Chapter 12: BOOM!


The day of The Meeting was also my last full day in Colorado.


I’d prepared my father for my departure, reminding him that with a flight leaving at noon I wouldn’t have time to run all the way up to him in the morning and still make it to Denver in time to check in.


I was half hoping he’d change his mind about The Meeting, decide to spend his daughter’s last day in town actually with her, but no.  As long as you make it to that meeting, I’ll be happy, he’d said.


So here I was, dragging my exhausted ass into the hospital for one last day on watch, and even that would be interrupted by the actual Worst Meeting Ever—and I’m including the times I had to sit and listen to a man with dreadlocks down to his ass lecture me on the poor feng shui of my desk while rearranging my shit before I’d finished my goddamned coffee.[1]



On my way in I slung my purse and sweater behind the nurses’ station, as was my habit; we exchanged the usual smiles and greetings, then the charge nurse pulled me aside.



NURSE:  He’s had a rough night.
ME:  (sighs)
NURSE:  And he’s in a bad mood this morning.
ME:  (resigned)  How bad is it?
NURSE:  He refused his BiPAP last night.
ME:  That’s not a thing.  He doesn’t get to just decide not to wear it; he falls asleep, it goes on.  Period.
NURSE:  (shrugs)  He refused.  And he’s refusing to cooperate today.  He didn’t want to do his breathing treatment eith—
ME:  I’ll handle it.  (stalks down hall)
NURSE:  Thank you.
ME:  (turns back)  By the way… the social worker, the notary… ?
NURSE:  (nods)  We’ve got the note in that he needs that done today.  They’re not in yet—you beat everyone this morning—but they’ve been following his notes and… he can’t keep putting this off.
ME:  No, he can’t.  (sighs)  It won’t be me, but he needs to sign something.  So just… put him in a room and make him write down a name and sign it.
NURSE:  (firmly)  They will.  (nods)  Today.
ME:  (nods)  (leaves)




I paused outside his room to gown up and found a respiratory therapist waiting for me.  She smiled meekly and I realized this woman was hoping I could tame her big bad patient sufficiently to allow her to do her job of keeping him alive.  I rolled my eyes and smiled at her before calling in to my father.



