Being a Dad is something I cherish. It encompasses many, many terrific moments and some not so terrific moments. We don’t like having to discipline our children or watch them fail, but that is part of being a parent and part of the growing process. Perhaps, however, there is one thing that a parent does not ever want to do…that a child should never have to go through, yet many will.
And so, three years ago, I had to do just that.
My wife had been in the hospital for nearly a month for some kind of muscular problem that was causing her to lose mobility. For a short time, things looked better. She was undergoing therapy and was receiving treatment. Everyday, I would take Chase to school and go to the hospital to stay with my wife. Some days, I would go into the office before heading to the hospital. Eventually, I took a leave from work and just went to the hospital. Chase would come to see his mother, most days, after school. However, as the time wore on, he stopped wanting to spend time at the hospital and I don’t blame him. By that point, she was heavily medicated and not always lucid. Even so, we all remained optimistic, including the one doctor who was really digging in and searching for her problem.
One day, I went into the office for a few hours. While there, I got one of those feelings that told me I had to leave. I told my supervisor that I needed to leave and then I went to the hospital. Upon arriving there, I went to her room and she was gone—no sign that she was in the room, ever. Panicked, I went to find a nurse, who, very tersely, informed me that she was in ICU. She had aspirated in her sleep and developed pneumonia. Her immune system was already ripped to shreds, so this did not help.
A couple of days later, I took Chase to see his mom. It was a good visit, but a short one. He could not handle seeing her with tubes in her and nearly unintelligible. So, I took him home and went back for a few hours.
That Monday, I was feeling pretty good about her prognosis and was thinking the worst was behind us. I took Chase to school and proceeded to the hospital. On the way, however, the doctor called me and said that she had taken a turn for the worse and that I should go to the waiting area first. He would meet me there. Well, he didn’t but another doctor did. He was not sure about what was going on, and walked with me to her ICU room. She had experienced something like a stroke and it blew out her pupils. I knew at that point, this was very serious. While waiting for the other doctor, a friend dropped by. It was that point the doctor came in and told us that my wife would not likely make it into the evening.
Needless to say, this was quite a shock. The first think I though of was Chase. How in the world am I going to tell my twelve year old son that he is about to lose his mother? The drive from the hospital to the school was one of the longest drives in my entire life and one I never want to make under those circumstances ever again.
Arriving at the school, I goto the attendance office and tell the lady what was going on. She sent someone to get him. As soon as he saw me, I could tell his heart just sank. I walked him, quietly, out of the building. Once outside, I knelt down and just told him. Told him that his mother would not likely make it through the day.
The drive to the hospital was quiet, with an occasional ‘are you ok?’ coming from one of us. Friends and family had gathered at the hospital by the time we got there.
Chase did not want to go into her room, which I quite understood. I stayed with him for a bit and then went back to her room.
At some point, I had to make the decision to not continue any attempt to prolong her life. Doing so would, likely, cause more harm than good and that she would have no quality of life. I could not bear that. She lasted several hours after they stopped the drugs.
“What am I going to do with Chase? How am I going to handle him?” were the first things that came to me when the doctor pronounced her dead. I, yet again, had to go tell my son that something bad has happened to his mother.
He knew, as soon as walked into the waiting room. He was so brave, more so than I was. We hugged for what probably seemed like an eternity to him. I took him back to say his goodbye to her once they had cleaned her up and removed the tubes. We all cleared the room for him. He spent a few minutes with her and then wanted to leave.
His school had advised me that his grades were high enough that he would not have to come back (there was only a couple of weeks left) but he may want to come the last day to say bye to his school mates and partake in the picnic. He actually wanted to go back after only a few days.
We palled around those first few days after her death. I realized just how much about my son I did not know. That really bothered me and still does. He was way more stronger than I was…he was my rock.
Perhaps the worst part of her death was the timing…Chase’s birthday was two weeks after she died. What in the world would I do to at least make his birthday somewhat normal? Well, I followed through with plans that we were making prior to her hospitalization. I took him and his cousin to a Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg. It would be the first of many things I wanted to do to keep him busy.
Right or wrong, I did everything I could to keep both us from thinking too much about the that May and June. We took a few short trips to amusement parks in Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina. Those weekend trips were a lot of fun and the time we would spend together in the evenings, when I would get home from work were awesome.
I worried that he had not grieved very much but was assured that he would, in time. He has, but I still question whether I did the right things or not. There is rule book for something like and people handle death in many different ways. Chase has so many people who care and love him and the outpouring of support that we both got was overwhelming. Most of that support was for him, as it should be. I cannot thank enough, all of the people who stepped up to keep him busy while I worked during that summer.
It has been three years now since I had to tell my son that he lost his mother. In that time, we grew close and then seem to drift apart a bit. I think that is normal in father-son relationships, once the son is a teenager.
Chase may or may not realize it, but I love him very much and having to deliver two pieces of news like that were the most difficult things I ever had to do. Something I hope I never have to repeat.