We should be eating free pancakes (pfannekuchen) under the pavilion. That was the plan. That’s Friday morning Alpenfest tradition.
But Sissy and I instead pack hospital bags–contact lens solutions, glasses, toothbrush, deodorant, a change of clothes. We slip computers into cases and cell phone charges into purses. We don’t know what the next few days hold. But we’ve been down the road before.
What if he hadn’t been having followup CT scans? This bleed is a new one, bigger than the little leaks they’ve been watching, about the same size as the one last year, on the other side of the head. It’s been there about a week, the doctor says, and requires surgery.
The water shimmers before us as we top the hill. The sight of it always makes me catch my breath. It’s my favorite part of this 35-mile drive. But the destination–not so much.
I glance to my right as I walk through the lobby door. There’s the couch. The one I sat on while we waited for the van. We wanted Mom to visit the hospice house before she made her final decision. While we waited then, I’d ordered birthday flowers to be sent from the three of us to Grace at school. We played and made fun of the “social worker” game. Mom hated those questions.
We are going to the beach. What will we see? We are going to bake a cake. What will we need?
The van finally came. It would be her last ride this side of the river.
Before her sun set. Before her final journey. Before she went home.
Today we ride the same elevator to the same waiting area. We sit in different chairs. Do we do that on purpose? There’s the consultation room where the same surgeon told us he’d found in Mom’s brain just what he suspected.
When they wheel Dad to the O.R., we go down to the cafeteria and eat bagels–french toast and cinnamon raisin. Just like before. We might even sit at the same table.
On this morning the doctor gives good news. He evacuated the blood, and Dad is fine.
It’s forever, all day, before we can see him, before they have an ICU bed. The staff remembers him from last time. And Sissy and I are pretty sure that this room, #161, is the exact room they admitted Mom to after her biopsy.
Dad’s awake, head bandaged, and he’s ready to walk right out the door–except he’s tethered to so many tubes. So instead we watch the ball game.
We decide about midnight to go home so Sissy can tend to last minute preparations. I’m sad that Dad will miss the parade. Though maybe part of him is glad. We walked the Alpenstrasse for a bit last night, stopped outside the Sugar Bowl to listen to the band and watch couples dance. He was wistful. He and Mom loved to polka. And the night before that, before he even knew he’d need surgery, he seemed unhappy–said it was hard to be downtown alone. Translation: I miss her.
My eyeballs swim a bit during the parade, remembering how Mom watched with us last year, how thrilled she’d be to see that the diocese, where Sissy works as communications director, is this year’s honored industry. To see Sissy in her dirndl and the bishop on the float. How she’d have loved to hear the bagpipes play Amazing Grace, see her two-year-old great-grandson’s joy at the fire trucks and police cars, and smile as almost-ten-year-old Grace still hides from dressed-up mascots.
We don’t get back to the hospital until late afternoon. They’ve moved Dad down a room, straight across from the nurse’s station. He must have gotten feisty. I lean over and practically climb on the air register to snap pictures out the window of Little Traverse Bay whose water flows into Lake Michigan. I watch the waves roll and recede, roll and recede. Moments rise on the crests and then tumble into eternity. Timeless in time since the beginning of time.
I watch the sun sink all golden.
One day it will go down for my dad. And for me. And you. I want to snatch each nanosecond before it dissipates.
But I know I can’t. Not every one. I have to trust time to the One who holds time in His hands. To the One who made the water and the sun.
Continue to make plans but lean into His appointments. Follow the steps He lays. Go with the flow. Ride the waves
I download and show Dad all the pictures I took at the parade. Sissy and I entrust him to the nurses and go home again after midnight.
On Sunday morning, the doctor calls. He’s decided to discharge him. No transfer to a regular floor. No move to rehab. My husband has gone for a bike ride. My niece has gone to work. Sissy will stay with her grand boy and Grace, and I turn the Journey toward the bay again. Only this time the best part of the trip will be the destination. The opposite direction.