ME:  Girls incoming!  You decent?
DAD:  No!
ME:  Okay, well… tuck it in!  (enters)
RT:  (follows)
DAD:  (glares)
ME:  Good morning, Daddy.  How ya feelin’ today?
DAD:  (glares)
ME:  Okay… (sits)
RT:  Lee, would it be okay if we started your breathing—
ME:  (raises eyebrow)  Why don’t you want to do your breathing treatment?
DAD:  No more treatments, no more anything!  I’m DONE!
ME:  (calmly)  Done with what?
ME:  That’s not terribly informative… could you be more specific?
DAD:  (scowls)  No more mask.  No more tubes.  No more treatments.  I’m ready to DIE!
ME:  …
RT:  …
DAD:  I just want to go be with my wife.
ME:  (tightens jaw)  And how do you think she would feel about you suddenly taking up the path of the quitter?
DAD:  (glares)
ME:  (stares)
RT:  Could… could we just do the treatment now and then talk later about—
DAD:  NO!  I want a DNR!
ME:  (flinches)
DAD:  (meanly)  And don’t think you’ve gone unnoticed, little lady.
ME:  (scoffs)  Okay.
RT:  What does that—
ME:  Who knows.  Dad, let’s talk about this DNR business.  You’ve been wearing an Intubate Only wristband for over a week because those were your wishes.  Now all of a sudden—
RT:  What changed your mind?
DAD:  I’ve realized that she’s (points to me) been controlling me.
ME:  (sits back, stunned)
DAD:  Her and my brother both.
ME:  How am I—
RT:  How is she controlling you?
DAD:  (waves hand)  Let’s just leave it at that.
ME:  No, let’s not.  How do I control you?
DAD:  Let’s just leave it—
RT:  Lee, we can’t just leave it at that—that’s a very serious accusation—
ME:  And I’m very interested in the answer!
DAD:  I’m not talking!
ME:  Oh yes you will!
RT:  I’m going to go get your doctor (flees)
DAD:  (glares at ceiling)
ME:  Care to explain that shit?
DAD:  You know what you’re doing.
ME:  Yep, I do.  You seem pretty fuckin’ unclear on the topic, which is why we’re having this discussion.
DAD:  (gapes)
ME:  So come on.  Let’s have it.  How do I control you?  What have I done that’s soooo controlling?
DAD:  You and Mark—
ME:  This isn’t about Mark.
DAD:  You and Mark are both
ME:  This isn’t about Mark, I don’t give a flying fuck about Mark!
DAD:  Hey!
ME:  I asked you what I’ve done.  Don’t you start talking to me about your brother.  You’ve got issues with him, take it up with him.  You talk to me about me.
DAD:  (glares)
ME:  Well?
DR:  (enters)
ME:  Saved by the bell.
DR:  Lee, I understand we’re having a rough day—
DAD:  I want a DNR.
DR:  Okay, can you tell us why you’ve changed your mind?
DAD:  I’ve… (glances at me)  been thinking of it for a while.  A few days.
ME:  Really.  How many?
DAD:  At least a week.
ME:  (nods)  So you were thinking you wanted this when we filled out your advanced directive last week?  The one that specifically covered intubation and how you were fine with it in the short term?
DR:  That’s the directive we have on record for you, and what you’ve reaffirmed with us several times.
ME:  (narrows eyes)
DR:  … and you’re allowed to do that.  But we have to assess why you’ve changed your mind and decide whether this is a reasoned decision or whether…
DAD:  I’ve reasoned!
ME:  (archly)  Or whether you’re letting your grief do the decision making.
DAD:  (shoots me venomous glare)
DR:  (nods)  Exactly.
DAD:  I want… to die.
DR:  Well, we don’t do that here.  Not my department.
DAD:  (turns glare on Dr)
DR:  (calmly checks oxygen)  Can you tell me what year it is?
DAD:  2019.
DR:  And the date?
DAD:  … (checks white board)  (recites date)
ME:  (shifts)
DR:  (glances at board)  Okay, you knew where to look to get that information.  That’s good.  (glances at me)
DAD:  I’m not—
DR:  Do you know who the president of the United States is?
ME:  (flinches)
DAD:  Trump.
DR:  I’m sorry?
ME:  (smirks)
DAD:  Donald Trump.
DR:  Okay.  Now, can you tell me what changed your mind about intubation?
DAD:  …
DR:  (gestures at respiratory therapist, who has snuck back in)  I heard a rumor that you’re feeling manipulated.
DAD:  (clams up)
ME:  (huffs)
DR:  Well, we can’t just press a button and change your status.  It takes more than just one person’s approval.  We’ll have to have several people in here verifying what I’ve heard, and they’re all going to ask you that same question…
DAD:  I don’t want tubes.
ME:  (impatiently)  Yes.  You’ve said.  What you haven’t said is why.
DR:  (to me)  I’ll go put in the referrals.  (leaves, taking RT with her)
DAD:  (turns on television)
ME:  (reaches over, turns it off)
DAD:  (scowls)
ME:  Well?
DAD:  Well what?
ME:  You gonna explain that shit?
DAD:  I already—
ME:  No, you gave us some bullshit about having thought about it.  And some more bullshit about how I’m controlling you—actually, that’s the bit I’m really interested in.  (settles in)  Let’s talk about that.
DAD:  I just said—
ME:  No, no, no more of this “I just.”  I want actual examples.
DAD:  …
ME:  Well?  Apparently I’m terrible.  A veritable supervillain!  Evil puppet master, me.   Surely you can come up with just one thing I’ve done to control you.
DAD:  …
ME:  Did I pick which channel you watched?
DAD:  …
ME:  Make you eat things you don’t like?
DAD:  …
ME:  Come on, Dad!  I’m the worst!  You’re ready to die to get away from me!  How ‘bout just the most recent thing… the thing I did yesterday that prompted this realization that I’m a controlling bitch and the only way out is death.
DAD:  …
ME:  …
DAD:  …
ME:  Waiting.
DAD:  (looks away)
ME:  Cool.  The silent treatment.  That’s a sign of someone who’s thought it aaaaallll out.
DAD:  …
ME:  (huffs)  I need to go get a sip of water.  (stands)
DAD:  (reaches for urinal)
ME:  (hands over urinal)  (points, claw-like nail menacingly close to his eyeball)  When I get back?  You’d better have one fucking example of how I’ve controlled you.  (storms out, shaking)



Yes, I am aware I came across as… well, if not controlling then definitely bossy in that exchange.


But, in my defense, the man had just announced his intention to die.


