Why is it that emergencies don’t happen when we are sitting at home reading or watching the news? Almost all of my emergencies happen when I’m at work. As did this one with my father.
At the time, probably the summer or early fall of 1994, I was working as a Program Director for a non-profit agency for adults with disabilities. My father called me at work and told me that he was really sick. He said he had “thrown up all over the place” and asked me to come help him clean it up. He certainly didn’t sound chipper, but he didn’t sound desperate either.
I grabbed some gloves, the kind that nurses and doctors use, and left work. On the way I stopped at the store and picked up some ginger ale and saltines for him.
When I arrived at his house, all the shades were drawn which I thought was strange. It was over 80 degrees, so perhaps he wanted to keep the sun out of the house. I was greeted by a blast of hot air when I opened the front door. He had the heat cranked up high.
And there was no vomit anywhere.
My father was sitting in the living room and the first thing he did was ask me to check on my mother who was in the other room. But my mother wasn’t in the other room. My mother had died in May of 1994. How do you respond to that? I was totally unnerved but decided to ignore him. I called 911 and tried to go into act-as-if-you-are-at-work-and-this-isn’t-your-father mode. I opened the curtains, turned the air conditioning on, got out his meds and arranged them on the kitchen table for the EMT’s.
When the ambulance and police arrived, my father asked them what they were doing there and told them that they should be checking on my mother. I pretended to go check on her instead of screaming SHE’S DEAD at him. Then, my father refused to let anybody but me touch him.
Are you kidding me??? My dad was 6’2″ and weighed over 225 pounds. Easily. I’m 5’2″ if I go a little on my tippy-toes when I’m being measured. And my father refused to let anyone but me get him out of his recliner onto the gurney. Luckily, I know how to move people without throwing out my own back, from my job. So I helped the EMTs get him on the gurney, and then move him up the gurney so that his head was in the right place. He was very angry and was cursing at the police and EMT guys. I finally said “Stop it right now,” in the stern voice I use with my kids. Amazingly, he stopped.
And he was furious that I wasn’t riding in the ambulance with him. I followed in my car but was about 5 minutes behind the ambulance as I closed up his place. Plus I couldn’t drive a kazillion miles an hour with sirens blazing.
When I entered the Emergency Room at the Northern Westchester Hospital, I could hear my father bellowing “BARBARA ELIZABETH YOU BETTER GET YOUR ASS IN HERE NOW!” Good Lord.
One of the nurses turned to me and said “Please tell me you’re Barbara Elizabeth.”