Tuesday, December 22, 2015

This is not why you come here.

This is a personal note.  It is so far outside of the scope of the blog's usual forté that you will be forgiven if you want to skip it entirely, as it represents pure self-indulgent, teary-eyed bleating on my part.  If you're up for that, three days before Christmas, you are welcome here.  In fact, let's do a page break...

I'm writing it because... I need to get it out.  And because the more I tell the story, I think, the less I end up crying at the thought.

Dear Reader, my friend.

On Sunday evening, I walked past the living room.  My Father was sitting there, with his hand on his temple, and his eyes closed.  I asked if he was feeling okay, and he said he wasn't feeling too hot.  I asked if he thought he might be getting sick, and he nodded.

He felt nauseous, he said, and this was no doubt on account of the three-or-four-day-old Chinese food he had consumed as a snack earlier in the day.  I advised my Mother that Gatorade is actually what the doctor orders for food poisoning, as - after puking your guts out for a while - your body needs to have its electrolytes restocked (or so a doctor had told me, when I suffered from food poisoning once.)

I walked down to the local convenience store.  Well, actually, no.  I walked past it to the one a half-block further, because the old Vietnamese guy who works there is a sweetheart, and usually when I walk in he's practising on an acoustic guitar behind the counter.  I cleaned out their entire supply of fruit punch and orange punch Gatorade, and came home.

Dad was up on the second floor, sitting on a couch in a spare room, sleeping.  I told him softly that I was leaving him some Gatorade, and that he should drink it, and it would make him feel better.  He mumbled something, and I left him alone to come blog, or something.

A minute or so later, there was a sound.  An awful, strange sound like a combination of a cat screaming and a metal crate being dragged across concrete.  I bust out of my room, called to my mother to see if she knew what that was, and bolted into the spare room.

My Father's face was siezed up.  He wasn't breathing.  He was biting down on his tongue so hard he was drawing blood, and I shouted the word "Dad" at the top of my lungs, and again, and again, over and over and over as he stopped shaking and sort of collapsed.  My mother asked if she should call 911 and I told her  "now, right now, right now right now!"  He wasn't breathing.  Then he started - sort of - but it was an awful gurgling, like nothing was getting out and nothing was going in and his tongue looked like it was filling his entire mouth and there was white stuff pushing out from between his lips.

My mother handed me the phone, and stepped back.  She told me later that she disassociated as it happened - like she was watching the scene from over her own shoulder, unable to act.

I asked the lady on the phone if I should put him on his back, and she said yes.  I pulled his legs out from under him and swept them up onto the couch.  I grabbed his right arm and pulled it out from under him, and laid him on his back.  She told me to put one hand on his forehead and one behind his neck, and tilt his head just like I'd learned to in first aid training and immediately forgot as soon as it was my Dad.

He was breathing, but it was awful. His eyes were barely open - just a sliver - but he wasn't seeing anything. I held him and begged him to be okay and begged the lady on the phone to get help.  To just please help us, and... in no time at all, actually, they showed up.  Within like five minutes firemen were storming through the house, paramedics, supervisors.

They got him talking, but it didn't sound like him.  He couldn't keep his eyes open.  His speech was slurred.  They asked him a bunch of questions and asked us a bunch of questions and put him on some special wheelchair that can make it down stairs, and took him out to the ambulance.  My mother was going to ride with him, and I would come later.  I found the cat, who's not allowed the run of the house at night, and shut him in his room.  I turned off the lights.  I went into my room and started sobbing.  Blubbering and moaning and crying out like a kid whose mother won't buy him a fucking toy.

I went downstairs and out the door to smoke a cigarette.  And the ambulance was still there.  What the fuck were they waiting for?  Take him to the fucking hospital.

They did.  Eventually.  And my mother, Kayla and I - and eventually my little brother - sat in the waiting room for an hour or two or I don't even know before they told us he was going for a CT scan.  Another hour later, and they let us see him.

An aneurysm had popped in his head.  It's like when a blood vessel in your brain becomes more of a blood sack, and as it expands the walls of the sack get thinner and thinner, until one of them fails and blood gushes out into your brain, where no blood should go.  That produced the seizure I witnessed, as his brain basically said "what the FUCK" and flipped right out.

We waited some more, as they pumped him full of some dye that shows up better on the scanners, and sent him for another scan.  Surgery was scheduled for the next day, and there was nothing else we could do.  We all cried and hugged and went home.

The next day, he was due to go into surgery around noon.  The neurosurgeon came and talked us through it, and laid out some facts that no one else had thought to mention.  If he gets better - and that's a big if and they can't say if it's leaning one way or another - it will be weeks before there are even signs of it.  If he gets better - and that's a best-case scenario - his recovery will likely take over a year.

There is a twenty-four-hour window to operate in these matters, they told us, and it had to be done, but it didn't have to be done like right now.  So around noon they sent him for prep.  They told us the surgery would last about four hours - six with complications.

