Today it is evident that he needs to go to the hospital. An infection is growing somewhere inside him, causing his body to shake and teeth to chatter, even in an apartment that is hotter than hot and with blankets pulled up around him and tucked in from nose to feet.
"Dad, you're really sick. We need to call an ambulance to take you to the hospital."
"No. I don't need that." At 84 years, I guess he's old enough to make his own decisions.
Half an hour later I try again. "Dad, the nurse said you need to go to the hospital if you don't get any better. And you're not better, you're worse." As rational thought turns to delerium and strange utterings about wild strawberries and dogs in the room begin to come out of him in slurred words, still he is adamant about not going to the hospital. For going on three hours I continue to get the same response. "No."
I finally call my sister for backup. "He needs to go to the hospital," I say when she answers her phone, "but I can't get him to agree." Brenda listens to me recount the events of the day in Dad's apartment. We had arrived just after lunch to find him lying in bed and shaking from head to foot. And he is getting sicker by the hour.
She says, "Let me talk to him." I hold the phone up to his ear.
"Dad, it's Brenda." His eyes open and he manages a weak "hello".
Brenda's words have an authority that I haven't been able to muster. "Dad, you HAVE to go to the hospital."
"I do?" His voice has the quality of one submitting to a force greater than his own.
"Yes, you do," she says.
"Okay, dear," he says to my great relief - and utter shock. I put the phone back to my own ear.
"You obviously have power that I don't possess!" I am unable to hold back my laughter. Even in the seriousness of the moment we can't contain ourselves at a poignancy deeply shared and understood. Some old thinking pattern tries in vain to pull me into feeling hurt. Why would Dad listen so quickly to her when I've been trying all afternoon to convince him that it's time to go and to entirely no avail? But I don't go there anymore. God has caused such a healing in each of us and between us that there is no need to ressurect any long-dead feelings of competition and jealousy. Together we laugh at God's goodness in our lives with an understanding that goes far deeper than the circumstances or the words that are being exchanged. Right now I am only grateful for her success and for who she is to both of us - as Dad's eldest daughter and my dear sister. It is a place in our lives to raise an Ebenezer to God's goodness and power to heal individual hearts and the relationships that intertwine them.
I hang up the phone and leave the room to call 911 before Dad has a chance to change his mind about going to the hospital. My step-mom, and I scurry to collect toiletries and gather personal belongings, nursing notes and a list of current medications. Ron, my husband, and Dan, our oldest son are as helpful as they can be, but mostly they just watch us and wait. And then the paramedics arrive.
To be continued tomorrow...