Here’s the thing about how that shit works in a hospital: he’d answered all of their qualifying questions.  He’d established orientation and basic cognitive function.  Next they would send someone in to question him further, but I had no doubt he would recite the “I will die if…” portion of their questions.  He knew he was in a hospital, he knew the date and the president.  And he was clearly stating his wishes.  Doctors are only permitted to assess cognitive, not executive, function.


In other words, the fact that he was out of his fucking gourd on grief was apparent to anyone watching and 1000% not something they could legally take into account… unless we wanted to push for a psych hold.  Which—since he wasn’t threatening to actively harm himself—we would not likely get and would only serve to anger him and delay the inevitable.


I stormed past the nurses’ station in search of my water bottle when I felt a gentle hand on my arm.


I turned, ready to let loose on whomever thought today was the day to fuck with me.


It was Maria, my favorite chaplain.


I broke down, burbled everything.


She hugged me.



MARIA:  This is so fortuitous!  I was just hanging out up here today hoping I would run into you.  I heard things had been difficult with him, and I just felt like you might need me.  So I said, well, I’m going to go and stand around and see if she appears…  (spreads hands, palms up)  and here you are.
ME:  (hopelessly watering)  Here I am.
MARIA:  (kindly)  And in need.
ME:  (nods)
MARIA:  Oh, honey… You’ve been doing so much, I don’t blame you at all for needing a break!
ME:  I have!  He doesn’t even appreciate
MARIA:  They don’t.
MARIA:  Oh, honey!  (sympathetically)  I know.  Believe me… I know.
ME:  Your…?
MARIA:  (nods)  You never really get over it.
ME:  (giggles)
MARIA:  There’s a smile.
ME:  (hard sigh)  Well, I tell you what—I’m not going to that fucking meeting.  He doesn’t want to live for me?  Fine.  I don’t want to plan a funeral for the woman who hated me, with a bunch of people who are going to be nothing but awful to me.
MARIA:  (nods)
ME:  Can I do that?
MARIA:  Of course you can!  In fact, I think it’s an excellent idea.
ME:  (nods, uncertain)
MARIA:  One of my good friends… how does she phrase it?  Something like… Our challenge is this: how do we live today so that when we reach the end we will look back on a life of honesty, kindness, dignity… and joy?
ME:  (smiles)
MARIA:  Don’t wait until you’re lying in a hospital bed to do it right.  Start now, and every day.  And today, find some dignity and joy.
ME:  (firmly)  I’m not going.
MARIA:  (smiles)  I think that’s an excellent decision.  And I hope that whatever you do instead brings you joy.
ME:  Thank you.
MARIA:  (hugs me)  You’re in my prayers.




When I finally unpacked (this week, don’t judge!) I found her card in my suitcase.  I have no memory of taking it, and certainly not of packing it under the pajamas it was too hot to wear in Jen’s spare bedroom, but there it was.


After our talk I took my few restorative sips of water then headed back to Dad’s room.  On the way I met his nurse, who assured me that his regular doctor would be on her way in—we’d already seen a pulmonologist when he shouted at respiratory therapy.  I thanked her and continued in, dressing as I entered.




