Dodging Bullets

A little over three years ago I woke before dawn to my phone ringing. It was my Dad in Texas. He said, “I’m having a stroke. I love you. I’ve already called the ambulance. I’ll be ok.” Before I could get much more info out of him he stopped me, “They’re here. I love you.” By 9 pm that evening I was in Victoria, Texas in his ICU room.

That started a long path of moving him out of his house, from Texas to Oregon, clearing and selling his house, and coming to terms with his mortality. As it all started one of his siblings (he had 9), told me, “You know, he’s always dodged bullets and at some point, he won’t be so lucky.” She was right but I think his luck is running out. Or more accurately our current president has chewed up what Dad had left.

Dad on a trip up to Mt. Hood this past summer.

Dad was born in rural central Texas. One of 10 kids to a sharecropper who never fully recovered from injuries in WWI. Not all of his siblings made it. One of his sisters died of typhoid at 12 years old. Many of his brothers have already passed away so in a way that’s his first bullet missed. At 85 he’s doing better than most of his older brothers.

Around 15 he went hunting with one of the other boys in the area. They were both in a living room and his friend was cleaning his .22 rifle. Well, it wasn’t empty and the gun went off, shooting my dad in the chest. The bullet hit him right in the sternum which prevented the bullet from ricocheting around his chest and shredding his lungs. And he was able to get medical fairly quickly as his family had moved closer to town. That was a “bullet” missed.

Dad worked as a union boilermaker from the 70s until 1997. At some point in the 70s he worked in a vessel removing insulation. The insulation was asbestos and at the time, no one wore masks or protective equipment except for gloves and possibly eye protection. Many people that were in the same situation ended their lives fighting lung cancer well before being grand-parents. Another “bullet” dodged.

Diabetes runs in his family and given the hard times his family went through in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, sweets were a delicacy. My mom loved to bake and Dad rarely, if ever, went to work without a cookie or two in his lunchbox. When he was diagnosed, Mom made sure that he ate a bit better and did her best to find alternatives. He has survived it for the most part, although the disease has done some damage. If not for Mom, he would have lost that battle long ago. Yet another “bullet”.

I could go on. Because he recognized the signs of a stroke, he got to the hospital very quickly and the damage was minimal. After moving into a rural house not far from where he grew up, he nearly severed two of his fingers on his right hand. If not for a neighbor he would have bled to death and not made it to the hospital. He’s been t-boned in a car in the late 70s by a drunk driver. While in the hospital for the stroke they discovered his kidneys had failed and started him on dialysis. His sister, Francis, enumerated story after story of how he nearly was maimed or killed. Hell, I remember him having to lie for a day or two in a completely dark room due to his eyes being burned from welding flash.

Dad will be 86 this year in June. But given the circumstances, I’m not sure he’ll dodge this one. He’s in a small assisted living facility here in Oregon. I haven’t been able to see him for nearly 2 weeks. As this disease has spread I’ve done my best to explain what was going on and why I couldn’t visit. The stories from the facilities in the Northwest are quite close to home. I’ve been paying attention to the events in Italy through a colleague there. I’m terrified that the lackadaisical behavior of our president and folks not taking this seriously will end up putting him in the hospital. Given the reports from Italy and the way we’re going, I doubt he won’t get sick.

The reality is, if he gets sick, he’ll die while he loses the ability to breathe. I likely will be unable to visit due to quarantines or danger to my own family. We likely wouldn’t be able to even do a proper funeral with the family in Texas. Hell, it may be that I won’t be able to get his body to Texas. I’m sure there are hundreds here, soon to be thousands, likely millions that will be in similar situations.

And in a certain respect that is the worst of it. This has already happened in many countries. Many of our so-called leaders have known of this coming disaster and have been more concerned about the stock market, their own fortunes, and protecting their privilege than doing the work needed to protect people. It is disgusting that my father, who has more intelligence, integrity, and ingenuity than this con artist is likely to die in a miserable way.

Satellite TV, Sleep & an Unexpected Guest

After seeing Dad that first night, I went back to his house in Cuero and tried to sleep.  It wasn’t easy. Between the emotions and just traveling all day I couldn’t sleep.  The two hour time change meant even if all was good I wouldn’t really be sleepy until midnight.  Adding everything else on just meant satellite TV and I were going to get very acquainted. Continue reading “Satellite TV, Sleep & an Unexpected Guest”

February 28, 2016

At 6am on most Sundays you’ll find me doing my best to stay asleep.  My alarm most mornings kicks in at 5:30 and by 6am I’m usually out the door heading to work.  On Sundays, if I’m lucky, I’ll sleep until at least 6:30am and my kids will pile into bed with me.  They’re getting bigger now and I doubt I have much longer before they just get up and start their own breakfasts.

This morning I’m half asleep and I hear my phone buzzing away on my night stand.  Immediately I know there is a problem.  I sit up and get the phone.  It is my dad, calling from his house in Cuero, Texas. Continue reading “February 28, 2016”