Who’s Responsible?

The weekend before my father was admitted to the hospital, my mother called me from the Island to tell me he was experiencing tightness in his chest and was listless. I got very excited with her and told her to call the doctor. She said she couldn’t because it was the weekend. I responded that the doctor was ethically obligated to employ an answering service and she could get a hold of him any time of the night or day. She pushed back at this and said she’d see how dad felt the next day. I called the next day and mom assured me dad felt better.

The week went by and mom and dad were due to arrive at their mainland home on Friday, February 22nd. I was at our regional garden show that day when I received urgent voice mail from my husband about voice mail he’d received from my mom saying they had arrived but that my dad was ‘out of it.’ I called my mom first, got a reading about my dad, and instructed her to call 911. She refused saying she needed my father’s ‘buy-in’ before she could do this. I told her to talk to him about it and call me back. From 20 miles away, I ordered my daughter and husband (not that I had to order them, but in an emergency, I get exceptionally bossy) over to mom and dad’s to assess. My daughter took one look at her grandfather and instructed my husband to call 911. My mom was none too pleased about this.

I met the ambulance at the hospital. X-rays showed his left lung 100% occluded and his right at 60%.

Had my mother gotten my father to the doctor on February 16, 2013, would dad be alive today? Clearly the pressure he felt in his chest that weekend was the pneumonia. She had long ago become unable to provide his care. While I am angry at her for this, I am more angry at myself for not having fully understood just how bad the situation was. I don’t know if there was a way for me to know just how bad things were in the absence of a crisis. Dad was covering for mom like a pro. Losing my father is a damned hard price to pay. Of course, we can’t say if he had been admitted to the hospital 6 days earlier, he’d be alive today. Maybe it’s word games like this that allow me to let go of blaming my mother for my father’s death.

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