ME:  Well, do you have that example for me?
DAD:  (looks up, surprised to see me)  Come sit.
ME:  (raises eyebrow)  You either have one or you don’t.
ME:  Oooh, he’s got a tone on him now.  Must’ve thought of something.[2]  (sits ostentatiously)
DAD:  (reaches for my hand)
ME:  (sits back, out of reach)
DAD:  (sighs, frustrated)
ME:  (primly)  Example, please.
DAD:  You and Mark both—
ME:  (holds up hand)  I told you I was supremely uninterested in anything your brother has done.
DAD:  You’ve both been manipulating me.
ME:  HOW.  Be specific, and speak only of me.
DAD:  You’re… both of you—
ME:  (scoots back chair)
DAD:  You’re trying to make me feel guilty.
ME:  …
DAD:  …
ME:  Horseshit.
DAD:  (stunned)
ME:  I can’t make you feel anything.  Lord knows I spent my life trying, and it wasn’t guilt.
DAD:  (opens mouth)
ME:  Now, I’ve been honest with you about how I feel, since I’ve been here.  And about what I want.
DAD:  (nods)
ME:  And if that caused you to feel things… well, that’s on you.  Your feelings—forgive me for being blunt—are not mine to manage.  I’ve got my own shit to deal with and can’t be dragging yours around too.
DAD:  (grunts)
ME:  So that’s it?  My honesty about my wants and feelings… that’s what made you feel like I was controlling you?
DAD:  No, not just that!
ME:  Well you’d better come up with something else, then!
DAD:  I did!
ME:  And it was bullshit!
DR:  Hello!  Am I interrupting?
DAD:  No.
ME:  (growling)  Not at all, come on in.
DR:  Lee, I’m in here because they said you want to change your code status.
DAD:  I want a DNR.  Let me sign it!
DR:  Okay, well… you’ve actually already got the DNR on record, but you’re also down as accepting intubation… has that changed?
DR:  Okay… now the first thing we have to assess before we can make that change is whether or not you understand what that means.
DAD:  (looks around uncomfortably)
NURSE:  (watches from doorway)
RT:  (watches from wash-up)
DR:  So… can you tell me what that means to you?  No intubation?
DAD:  It means… you won’t put a tube in.
DR:  Even if you need it.
DAD:  Right.
DR:  Even if your oxygen dips too low and your CO2 climbs to the point where you’re unable to breathe on your own…
ME:  (looks away, breathing hard)
DAD:  Yes.
DR:  And what will happen then?
DAD:  I could die.
ME:  You will die.
DR:  That’s correct.  If you’re not cooperating with any further treatment, you will die.
DAD:  That’s what I want.
DR:  And can you tell me where you are?
DAD:  (hospital)
DR:  Do you know the date?
DAD:  (date)
DR:  What year?
DAD:  2019.
DR:  What’s your daughter’s name?
DAD:  (startled)  (looks at me)  … Chase.
ME:  (glares)
DR:  Does she live here with you?[3]
DAD:  No.  She’s visiting.
DR:  How long as she been here?
DAD:  … About a week.
DR:  (nods)  Okay.  We’re going to take some blood now.
DR:  (nods)  We need an ABG.  An arterial blood gas analysis.  We need to check your current CO2 level to be sure that’s not confusing you.
ME:  (snorts)
DAD:  (glares)
DR:  Can we take the blood?
DAD:  … Fine.
DR:  Thank you.  (waves forward lurking IV tech)
DAD:  (looks at me)
ME:  (looks away)
TECH:  (draws blood)  (leaves)
DAD:  I want—
DR:  We’ll check that and come back to talk about it.  (gives me long look)
ME:  (nods)
DR:  (leaves, taking others with her)
DAD:  (sighs)
ME:  Well.  Here we are.
DAD:  (looks at me)
ME:  And you’re just that determined, are you?
DAD:  (mulish stare)
ME:  Fine.  (stands)  But if you’re dying anyway then there’s no reason for me to go to your damned meeting.
DAD:  (shocked)  You need—
ME:  Nope!
DAD:  I wanted you to—
ME:  And I wanted you to live!  But apparently today is not the day for either of us to get things we want, is it?
DAD:  (fumes)
ME:  Now you?  You’re just choosing to end your life—and you’ll answer to the almighty for that, not me.  Me?  I’m choosing not to go to a meeting full of people who are going to be awful to me, in order to plan a funeral for a woman who hated my fucking guts.
ME:  YES SHE DID, DAD!  And what kills me, what’s eating me up inside is that you knew—you knew and you never bothered to tell me!  You let me beat my head against a brick wall for decades, trying to connect with her, bond with her, thinking we had a special relationship… but every time she handed the phone off to you she—what, went off to gripe about how she shouldn’t have to put up with me anymore?
DAD:  (looks guilty)
ME:  Yeah.  Fuck.
DAD:  I—
ME:  (puts up hand)  You lost your wife.  And I’m real sorry about that.  I’ve been married half as long and I would be in pieces if anything happened to Husband.  But you still have your memories of her.  I not only lost the only mother I’ve— (chokes)  … But I lost those memories too.
DAD:  (shakes head)
ME:  Because they were false.  Every special moment I thought I had with her, every shared joke, every… it was all a lie.  And she couldn’t wait to get away from me, get me away from you
DAD:  No, she—
ME:  They were literally her last wishes, Dad.  Enough!  I’M NOT GOING!



And there we were, the us of old.


I stared into his suddenly very familiar eyes as the red haze receded from mine, and saw the two of us clearly for the first time in ten minutes.  Maybe for the first time ever.  I held his furious gaze and stepped back from my adolescent rage… and I chose a different path.



ME:  (quietly)  I’m gonna go take a walk.  I need to pee anyway.
DAD:  (blinks)  (clenches jaw)
ME:  (scrubs out silently)  (leaves)



I used the restroom and updated Husband.


I sipped water.  I paced.


I fumed.


