So, at about 4:30, I was getting on the train to head up to pick up laundry and do a show, I got THE call. My mom hands the phone to the nurse. This is what she said:
"Stephanie, your father has had a massive brain hemorrhage, the neurologists can not operate, and they have determined that he is brain dead. He is on life support. Now, your mother has requested that we turn off the machines and let your father have a peaceful passing. But, it is your decision if you would like to turn them off now or wait until you get here."
I answer: "I'd like you to wait until I get there." I say this stepping onto the Q train. WTF was I thinking getting on a Subway? I would loose the nurse and could only hope to God that she heard me. I almost got off the train - realizing my folly - when the doors shut.
Believe it or not, I got really good service in the tunnel - never has this happened. She answered: "Well, we can't promise that he will be alive when you get here. Just so you know that. Let me put you back on with your mom. I am so sorry about this."
I only got to talk to my mom for seconds after the train went underground. I tried her again while I was on the bridge and then hopped off at 42nd St., got above ground and called.
Everything was a whirl wind from there on out. Do I try to fly out now - screw the show and go see my dad, who by all counts, is brain dead and not even there? Medically he is already dead, but what about spiritually? Did I make the right decision by keeping him on life support to see him this one last time? Even though I knew that went against his wishes. Then again, was this his life anymore?
My mom and I decided that it would be best for me to keep my flight for the next day and for her to get out of the hospital that she had been at for almost 24 hours. For the most part, the answer had been given, the waiting was over. As the old phrase goes, all that's left is the crying.
That night I gave my performance for my dad. Who would have loved the show - he took me to see Pet Cemetery and being that he was a biologist, thought the movie was hysterical. He found most horror movies - at least the slasher ones - very silly. My dad had a very dry sense of humor and sometimes a dark one at that.
I heard I gave the best performance ever. That I knocked it out of the ball park. That I rocked the casaba. Kicked ass. Near the end of "Dead Things..", I finally got the squib to hit the circ saw and as I raised it over head, it was dripping blood. There were yells and claps. And, as actors sometimes feel, that rush up your spine, that elation, the feeling of...I'm a rock star. From now on out, I think every performance is going to be for my dad.
After the show, I told the cast I would be leaving to be with my dad as he passed away. My mom told me to go out and have fun and I did. Finally ate a little something and had a few beers. It was really nice. And, the support I had from the cast was overwhelming. And, Brian Silliman gave me the best toast ever. Through all that was painful - there were some of the most beautiful moments of my life. Thanks to my friends and family. And, I will never forget this.
One note - about 3am my phone rang with a new voicemail. I called. It was my dad. It was the message he left when he was first out of the hospital, almost 3 weeks ago. He said he was out and eating a sandwich. I almost dropped the phone in disbelief. Christopher was there and he asked what was wrong. I told him about the message. I knew my dad was not out of the hospital. I knew this was an old message. I also knew that I had deleted it. And, that it was past the time period to have the phone even keep it. Christopher hugged me and said, there must be good sandwiches in heaven.
Next morning, I got up late - figures, but got to the airport on time, got my flight and was in Houston, TX and finished the calls to all my friends to let them know what was going on. Met my mom and her friends, Patsy and David Barnett, who had been with her since Friday night, at the hotel. The Barnett's took my luggage and stuff and my mom shuffled me over to my dad's room.
She chattered - like she does, especially when she is nervous. About what was going on with dad, her night with the Barnett family, all the things leading up to this moment. I had a hard time concentrating. All I could think about was my dad. And, if there was a chance in heaven or hell that he would just wake up. I mean, come on, I've heard of the miracle stories. Brain tumors disappearing, people waking up from comas, etc. Why not my dad? Why not now? I had been having a really shitty year - wouldn't this be the best thing that could happen? Something that would wake me up to the fact that there is a God? Or that at least someone was out there listening and answering my prayers?
My mom tells me that he looks like himself and that he doesn't look that bad. This reminds me of my dad, who prepped me to see my mom for the first time after her Breast Cancer surgery. My dad said, "Now Stephanie, she has a lot of tubes coming out of her and she may look a little scary, but she is OK and all those tubes are helping her get better." I remember walking in and yes, there were the tubes and actually they weren't that scary. And, to be honest, weren't that many. Dad didn't realize that I had already starting watching horror movies - this was nothing. And, mom was awake, a little weak, but awake.
First off, it is freezing in the ICU section of the hospital. I know it is to keep disease and such out. All I can think is that they are keeping the bodies fresh. Sorry, I have a very sick sense of humor sometimes, and yes, this is what got me through this past week. Also, I am in short sleeves cause it is 85 degrees outside. Like 55 in the ICU unit.
I walk in his room. My heart drops to my stomach. And, it feel like someone is pulling my stomach out of lower back. My eyes well up with tears. All I can croak out is "Dad". He has tubes coming out of his nose, legs, mouth. There is the air pump down his mouth. There are wires all over him. His chest is moving up and down unnaturally, like some cheap body cavity in a bad B movie. His mouth looks like it has been stretched out - his lips are enlarged. All I can think is that this is not my father. How the hell can it be? He was a runner, he was healthy, he was not a smoker, all the doctors have always said that he was in such good shape for his age. This doesn't look like him. I can tell he has lost a lot of weight. He looks so frail. This is not my father.
My mom leaves for a moment to go to the bathroom, go talk to the Barnett's and give me some time alone with him.
I go from sadness, to anger, to remorse. "Why didn't you tell me dad? Why didn't you tell me what was really going on? Why didn't you tell me how you were feeling? This is not fair. You weren't suppose to go first. I was ready for mom to go first. Hell, I was ready for grandma (who has Alzheimer's and rapidly decreasing in health) to go first. That was suppose to be the next funeral. You can't go. I don't know how I can do this without you. How is mom going to do this without you? We are not prepared. And I am mad as hell at you for that. All those times you asked me to take you out in the woods when you got sick, when you knew you were going to die, to be alone and die peacefully with no fuss. Well, look at you. I can't do that now. You're on the 6th floor. How the hell am I going to get you out of here? Unfortunately, you're at a good enough facility. They actually care when their patients go missing. Look at you. On life support. The last thing you wanted. If you would have been more honest about things, this wouldn't have happened, now would it? This is what you get.....I am so sorry dad, I am so sorry. I am such an asshole. I should have just known. I should have been here. I should have been able to see your eyes one last time. Been able to shoot the shit about anything. I should have been here. You should not be like this. You deserve better than this. I am so sorry dad. I love you. Wake up. Just wake up. Prove everyone wrong dad. Wake up, wake up, wake up."
Or something like that.
Then, my mom came back. The nurse came in. We talked about my dad's condition and that the doctor would come in to explain more. Everyone was so sorry for what had happened. I sat there stroking my dad's hand, wondering if he had heard me or even knew I was there.