I wasn’t sure if I should write this, but maybe someone needs to read it. Or maybe I just needed to write it…
On Tuesday, March 3, 2020, my dad was admitted to the hospital with a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) He had a kidney stone blocking the urethra.
March 10, 2020. Dad was sent to a rehab facility where he would receive both physical and occupational therapies. He would be there for about three weeks.
March 12, 2020. The rehab center suspended all visitors. Beth, his significant other, visited him by standing outside his window and talking to him on the phone. (The window was closed) My siblings and I called often.
Friday, March 13, 2020, at midnight. I received a text from both my school district and my children’s school district: No school for a month effective immediately.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Dad fell on his way to the bathroom and smacked his face on the door. He didn’t use his walker. He was okay but gave himself a bloody nose.
April 3, 2020, I talked to my dad. He asked about the kids and Wade. “How’s school going,” he asked. I tell him it’s not, it’s officially spring break and we aren’t going anywhere. I said, “I miss you. We’ll come to see you this week.”
“I miss you too, Angel,” he said. “But they’re not allowing visitors. Beth has to see me through a window. Don’t drive all the out here for that. I’ll see you soon.”
Thursday, April 16, 2020. I got a call from my sister, Natalie. “He doesn’t have any symptoms, but Dad tested positive for Covid-19.”
I was in shock. He was the last person I was worried about with this virus. My mom has COPD and my mother-in-law was recovering from Lung cancer. I’d been worried sick about them, but not my dad. “But, he just has a UTI! How? How did he get it?”
“Other people in the rehab facility were showing symptoms, so they tested everybody.” Natalie sighed. “22 patients and 21 staff members tested positive. It could’ve come from anyone. They don’t know.”
Friday, April 17, 2020, I called my dad around dinner time. He said, “I’m struggling, Angel. I’m struggling.” He’d never said that to me before, not even when he was hospitalized for shingles.
“What do mean you’re struggling? What do you need, dad?”
“I’m just struggling.” I heard someone in the background talking, perhaps his nurse. Then, “I’m sorry Angel. I have to go. I love you. Give Wade and the kids a kiss from me.” As he’s hanging up the phone I hear him say again, “I’m struggling.”
That night, I found out that he was running a fever of 104.
Saturday morning, April 18, 2020, 7:27am Dad’s temp is down to 97.8 Oxygen level is a little low, but not worrisome.
Sometime around noon on Saturday, my sister, Natalie, called while Wade and I were on our way to the grocery store. “We have some decisions to make,” she said. “Dad isn’t doing well. Normally, a person might need 2 or 3 units of oxygen to stabilize. He’s on 10 and dropping. We need to decide if we want him to go to the hospital or if we want to have hospice come in. If he goes to the hospital, he’ll be alone. If we do hospice, they’re going to let Beth come in in a hazmat suit and be with him.”
The thought of him being in the hospital by himself broke my heart. “I think we go with hospice and let Beth be with him.”
“Me too,” Natalie said. “I already talked to Leah and Joe, and we’re all in agreement. When Beth goes in, she’s going to have dad call us individually so we can say our goodbyes.”
I swallowed the lump growing in my throat.
“He’ll have to rest in between, so I’m not sure when that will be, but it’ll probably be in a couple of hours. Just be prepared, ok.”
Around 3:00pm Wade left to go to the hardware store. Keelie, our oldest daughter, went with him for the ride. Shortly after they left, Beth called. The other three kids and I were able to talk to him. He sounded better than he did the night before, but it was still short. I wish I could say we said something profound, but we didn’t. It was simple. “I love you,” was the gist of our conversation.
Sunday, April 19, 2020, around 9:00am. Beth called again to let dad talk to Wade and Keelie. They had the phone on speaker and I noticed the difference in my dad’s speech. He was barely able to enunciate, “I love you.”
Tuesday, April 21, 200 at 7:48 am Beth sent a text:
From Dad: with a link to the song, Spirit in the Sky.
Wednesday April, 22, 2020 with the help of my siblings, I wrote my first obituary
Saturday, May 2, 2020, The first time I went to the grocery store after my dad died, there was a woman who looked at me, nudged her husband, pointed, and laughed. “Look at the sheep,” she said staring back at me. I had a mask on. She and her husband didn’t, but they were wearing matching red hats. Somehow, this virus has become political.
My hands shook as I gripped the shopping cart. My whole body flushed, hot tears stung my eyes, and I couldn’t breathe. I knew I was on the verge of freaking out. I turned and quickly went down the frozen food section, pretending to be deciding on what ice cream to buy, trying to gain my composure.
Looking around, there were so many people not wearing a mask or if they were, they were wearing it wrong with their nose sticking out, or worse, it only covered their chin.
Focus on the positive, I told myself. Notice the people that are wearing a mask.
I started thanking people I saw who were wearing their masks properly.
Then, I let my mind wander… How would dad have handled this if it was me that died of COVID? He would’ve punched that stupid red-hat wearing couple in the face.
I felt guilty for saying anything, for not sticking up for him.
Maybe I should make a t-shirt with my dad’s picture on it that says, “My dad died of COVID.”
But, what if I did, and they still pointed and laughed at me. Then what?
I would lose it, for real.
Oh God, why don’t they get it?
Because it hasn’t happened to them, yet.
Today is June 21, 2020. Father’s Day. It’s been two months since my dad died and I am struggling. I had the kids make homemade cards for Wade for Father’s Day because I couldn’t bear to be in that aisle.
In May, the rehab center set up an online memorial service for all of the patients they’d lost in April and May. It was heartbreaking to see all the names that scrolled down. We planted a “Nonno tree” in our yard, but we still haven’t had a memorial service. My brother lives in California and I can’t blame him for not wanting to get on a plane.
When my dad died, many of our friends and co-workers sent cards, flowers, and gifts. We felt their love and support, immensely. I’ve kept those cards out to remind me that people do care because when I see people in public not wearing their masks, or on social media having parties and traveling like they don’t have a care in the world, it’s hard. It’s really hard and I am struggling.