Eventually I turned back down my father’s hallway and once again encountered his nurse.



NURSE:  The doctor’s coming back in.
ME:  (tiredly)  Which one?
NURSE:  … Yes.
ME:  (snorts)
NURSE:  (worried)
ME:  Send a palliative team as well—he’s not backing down.
NURSE:  (nodding)  The doctor already called for them.
ME:  (nods)  Thank you.
NURSE:  (smiles sadly)  I wish I could…
ME:  I know.  (turns)
ME:  (turns back)  Actually…
ME:  Get Audrey.
NURSE:  Audrey?
ME:  From Palliative.  She’s horrible, but she really connected with Dad, and she knows his wishes.
NURSE:  (nods, smiling)  You got it.



I returned to find my father more pensive; calmer, too.


He looked up when I entered, and I had a moment to clock the surprise that flitted across his face before relief settled in and he held out his hand to me; this time I took it.  Out of love, desperation, a desire to manipulate him with some human connection… I don’t know.  But I took his hand, and he gripped it like a lifeline.



DAD:  I do love you, you know that?
ME:  I do.  I just wish…
DAD:  You wish I would live.
ME:  (shrug)  Is that so bad?
DAD:  (sighs)  I’m tired.
ME:  So am I.  I need to sleep, not die.
DAD:  I don’t—
DR:  Hello, we’re back!
DAD:  (scowls)
DR:  And I brought Dr 2, the Pulmonologist, with me…
DR 2: Hello again, Lee.  Have you thought any more about what we talked about?
DAD:  I don’t want tubes.  I don’t want that (points at BiPAP) thing.  I don’t want people telling me what to do.  I just want… (sighs, flops back)
ME:  (raises eyebrow)
DR:  So… it sounds like you’re feeling like things are a little out of control right now.
DAD:  You people control everything!
DR2:  Do you feel we’ve done something without your approval?
DAD:  Oh, you ask. You ask about everything.  But it doesn’t matter what I say, you’re gonna do what you’re gonna do.
ME:  Dad, that’s not true.  You can decline anything.  You’ve been doing it all morning—and now you’re feeling the worse for it.
DR:  You have the right, as a patient, to approve or refuse any treatment at any time.
DAD:  (scoffs)
DR2:  So… I’m not liking how high your CO2 has gotten today.  Would you consider wearing your BiPAP for a little while, to help bring that down?
DR2:  Okay.  (nods)  Well, that level is only going to increase.  You’re going to feel disoriented, agitated… and eventually you’ll get weak and sleepy.
DAD:  … Then maybe I’ll put it on then.
DR2:  Well, the concern is that if you get to that point you won’t be able to put it on yourself or alert us that you’re ready to wear it.  If that happens, and you lose consciousness, will you allow us to intubate—
DR1:  Oh, look—they’re here.
DAD:  (looks)
ME:  (looks)
PALLIATIVE DUDE: Hi-ii!  I’m Dude, from the Palliative team.  I’ve brought some associates with me (gestures)
PALLIATIVE 2:  (introduces self)[4]
PALLIATIVE 3:  (introduces self)
PALLIATIVE DUDE:  And we’re here because we heard you want to make some pretty big changes to your directives.
DAD:  (quietly, to me)  Oh, you called out the biiig guns.
ME:  (shakes head)  This isn’t me.
PALLIATIVE DUDE:  (approaching)  Your doctors asked us to stop in and make sure you understand what you’re asking for and assess whether you’ve thought it through.
DAD:  I have!
PALLIATIVE DUDE:  Okay, great.  So let’s talk about what you want, and what that means to you.
DAD:  I don’t… want…
ME:  Until today, he was fine with being intubated as a temporary measure; three days was my limit.  Now he says no intubation and he refuses to wear his BiPAP and he says he wants to die.  (to Dad)  Did I leave anything out?
DAD:  (glares)  I never said I wouldn’t wear the BiPAP!
DR2:  (preps BiPAP)
PALLIATIVE DUDE:  So you’re willing to wear the BiPAP?
DAD:  I am.  I enjoy it.
ME:  (rolls eyes)
DR2:  (waves in lurking RT and nurse)
