During the first weekend of March 2016, our friends Mike and Rhoda visited my parents. The visit went well, and Dad walked around the house with little or no assistance from his cane. We were all pleased and impressed with his progress and felt that his recovery was nothing short of miraculous. Unfortunately, a couple of days after they left, Dad tripped while stepping into the sunken living room. This fall led to some back pain and some minor setbacks.
As March 2018 approached, these same friends asked if they could join Stan and me during one of our weekend trips to see my parents. My parents love our friends and were thrilled that they had time for a weekend visit. Not only did I look forward to Rhoda and Mike’s company, I hoped that they might be able to provide me with a little perspective. Dad and I are very much alike, and we have a history of digging in our heels. For the past few months, he and I had been locking horns about his diuretics, but perhaps I was too critical of his decision not to take the drugs as prescribed or on any regular basis but only according to his own rules, including not take them when guests, including Stan and me, were staying at the house.
The six of us quickly fell into our routine of happy hour and card games, and we spent many hours catching up on the activities of the past few months.
Unlike during the visit of two years ago, Dad’s gait seemed unsteady to me, and I practically held my breath as he walked around the house. His legs were swollen, and I was pretty sure that the reason was that he was retaining a significant amount of fluid. I’m far from an expert on the subject, but I could not help but believe that all this fluid in his legs was affecting his gait, and perhaps his center of balance. As I had feared, because my parents had company for the weekend, Dad was not taking the diuretics. I also wasn’t certain when he had last taken a dose or how often he was taking them.
Dad and I are usually the first ones up in the morning, and when I saw him in the kitchen on Sunday morning, I was distressed about his appearance. Overnight, it seemed as if his face had puffed up. I told him that his appearance concerned me. He dismissed my concerns and said that he would not take the pills this weekend.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, my concerns were validated by my friends when they told me that they also thought that Dad seemed unsteady. My husband, who can usually talk me down when I’m overly concerned, didn’t help much when he said that he was also worried about Dad’s gait and the swelling in his legs.
If Dad had had serious renal failure, he wouldn’t have lasted two weeks without dialysis. As the nephrologist had told us, Dad’s condition was borderline. His kidneys were working, but not well enough to eliminate enough fluid, and it was slowly accumulating around vital organs and now in his extremities. The more that I pressured him to take his pills, the more we argued and the more he claimed to be fine.
The following Saturday, Stan and I had been asleep at our home in Houston for an hour when we were awakened by the telephone. Phone calls at 11:00 P.M. have seldom delivered good news, and I strained to hear the answering machine, hoping that it was a wrong number. Unfortunately, the voice that I heard was Mom’s, and I sprang from the bed and raced to the other room to answer the phone.
She had just returned home from the Scott & White Hospital, where she had left Dad. It seemed that shortly before 7:00 P.M., Dad had fallen while stepping up from the sunken sunroom to the family room. Although the sunroom was carpeted, the family-room floor was a hard-tiled surface. Dad was in a lot of pain, and Mom had called 911. X-rays showed that he had broken his hip in the socket and would require surgery to insert two or three pins. His surgery was tentatively scheduled for the next day, Palm Sunday, at 1:00 P.M. Perhaps I’m a cynic, but the idea of surgery on a Sunday set off alarm bells in my head. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the B Teams perform surgery on Sundays.
Stan and I had had a long day and had consumed some alcohol during the evening, so I wasn’t about to drive to Temple. I was shaken after hanging up from my phone call with Mom, and I took a sleeping pill to help me return to sleep. Although I needed to get up early to drive to Temple to be with Mom during Dad’s surgery, I also needed to get back to sleep. I suspected that it would be prudent of me to take my work computer with me. A broken hip at 89 sounded like bad news to me and I feared what might be in store for us as a family.