My mom and dad are both in the hospital with COVID-19.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have done as much research as I have been able, so I could approach the virus with a realistic perspective. When I say I have researched it, I don’t mean I Googled it, or watched as many news stories as I could. One of my strengths as an author is research and I believe my understanding of this dread virus is better than most. I have posted my findings on Facebook and in my blogs, often to the consternation of the political ideologues who have chosen to make this medical crisis a political opportunity with no real understanding of where their blind ideological stance may lead.
I have seen how the government and the media have weaponized the virus against conservatives. I have also seen how their efforts have drawn the easily manipulated members of the left into lockstep with the predominant voodoo science intended to terrify those unthinking masses into gathering at the bureaucratic knee for succor and safety. My thoughts return to those first few days of the pandemic when so many of our fellow Americans shared stories of losing friends and family with no access to say goodbye or to offer any sort of comfort or company.
The knowledge I have gained through my research has made me feel certain that both my parents will not come out of the hospital. I want to believe otherwise, and hope is fighting for a place at the forefront of my thoughts these days. As I told friends we had over a few weeks ago, this virus thins the herd, eliminating the old and the weak. My parents contracting the Corona Virus is the worst-case scenario, played out so many times since the virus was first released from the Wuhan Lab.
Amongst the thoughts everyone who has been in my situation faces includes my last conversation with them. My dad was hospitalized July 28th on his 83rd birthday. I spoke with him just before he was transported. I shared with him that this was a pretty crappy birthday gift and that I was there for him and wished him the best. My mom and I spoke at 2:30am, two days before she was transported. I told her that I just wanted to hear her voice and thought she might enjoy hearing a cheerful voice with all she was going through.
Now I cannot talk to either. The statistics, based upon the true medical science, says they will not return to their little home with the recently planted flowers. My dad will not have me over to help him build that new bar-b-que area behind his backyard shed. We will not go to Canada together for Christmas or in the spring. After 58 years, I will no longer have that often used, but seldom fully appreciated, confidence that I can always call home. I won’t have the chance to finally solve the mystery which has long been why my mother and father have always believed in me even when my actions and intentions plainly proved that faith unfounded.
My impression is that they have been pulled into a relentless meat grinder, to be destroyed and discarded. The hospital and health care professionals may be the last they see of this world. I cannot say goodbye. They can’t comfort me or my brothers and sister before they go. It is as if they were spirited away suddenly and without an appropriate struggle never to be heard from again.
My imagination tortures me with images of them wasting away in isolation, strapped to ventilators and IV tubes. The shirts I bought my mom to help at the trade show we are attending in two weeks will not ever be worn. My father will never again start one of his many stories with “What you don’t know is…” There will be no more macaroons, macarons, or home-made bread – or the associated story of how the baking didn’t go as planned albeit the final product never showed a lack of quality. My love, Alexandra, will no longer share the joy of her’s and my dad’s remarkable and exclusive relationship, and the loving conversations, the subject matter to which only they were privy. A true and deep friendship between two uniquely private people is special indeed.
I have no regrets. I made it my business over the past 20 years or so to strengthen my relationship with them. There is no ‘If I had more time I would have said or done this or changed that.’ There is only abject loss and a crippling desire to have those few years the natural limitations of life would have left us.
My anguish comes from no selfish sense of personal loss or fear of being alone. I am in agony at what my mother and father face. They are looking death in the eye. Both know what is at stake. I can only imagine the fear that fights to take its place, defying the hope to which they cling. The fear that battles with their prayers for preeminence over their faith. I struggle with the thought of their so many hours alone with the unknown.
12 Days after my Dad's Birthday
I wrote the first part of this piece 10 days ago. My father, Thomas Franklin Couch, passed away yesterday, August 9, 2021, around 5:20pm – 12 days after I spoke with him for the last time. My mother is still in the hospital. Her prognosis is unclear, but she says in her few messages that she feels she is improving. Since my parents were hospitalized, my two brothers and my sister, and their spouses, have contributed to a continual group text stream of information and hopeful advice. We have no experience with this sort of thing, and I am in awe of my siblings’ resourcefulness in acting definitively, moving purposefully on this tragic turn in all of our lives.
My youngest brother is tasked with the hardest job imaginable. He is the point of contact with the medical staff and my mother. He has handled my parents’ personal and business affairs in their absence as well as keeping all his family informed of the latest developments and the information passed along. He had to tell my mother that my father had passed. My heart breaks at the task he had to complete and how it must have hurt him.
My sister researched funeral homes and made arrangements to claim my dad’s body. How that task must have truly brought her face to face with the reality of her father being gone, and so soon after attending her biological father’s funeral only a couple of months before. I sit here at my keyboard, helpless to make a difference as my other brother makes contact with all of us throughout the day and the night. I have spoken with him at 2 in the morning and received texts at 11 at night. How tirelessly he works, energized by the love he feels for his mother and father, and us.
I don’t recall my siblings and I being this much in contact since we were kids. A lot of water has flowed under that bridge. As with family, petty politics and the carelessness of a perceived abundance of time has placed obstacles between us all. My son expressed that he hadn’t seen his grandparents in too long a time, and he felt badly that he hadn’t made more of an effort. I told him that that I too have been thoughtless under the duress of worry and grief in my communication with my family.
We have a common place where we all dwell today. We are in a world where we reflect upon the time with our father. Some of those memories are a delight, others are difficult to relive. One constant is that we will be a bit more alone until we are called. We are more alone in this place than we were yesterday. Every role Dad filled shall remain vacant from now on.
We will have to create our own legacy and hope there are the devoted few who will appreciate us in that role and unspoken place, maybe unrecognized in the moment, but important for them in a treasured spot allocated for us in their memories.
I had no intention of writing an obituary here. As a writer, my most powerful outlet for my feelings and my thoughts is in the written word. My spoken words frequently betray the sentiment behind the effort. I cannot misspeak, edit, and resubmit my message. In writing, I can. I also gain a singularly unique perspective on what I mean to share and how I shape it for the most accurate meaning. I don’t see myself as unique in how I am living this experience. I know this is a wrote chapter of everyone’s life. I gain a small comfort from the many who have lived through this, many I have spoken with the past day or so.
My intention is to chronicle the compelling feelings and emotions for which I have no control. I don’t want to forget, nor do I want the important lessons presenting themselves to me to be forgotten or diminished by the healing salve of time passing.
We turn our efforts and our prayers to our mother, her condition uncertain. Once more the reality that she is having to live with the reality that her dearest love of 48 years has passed. She is doing this alone, laying in a hospital bed with only her tortured thoughts to occupy her as time passes with glacial slowness. My prayers are that she is not so much changed when she rejoins us in the sun. She is important. She is singularly needed here.
My brothers and sister and I will adapt with her to this new and unfamiliar path in our lives. May we all learn the lessons of life presented here. I am rededicated to keeping my family close and raising them to a higher priority in my life where it has before been too easy to focus on the daily travails and the efforts I commit to them.
It is telling that losing my dad has relegated all those things to a lower and insignificant priority. I will not forget.
Thank you for teaching me this last lesson, Dad. I love you.