PALLIATIVE DUDE:  And they tell me you want to change your status with regard to intubation.
PALLIATIVE DUDE:  Okay… can you explain to me what will happen if you are unable to breathe and we aren’t allowed to intubate?
ME:  (clenches jaw)
DAD:  I’ll die.
PALLIATIVE DUDE:  (nods)  You’ll die.
DAD:  I’ve thought it through, and—
AUDREY:  (quietly)  Excuse me, so sorry… Oooh, it’s crowded in here!
PALLIATIVE DUDE:  Oh, hi Audrey!
AUDREY:  Hi, Dude.  Hiya, Lee!
DAD:  (looks at me)
ME:  (tilts head)  (quietly)  Now that was me.
PALLIATIVE DUDE:  We were just talking with Lee about some changes he wants to make—
AUDREY:  I heard a little, yeah.  And… sorry, I wore heels today, probably not the smartest choice but I’m gonna go ahead and sit on your bed, Lee—why are there not more chairs in here?
ME:  (shrugs)  (leans back in awesome recliner)[5]
AUDREY:  So… I heard that there was some discussion around Lee’s wishes and I’ve gotten to know him pretty well so I wanted to come up and be a part of it.  If that’s okay, Lee?
DAD:  (nods)
AUDREY:  Now, I understand you’re talking about withdrawing permission to intubate?
DAD:  I don’t want it!
AUDREY:  Okay… now that’s a change from the last few times we talked.
DAD:  (looks at me)
ME:  I can—
AUDREY:  Would you rather we talk alone, Lee?
DAD:  No.  (grips hand tighter)  She stays.
AUDREY:  Okay  (smiles at me)  This is good!  I like to see family support.
ME:  (tilts head, curious)
AUDREY:  So… what changed your mind, Lee?  About intubation?
DAD:  (crafty)  Every time, the chances of me coming back…
AUDREY:  (nods)  The chances of extubating successfully are reduced each time, yes.  And we never know which time will be the last, it’s true.
ME:  (glares)
DAD:  (nods)
AUDREY:  So… what I’m hearing from you is that you don’t ever want to be intubated again, even as a temporary measure, even if you can’t breathe without it.
DAD:  Correct.
AUDREY:  And you know what will happen if we don’t, and you need it?
DAD:  I’ll… go to sleep… and I won’t wake up.
ME:  Not necessarily.
AUDREY:  (turns)
DAD:  (looks)
DR2:  (bobs eyebrows)
ME:  You might just go to sleep and drift away, it’s true.  And that’s a nice story we’ll tell ourselves about how we all go.  But that’s not the only way this can go down.
DAD:  …
ME:  You could continue to struggle for air—remaining conscious—gasping and terrified, for who knows how long.
DAD:  (frowns)
AUDREY:  (nods)  It’s true, that is a possibility, that you might struggle and experience some discomfort.  And in that scenario, we would make every effort to help you be more comfortable—
ME:  But there’s no drug that will convince your panicking brain you’re getting enough oxygen; even if there was, they wouldn’t give it to you because it would slow your impulse to breathe and kill you quicker.
DAD:  (stares)
AUDREY:  … and that’s where intubation could maybe help, sure… but you said you don’t want that.
ME:  (growls quietly)
DAD:  I don’t… want… machines…
AUDREY:  (nods)  I understand.
DAD:  (nods)
AUDREY:  Now I just need you to repeat that you understand the full implications.
DAD:  I understand.
AUDREY:  (smiles)  No, Lee.  The whole thing.
DAD:  I… don’t want to be intubated.
AUDREY:  Even if…
DAD:  (frowns)
AUDREY:  Even if it will save your life?
DAD:  Right.
AUDREY:  No, I need you to say that.
DAD:  I don’t want intubation!
AUDREY:  I heard you… but I need you to say, for everyone here (gestures at very full room) that you understand you’ll die without it, and you don’t want it under any circumstances, for any length of time, for any reason.  Even if you’ll die without it.
DAD:  I don’t!
AUDREY:  (nods)  I believe you… but I need you to say it.
ME:  (leans forward, squeezes hand)
DAD:  You people…
