Thankful and Sad
Conflicting holiday emotions
It’s been a hell of a week. I suppose that can be loosely said of every week we’ve had since March 13, all of which kind of blur together into a hellscape smoothie, if you will, but this past week in particular stands out as noteworthy.
It all started several (hellish) weeks ago when my dad casually mentioned that he’d been prescribed amoxicillin for an infected tooth.
“Oh, good,” I said (in what I now realize was dramatic irony or foreshadowing or some other literary device I learned about in English class 25 years ago). “What an easy fix! So glad you didn’t have to have the tooth pulled!”
But then 10 days later, I was driving like a maniac to get his stool sample to the lab before it closed for Hurricane Zeta in order to confirm the C. diff. diagnosis I strongly suspected.
His doctor called me the day after the storm to tell me that my dad did, indeed, have what the internet had already told me he had: Clostridium difficile aka “deadly diarrhea.”
He did 10 days of vancomycin … only to relapse last Monday and end up being admitted to Touro.
It was worlds better than his last hospital admission – on March 27, at the height of the COVID chaos, when the ambulance had to drive in circles to find a hospital that would even take him and when absolutely no visitors were allowed – but checking your 82-year-old father into the hospital is never a fun time.
And somehow, it’s especially bleak when you’re really the only one to do it.
“The good news,” the ER doctor said, “is that he can have visitors, and we can probably even work it so that, you know, you can leave and tag-team your brother to come in. It’s only one visitor at a time, but …”
“It’s just me,” I said bluntly, not wanting to go into the whole “two dead siblings” thing at 11 p.m. on a random Monday in the middle of a hospital emergency room in the third wave of a pandemic.
“Ha, yeah, that’s fine, if you don’t have a brother, then, you know, tag your sister or whatever …”
“It’s just me,” I said again, hoping he’d drop it. “It really doesn’t matter because it’s only me anyway. I’m so glad he can have visitors, thank you so much, but it’s just going to be me.”
It was hours later, when my dad was safely ensconced in his hospital room and I was home, taking a scalding hot shower at 2 a.m. trying to wash everything away, that I realized it had been my sister’s birthday.
She would have been 60.
It’s lonely, lately, for everyone for so many reasons, but there’s not much lonelier than wishing your dead sister a happy birthday after checking your frail elderly father into the hospital.
He’s home now, thankfully, and he never even realized it was my sister’s birthday, which is a mixed blessing.
It won’t be the typical Thanksgiving this year. It won’t be the typical anything.
There are so many reasons to be sad.
And yet, somehow, in the thick of it all, there are still so many reasons to be thankful.
I am both.
I hope that you, wherever you are, find more joy than sadness this holiday season.
Happy COVID Thanksgiving, everyone. Please pass the stuffing.