[Excerpt from my journal, 2/3 January 1997, written twenty years ago.]
orrific day. Got up fairly late, maybe two or three in the afternoon, and did various routine chores. Checked in on my father, who was much concerned over my suicide. I wanted to get his attention on the bill-mailing question, but couldn’t seem to get him to understand. He was arguing with his mother over the question of whether she was dead or not; she was apparently maintaining the contrary, and he appealed to me for my judgment on the question. Somewhere in there I ducked out to go to the bank, where I deposited my father’s Social Security check and his payment from OPB and took out two hundred dollars for household expenses, a process which involved activating my father’s Power of Attorney to me, then mailed the checks to PGE, PERS, and our former landlord, then came back. My father was now concerned about whether I had collected the insurance for his death.
Somewhere in here I narrated what I had done, telling him that I had mailed the checks from the mailbox on the corner, the one with the initials T-R-A-S-H on it, and that seemed to him just fine. He was concerned that I had not collected the insurance on his death, however. I was becoming increasingly worried; whatever this strange episode was, he didn’t seem to be coming out of it. He was convinced that he was dead, or that I had had him declared legally dead, or that he was in a state called “drying out, where the moistness of life is leached away.” (That last is probably true, but didn’t seem to concern him as much as one might think.) Once briefly in the evening he seemed to have a sane episode (during which time I retold the events of the day with the mailbox labeled T-R-A-S-H, which this time he got) while my brother was here, and he and I (with input from the night advice nurse and family members in various phone calls) decided to get my to a doctor the next day.
Well, I turned in around midnight or so, but of course couldn’t sleep. My father seemed to be getting worse if anything. I couldn’t get him to drink or eat anything, and at one point he observed that this was a rather strange conversation to be having, now that he had died. (It was at this point that the bit about the “moistness of life” came into it.) When my brother got here he called the advice nurse and we were advised to take him to the emergency room at Providence (we had a choice of hospitals and picked that one, actually).
We had a hell of a time getting him up and dressed and downstairs and to the car, but we finally did. At the other end things were much less difficult; my father had settled down and was now very passive and acquiescent. He seemed a little vague and confused, and when the admission nurse asked him the year he said fairly confidently 1995, and then that the president was Carter. This seemed fairly ordinary to me; he says Carter for Clinton when he’s in his right mind. But to the next question, if he knew where it was his sons had brought him, he replied that it was a bomb shelter, which as far as I was concerned was completely out of the blue. He did better the next time, when they took him to the receiving room or whatever it was. He couldn’t come up with the exact day, but had the day of the week right, remembered that we were just past New Years, and correctly identified me (though only after a bit of prompting; he first said I was some relative he thought. I recognized from his manner that he was making a sort of joke, and said something like, “Aw, come on,” and he correctly identified me by name as his first-born son with the air of somebody reciting a well-worn lesson by rote).
Well, anyway, time dragged on with various flurries of activity for tests and then long pauses, and my brother and I ducked out for lunch at a not-too-far-off Subway. When we got back we heard from a doctor, who basically said that my father’s tests were fairly normal—which would be great if only he were fairly normal, which he’s not. They decided to admit him at least overnight for observation and for rehydration so to speak. So up he went to room 5R15 (I think) where my niece successfully tracked us down with a phone call. I tried to fill her in while my brother tried to fill in a form about my father’s home situation, and so it went. We talked to his nurse and his doctor, and so on. My father seemed to come up a bit in the evening, asking fairly intelligible questions (which occasionally required decoding), one of which, however, was “Was there any shooting or bombing in the city?” We told him there wasn’t, which seemed to make him happy, though I heard from my niece afterwards that when she called him he was still on that subject, thinking that she had moved back in with her parents because she had been bombed out of her home.
Anyway, I went home, and I called my mother and step-father and filled them in, and then talked to my niece and then dropped out of consciousness in my own bed. Slept five hours or so.