AUDREY:  Lee, I’m not trying to pressure you into anything. But I’ve gotten to know you a little while you’ve been here and I kind of like you.  (smiles)  I’d rather you not die just yet, but I want to respect your wishes.  However, we have to be very careful about these things and we need you to actually say the words before we make any changes in the computer.
DAD:  I don’t want to be intubated.  No matter what.
AUDREY:  Even…
DAD:  What do you want from me?
AUDREY:  I just need you to say that you don’t want to be intubated, for any reason or any length of time, even if you’ll die without it.
DAD:  You make it sound so final!
DAD:  (stares)
AUDREY:  (smirks)
DR:  (chokes)
DR2:  (counts ceiling tiles)
AUDREY:  She has a point.  These are big decisions that are not easy to undo.  If you change your mind later, when you need to be intubated, you won’t be able to tell us—
DAD:  I just don’t want to live on a machine!
ME:  Okay, that’s what we talked about before!  But you should still be able to be intubated for short periods of time, right?
DAD:  But once you’ve got that tube in me… (gestures)  My powers of communication are gone.
AUDREY:  So you’re worried that once we intubate, you won’t be able to communicate your wishes?
DAD:  (nods)
ME:  That’s what your advance directive form is for, Dad.  So everyone knows what you want and there’s no question.
DAD:  But I can’t say
ME:  No, but you’ve put a limit on it in advance.  You said, “short term”
DAD:  Oh, and who decides what’s short?
ME:  Whomever you choose!  You!  Whatever!  We said three days befor—
DAD:  (holds up finger)  You get one day.
ME:  (snarling, to team)  Write it down!
AUDREY:  Um… we don’t actually have a way to enter—
PALLIATIVE DUDE:  This actually brings up the other reason we were all coming up today; Lee, we understand you haven’t yet designated a medical Power of Attorney.  Given what we’re talking about here—
DAD:  (points at me)  I want my daughter to have it.
ME:  (slams head on bedrail)[6]
DRS:  …
RT:  …
DAD:  …
AUDREY:  So you’re designating Chase?
DAD:  (innocently)  Yes.
ME:  (screams internally)
AUDREY:  (to nurse)  Get the notary.
PALLIATIVE DUDE:  (shuffles files)  We have… forms…
ME:  We have one all filled out  (points)
DAD:  (glances)
AUDREY:  (opens drawer, extracts form)  Oh, perfect!  And here comes the notary.  Let’s all clear out and let them take care of this…
EMPLOYEES:  (leave)
DAD:  (smiles at me)
ME:  (looks for hidden cameras)
NOTARY:  Okay, I’m here to notarize some forms…
DAD:  My daughter’s going to be my Power of Attorney.[7]
NOTARY:  I heard.  (tense)  Let’s make that happen!
DAD:  (looks around)
ME:  (reaches for forms)
NOTARY:  Now, it doesn’t matter how shaky his hands are.  Just get him to make a mark of some sort.
DAD:  (scowls)
ME:  (nods)
DAD:  (carefully signs same as he ever did)
ME:  (passes form to notary)  And now the advance directives.  I’ll go ahead and mark the ones we talked about so you know where to sign.
DAD:  (fatigued)  Thank you.  (pats hand)  You’re—
ME:  Okay, initial here… here…. Here… here… (to notary)  I swear, we really did talk about these.  I’m not just telling him what to do.
NOTARY:  (could not care less)  Oh, I know.[8]
DAD:  (initialing)
ME:  And sign here.
DAD:  (signs)
ME:  Now there’s one section we didn’t discuss—people who should be kept notified regardless of PoA status.  With your permission, I’ll add myself and Mark to that?
DAD:  (approvingly)  Thank you.
ME:  This way there’s none of that… (gestures)  ugliness.  Nobody can ever be cut off from the flow of information.
DAD:  (smiles, waves hand)
ME:  (completes form)  (hands off to notary)
NOTARY:  I’ll just go sign and stamp, then I’ll be back with two copies of each—one for each of the agents.
ME:  (tenses)
NOTARY:  (leaves)
DAD:  (takes my hands)  I want you to know something
ME:  (tiredly)  What is it, Daddy?
DAD:  You are the love of my life.  You are the reason I wake up every morning.
ME:  (melts)  I love you too, Daddy.



