Wednesday, February 5, 2014



     I sat on the couch in front of the TV. What they said on the screen didn't matter. There was nothing in my mind except some inane song lines repeating themselves over and over again. My heart was empty too: either it was cold and unfeeling by nature or it was too terrified to acknowledge the loss.
     My father was gone. I only just recently realized, how great of a person he was, and now he was dead. I couldn't even say that I was all that good to him. I knew that I could've extended myself a little more to make him enjoy the last years of his life. Instead it was business as usual: I took care of him physically, but many times was too impatient or insensitive to listen to him a little more or to offer my love and appreciation in a deeper way.
     One morning, I found him on the floor of his room. I called the ambulance, put a pillow under his head and got dressed before the EMTs showed up. I was used to it already: he fell down a few times before. I waited for some time in the ER , then went to pick up Sonny from school.

     When I came back to the hospital, dad wasn't in the room. "He developed a bleed in his brain" - a nurse informed me, - "they took him for a CATscan".
     When the orderlies wheeled dad into the room, he was already exhibiting signs of intracranial bleeding: his tongue stuck out of his mouth in a grotesque way and left hand kept creeping up to his face again and again. I held on to this hand, trying to encourage him, but, even though I was not sure if he was conscious at all, his eyes looked terrified.
     He had to have an operation to relieve the pressure on his brain from the blood that collected inside the cranium. I sat in the hospital lobby by myself for hours, praying and singing the spiritual songs. Sometimes I would just repeat: "Breathe, papa, breathe!" Taka coldly told me on the phone, like he was making an appointment, that he will come to the hospital in the evening. I was so used to that attitude of: "I am making money for the family, don't bother me with anything else," that I didn't even think of telling him to come right over there instead.
     My pastor, who never showed any inclination to get involved in my troubles, told the church congregation later that he came to the hospital, couldn't find me or find out about dad's situation, so he talked to some other family in the lobby that was expecting a news
My pastor, Kevin T.
about their loved one. I was, probably, a few chair away, singing and praying. He sure didn't try very hard to find me!

At 10 pm, the surgeon came out to tell me that dad was alright. During the operation there was a time, when they couldn't ventilate him. At eighty nine years of age, the doctors, finally, found the reason for dad's constant battle with coughs and choking. His trachea was S-shaped! The doctors had to take some critical measures, but he was now out of the woods. Taka and Sonny arrived just then. I was too happy for dad, to complain about being left alone at such a crucial time For a couple of days my father stayed in the ICU. The nurses and doctors there showed remarkable dedication to their patients' welfare and recovery. Dad opened his eyes, talked and laughed with me, flirted with nurses. Then he went back to sleep.

         When he was brought to a room on the hospital floor, I came to visit him regularly and read Russian newspaper aloud or talked to him. He would whisper something to me in reply to my questions or squeeze my hand, but never fully awoke after that. The surgeon said that, most likely, his body needed time to recover, and then he would wake up.
     The hospital started to talk to me about making arrangements to transfer him to a convalescent home. Then, on Sunday afternoon, as I was driving to the hospital, a nurse called to tell me that father developed a pneumonia and was fighting for his life. 
     A day or two before that, I noticed that he went deeper into a slumber. He also started to grimace and pull his hand up to his face, as with an intracranial bleeding. To my inquiries, the doctor said that they checked him and found everything to be fine. 
     The picture at the ICU was horrible. Dad's whole body was convulsing, trying in vain to draw breath, but couldn't get enough air to sustain life.
     I insisted that a doctor should be present. They let me call him, but the bastard refused to come. He said that, dad might respond to the antibiotics that were administered to him, and there was no need to panic.This didn't happened. The nurse told me that there was no hope, dad's organs were beginning to shut down from the lack of oxygen.  
     I can't help but feel that  the hospital's staff was neglectful in my father's case. It's really a shame: they made such effort and spent so many resources to save him, only to let it all be wasted later
     I called my sister in Denmark to tell her that dad was dying, and a friend, who called our pastor. He came this time.Taka showed up with Sonny, but didn't make any attempt to comfort me with a word or with a touch. Sonny looked at his father and me in confusion. I took his arm and drew him to me. What will he learn by watching his parents' relationship? Will he be as unfeeling and distant to his own wife?
     We agreed to discontinue life support soon after that. The nurse gave dad a shot of morphine to ease his suffering. Now we just needed to wait.
Taka in one of his "teaching" moods.
     Taka announced that he was, obviously, not needed there anymore. He left with Sonny (pastor went long before that). An hour or so later, Taka returned... to exchange cars, since he would need the one that I had at the hospital in the morning. I didn't try to say anything to him: if he didn't understand that he should've stayed with me, there was no use in teaching him!
     Dad became quiet after the morphine, hopefully, not feeling the pain anymore. I held his hand and sang and talked to him like before. I told him, how much we loved him, and how much he meant for us. In a few hours, his breathing came slower and slower and, finally, stopped. If someone doesn't believe in the existence of a soul, they should watch a person die. One minute it was my father on a bed in front of me. The next - it was only an empty shell. 
     I walked through the empty hospital hallways carrying and dropping dad's things which were returned to me. At home, Sonny hugged and cried with me. Taka attempted to pat me on the head, like I was a child, but after that never offered any solace. Things are better between us now, but, I don't think I can ever forget his neglect at the time when I needed him the most! 
     Dad is never far from my mind. Most of the time, I think of something funny or moving that he said or did, but sometimes, I can't overcome a deep sense of emptiness that his death left in my life. Wherever he is, I hope that he knows, how much we miss and love him! 
     Good bye, Papa!

Meyer Minsky, my dad.


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