like bowing at the end of my call because their pretend not listening sucked and I felt like they should have at least applauded the show or something) (something = cash)(or Starbucks)(#notpicky)

To mark the seriousness of the occassion, the entire team (all five residents and his two nurses) stood respectfully in the room while I entered. I don't know what I expected in the room, but dad looked exactly the same as he had the previous week, just off the ventilator. I said some lame thing to my dad, like, "I bet it feels better without all that junk in your mouth", and knew if my dad were able he would make some horribly inappropriate and extrememly embarrassing sex joke in response to my rambling. Not gonna lie, that's when I teared up a bit. This was actually the first time I got weepy in front of all of them, and Doctor F. took it upon himself to save me a bit.

"I just wanted to tell you how impressed we are with you and your kickass sister Cassie." (Ok, so he totally didn't word it that way but that's what he meant.) He continued, "We were all talking earlier about how well you've handled this." He went on to share specific things about us that impressed him, citing two questions I had asked during our meetings and how our first priority in decision making was to respect my dad's wishes. Since my Love Language is Words of Affirmation I was lapping this stuff up like iced coffee; it was a serious balm to my soul. As he wound down in his monologue of praise, I, overcome with gratefulness and teary-eyed, responded with,

"Well, once the results were in and it was clear he didn't have any higher brain function, the decision to take him off life support was a no-brainer."

*cue: me looking horrified*
*cue: the docs trying to hide their smiles behind Professional Faces*

My dad would've loved that moment.

He died three days later.

My dad and Esther, 5 months before he died

Thomas Stephen Brokaw
September 6, 1951 - December 11, 2015

Dad, in the world you had many troubles. But your legacy is pretty epic. You done good.
Steve, Cas, and me

I pray he found peace and freedom in the end.
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