Next up:

I go to the fucking meeting…


[1] Nope, didn’t murder him either.  I did once ask him if it would make the Earth Goddess cry if he used actual deodorant instead of just rubbing pine needles in his armpits.  Our office manager overheard; she took me out to coffee and told me my promotion was on hold until the two of us could go two whole weeks without fighting.  Fifteen days later I had a new job title.  Two days after that, I was screaming at him to get his shit off my desk before I soaked it in fossil fuels and burned it.  Then I ate a burrito in front of him; I wasn’t even hungry.  Your takeaway here is clear: give me exactly the parameters you want me to follow, but don’t expect me to set one toe beyond them unless it suits me.

[2] Can we acknowledge please how amazeballs it is that I can talk to him like this?  Because I lived in mortal fear of this man for most of my life, and you’d never know it to watch us now.  I really think I’ve come a long way.  Therapy—it works!

[3] She knew all of this… smart cookie.

[4] They literally never spoke again.  Ignore them.

[5] Bitch, you gotta earn the good chair.


[7] And then she’s going to strangle him.

[8] Clearly my father’s drama was famous around the whole hospital.


Lost? Start at the beginning.

17 comments on “Chapter 12: BOOM!

  1. Jeffy says:

    I feel like we’re into a drama serial at this point, waiting for the next episode though knowing it will only cause bewilderment, worry and guilty laughter.

    Chase, you are a champion and if I’m ever in hospital, i want you as my advocate.
    In the meantime, try and take care of yourself too.

    Also, what was your office manager thinking?? People should wear deodorant in the office!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Rivergirl says:

    Wow. Just… wow. That’s the entire Coney Island roller coaster right there. Victory, but at what emotional cost? I’d have been a blubbering mess after that encounter. And I can’t imagine Mark will be thrilled with your new status, so there’s that to look forward to. On the other hand, I think the way you talk to your father is perfect. Clearly it’s what he needed to hear… and from the sounds of it? You’ve earned the right.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Evaine says:


    Also, I feel like not wearing deodorant should be considered a workplace code of conduct violation. Since I work on a psychiatric unit, patients often can’t get their own deodorant. We’re on a shoe-string budget at the hospital, but still give our recreation workers enough money to make sure we have deodorant for those patients. I feel like our rate of violent incidents would go up without it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. wds2020 says:

    I am impressed with the number of Specialist Medicos around. Seems to be, when one is wanted they appear.

    Here in West Oz they sneak in after 9pm, once all the visitors are gone, shuffle some papers and sneak out.

    Is it because they are all feeding at the Veteren’s Affairs bowl? i.e. unlimited government funding.

    Is it because they are kind careing medical professionals.

    Is it because the United States health system is well funded and well staffed and well equiped.

    My Dad is 90 and my experiences have been way different at least on a health care level. Here in West Oz.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Okay so couple of things:

      This was a really good hospital. As in, I considered divulging his exact location so other people in the area could know where the GOOD hospital is. And it’s rare that I have zero complaints about staff at any medical facility, but these folks were top-notch. So yeah, he was on a medical unit (where you get more attention) in a really good hospital, which meant we could summon specialists pretty quickly when needed.

      This was not a VA hospital. VA hospitals (like the rest of the VA) are poorly funded and under-staffed. I don’t blame the staff for these failings, but a VA hospital is the very last place I would send anyone I care for if I had ANY other choice.

      Also – and I hate that this is a factor but blame our fucked-up system – my dad has excellent insurance. This does not mean that he gets more attention from doctors, but it DOES mean he can have any medicine and go to the best facilities. When I was scouting rehabs, they all asked about insurance at some point in the tour… and ALL of them smiled a relieved, genuine smile of welcome when I answered. Then they showed me the good rooms, because that’s what all his hard work bought him.

      One last point, because this went from simple rant to political lecture when I wasn’t looking: MY experience in ANY hospital will be different from most people’s. This is because of how I walk in that first day, taking charge (and, on one memorable occasion, prisoners). Some Drs and nurses will hate me, some fear me, some love me… but they all come running when I call because I make myself Head of the Team. That’s the best advice I can give anyone in a similar situation… just go in like you’ve got a job and it’s to get everyone pulling in the same direction; know things and repeat them; help when you’re able, even if they could just as easily “call someone.”

      (And, if possible, have a crazy shit relative so beyond awful that everyone loves you by default)

      Liked by 1 person

      • wds2020 says:

        Dearest Ms Actual,

        Thankyou for your insights into a system I am not familiar with.
        So glad to hear your Dad is in a GOOD hospital.

        Got the “taking charge” thing, down.
        -Most of the clan are Medicos in one way or another.

        Got the “so beyond awful that everyone loves you” thing, down.
        – The Wicked Stepdaughter has got this well covered.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. nbratscott says:

    Holy Shit!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ET says:

    Holy Shit. It just dawned on me that not only is this like The Notebook (but shittier), but you are Snow White.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Christina says:

    Many years ago, I worked in an office where one of the employees not only did not wear deodorant, but also smoked heavily and didn’t understand personal space. It was so bad that the partners has to act before the rest of the staff revolted against him. Deodorant is not optional. It is essential.

    You’ve done amazingly well speaking to your father like that. Even with therapy, I don’t think I could be that direct with mine.

    Liked by 1 person

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