Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Minding Dad, Finding Equilibrium

Dad was in an extremely bad way and had to be admitted again Friday. His physical deterioration was painfully visible and I felt powerless. I left in the middle of a fellowship at home to drive him to Sunway. Even then, he was dressed in his usual white long sleeves, folded up around his arms, and tucked into his grey pants looking as he would if it were an ordinary night out. I had Ethan and Deta come along to help.

In the hospital room, he was helped out of the wheelchair on to his bed and into his hospital gown. Albert arrived shortly. Without waiting for the M.O, he inserted the needle and tubing and set up the drip. Dad was weak but conscious. He asked to go the washroom and with some help sat down, his self-respect held loosely together by thin drawstrings around his back. How gaunt he looked...how not like Dad, the man whose reprimands we used to scoff in youth, and whose approval we still secretly crave. It was then that I saw how even in infirmity there was a kind of stoic nobility in him, wounded but indomitable.

It was past 11 p.m. when we prepared to leave the hospital. Dad whispered, "Terima kasih, Deta" which stopped me in my tracks, and I turned to look first at Dad, and then at Deta.

I drove back to see Mom. She met me at the door and I told her not to worry as she muttered something about how frail he was. There was a palpable gloom in the air, a sense of resignation. She heaved and broke down in uncontrollable sobs. I wrapped my arms around her. Dad wants to go home, she said. He has left instructions, what to wear, what photo to display, where he wants his final resting place to be...

Right now, Dad seems to be showing some recovery. He is able to sit upright, eat a bit more solids, his voice firmer. Stubborn man that he is, he got out of the bed in the middle of the night Sunday - unassisted - and fell(!) There was a bit of finger-pointing about who was and wasn’t there, but thank God, Dad is all perked up because of the whole episode.

A week ago, I stood before the church and said I was grateful for their continued prayer and visits. I told them it’s not true I had become busy caring for Dad as other family members were also keeping watch and asked to remember us all at this time. I am learning not to allow the illness to take its place in the centre of our lives, I said. People do it all the time, moving illnesses, exams, ambitions, holidays, etc from the periphery into the centre, carelessly letting them dictate the agenda; I didn’t want to do that.

Birth. Illness. Age. We live, we die, and in between life is about finding equilibrium. The one thing around which all of life should revolve, is Christ alone. Strange how it sounds like some perverse logic. The truth is, Dad is constantly on my mind. I came away wondering if that’s how it’s supposed to be, not wanting everything else to recede on account of Dad, wondering if I should have said what I said.

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