Months To Years Summer 2018 MTY_Summer2018_v7 - Page 37

Washtub By Patti See My father’s voice sounds like Nick Nolte gargling I’ve heard our home-care nurse use this word a few times marbles.  Dad’s almost 91; I think of him as when she listened to Dad’s lungs. my baby.  Same flutter in my heart when I suspect something is wrong, same crushing weight of responsibility “We’ll never get him to urgent care,” I say. and tenderness.  At a glance I can tell his mood, health, or disposition. Today, two steps into Dad’s kitchen, I know he This nurse questions me about his temperature, oxygen likely has pneumonia. level, color of his sputum.  They are all normal, which makes me feel a little better. “It’s a head cold, not a chest cold,” he says. “I’m fine.”   When I was a child, Saturday was for baths in our Unlike a baby, Dad can choose his own fate.  A common family.  As the youngest of eight, I got to bathe first.   A cold can turn deadly within hours: he could drown in his little more hot water was added for the next oldest, David, own juices if his lungs fill.  His emphysema is from decades then Geralynn, Joe Junior, and on up. Then Mom, and of breathing coal and diesel fumes, not to mention finally, Dad.  My parents both grew up on farms without smoking for 50 years.  indoor plumbing; they never stopped seeing running water as the tremendous commodity it is. There were many perks My sister and I rarely visit Dad at the same time, but this to being the “baby” of the family—doted upon by older Saturday morning we’re here together to decorate for siblings, adored by parents who knew I’d be the last—but Christmas. Geralynn and I tag-teamed our way through bathing in my own water was at the top of that list.  our mom’s illness and death.  Now we’re doing the same for Dad.  When my mom got too sick to care for herself, Saturday mornings were for bathing her, first on my own and then While he showers, Geralynn puts together his pint-sized with Geralynn’s help.  artificial tree, and I call Dad’s home-care hotline.  When I finally get a real person, I have to think before I give Two things Dad did when the last kid left home (me!): Dad’s date of birth. ordered cable TV and installed a shower in his bathtub. I think this was so he’d never have to bathe in someone I’ve only said my own or my son’s birthday on the phone else’s water ever again. to a medical professional.  I pause.  “January.”  Another   pause.  “18.”  1930 or 1926—which is Mom and which is Dad?  “1926,” I say. The nurse says, “At his age, he needs to come in.”   Today after Dad’s shower, I tell him about the nurse hotline.  “Why would you call them?” he asks, incredulous that we’d bother anyone on a Saturday because of a mere “head I don’t bother telling her Dad’s other ailments, one of cold.”   which might have killed a weaker man: congestive heart failure, diabetes, chronic gout, sleep apnea. Palliative care, a step before hospice, means we have a nurse available via phone 24 hours a day.  I remind him “He thinks he’s better today,” I tell her.  “But he how fast a cold can become pneumonia. sounds juicy.”   37