By eight PM, we were still waiting for word from the doctors on how it went, and on how he was doing.  And by nine.  And by ten PM, all I could get out of them was that he was "still in recovery."

I don't have much "family leave" at my job - thirty-five hours per fiscal year, and with yesterday, I had burned through half of it.  I had to work this morning, so I crashed out.  Called the hospital when I woke up.  The line was busy on the ward he's in, and they told me to call back later.

I went to work and called again.  The line was busy.  Call back later.

I called again.  The line was busy.  Call back later.

I called again, and the woman who answered put the Nurse in charge of my Father on the phone. "And who am I speaking to?"

"David Ferber, I'm his son."

"And what do you know so far?"

"That he went for brain surgery last night and we haven't heard shit since."

"Okay, well I'm not permitted to discuss details with someone who just calls in..."

"Do you not have a contact sheet with the names and phone numbers of his family that lists David Ferber his son with this fucking number because my Father had fucking brain surgery last night and we haven't been told a Goddamned thing about how that went or how he's doing!?"

"Um... I might.  How about I check and call you back?"

"I would appreciate that!"

Twenty minutes later, he called back.  Then excused himself because an emergency had appeared.

When he came back on the line, he told me that my Father's surgery had gone perfectly.  There were no complications, and no big problems.  He told me my Father has a tube going into his skull to relieve the pressure.

When blood gets into the brain, it's a big fucking problem.  Your brain is surrounded by a sac - like an embryo in a womb - full of this clear fluid.  The fluid is constantly being filtered by tissues in the brain, but those filters can't abide blood cells - the blood cells clog them up, and the result is ever-increasing pressure inside the brain cavity until it becomes a big problem.

So my Dad's got a tube in his skull.

When you go through brain surgery, it's... sort of traumatic.  So when he gains any degree of awareness or lucidity, he's raving and swearing and struggling to get out of the bed.  Which is, I'm told, a good sign - his speech functions work, and his motor skills are healthy - but on account of the whole tube-in-the-head thing, he can't be permitted to move all that much.

They restrained him.

Not many people have good parents.  I know.  I know I'm lucky.  With my Father's mortality writ large, with the image of his spasming face burned into my brain, the thought of his funeral is far nearer than I...

And y'know all the nice shit people say about people at their funerals?  I've heard the nicest things said about the meanest, cruelest people at funerals - things no one would ever accuse them of in life.

The thing is, people have been saying that shit about my Dad for his whole life.  That he's the nicest, sweetest man you'll ever meet.  That he's so smart.  That he's so kind.  So funny.  Such a brilliant teacher (he taught for a few years), such an incredible manager (he managed stores and districts of Woolco before it was bought out by Wal-Mart).  My Dad was - my Dad is a man from the days when all men wore hats.  He can change a tire and fix your plumbing and redo the entire interior of your house, and he'll do it.  Everyone who knows him loves him.

He'll do anything for you.  I could call him from two towns over at three in the morning on a work night, and my Father will get out of bed and drive, because he could never - for a moment - imagine not helping his son.

He worked like a madman his entire life.  He worked so hard.  He finally retired this year, and last week he complained to me that he was so bored... so bored to not constantly be on the go.

I was glad he finally was able to take a break.  But life wouldn't give him a fucking break.

Kayla and I moved into a house together, earlier this year, and the landlord sold it out from under us a few months later to a very nice Filipino family.  We were furious about it, at the time - she was basically a slumlord, refused to fix appliances when they crapped out and then tried to fuck us on the damage deposit - and I moved back in with my parents.

People are suggesting that it was fate that I was there, to help him, to get 911 on the phone, to take care of my Mom when it happened, but that...

I believe in the soul, but I don't know if I believe in God.  I think people search, desperately, for meaning in tragedy and death because without meaning it's just awful.  It's scarier to think that a certain percentage of people will just have a blood vessel in the brain pop for no reason, with no previous symptoms, with no warning, and get taken away from you for no purpose whatsoever than it is to think God's got a plan.  It's a lot easier to think a wise bearded dude on a cloud needed my Dad to have a fucking cerebral hemorrhage in order to pave the way for the endlessly interwoven fates of all mankind, but life ain't easy.

I don't think luck or fate or God had anything to do with this.  I think my Father is the most tirelessly, inexhaustibly loving, giving, thoughtful, kind and funny human being I've ever known, and there is no reason or plan or poetry to what happened to him.

There's just tears and terror and the unthinkable thought of life without him.


  1. Thank you for sharing. I'm sorry that you and your dad (and mom) went through that, and I hope he makes a full recovery and continues to bring joy to everyone in his life, continuing a lifelong tradition of doing so. He sounds like a wonderful man who has touched many lives, and I'm glad you have him - and I'm sure he's so glad to have you. I'll keep you, him, and your whole family in my thoughts - and prayers, whatever that's worth to you, but I happen to believe and it can't hurt - during this season. All the best to you guys.