My father woke up around four and removed the outer bandages covering the skin graft that protects the area where his ear used to be. I could say he was incredibly quiet, sneaky, and possesses great stealth, but the plain truth is we are tired, and we didn’t hear a thing.
Our plan seemed solid at ten o’clock last night–my sister and I would sleep in the bedroom closest to our father’s room, and check on him every few hours or so. That backfired. Tonight, we’ll take turns sleeping–we can’t risk infection, and my father is 1000% committed in his quest to remove the bandages on his head and over his missing ear. As many times as we’ve replace the bandages, he has attempted to remove them.
Are we afraid of what his reaction will be when he sees the wound? Will he remember the wound ten minutes later when he’s distracted? Will the shock of his missing ear cause him to remember the surgery and his hospital stay? I don’t know. We finally saw the wound yesterday when the nurse came to the house to change the dressing. Sobering and tragic are the only words that come to mind. Poor man. Stay in the mystery, Dad. Don’t look.
Early this morning, my sister woke to find him in front of the bathroom mirror, poised and ready to remove the Curad-medicated pad–the last bit of fortress between mystery and reality–he has not seen what is left of his ear yet. He’d already removed the outer bandages and the gauze covering the wound where the skin graft was taken from his thigh. The questions began. I jumped out of bed. “What happened to my head; how did I get cancer?” There was no reasoning with him, and no amount of pleading or gentle scolding will stop him.
“Stop, Dad. Leave it alone.” He answered us curtly, “I’m not touching it. Leave me alone.” The hand went back up. Compulsive; that’s my Dad. That hasn’t changed.
I needed caffeine at that point. When my father called me Carol, and didn’t know who my sister was, he said, “Give me more clues.” He sounded like a child and I realized he wasn’t kidding. “That’s okay, Dad. Go to sleep now. We love you.” I truly thought it would be a traumatic experience the day my father forgot who we were, but it wasn’t. It is what it is; we’ve been expecting it. The night my mother died came to mind. It was 1992, and I prayed God would release my mother from pain. I did not, however, pray to keep her with us while she was in so much pain. That’s the night I knew I’d grown a bit more. This morning was another of those growth moments. My father doesn’t remember us, but we remember and love him.
Finally, all lights were turned off, and it was still pitch black outside. I heard the traffic in the distance, and told my sister to sleep until eight. I would keep watch. On the second day in Florida after my father’s surgery, I wondered who would care of me when I turn 84? I’m a single woman and I know my beautiful children will take care me, but they need to live their lives. Who then? Right then and there, I prayed to never be a huge burden on my kids–not emotionally, physically, or spiritually. But I would never take away nor release them from caring for me–because it is through these moments, we come to understand life, and we grow and learn.